When the Obama administration approved the guidelines for seismic testing this summer, it paved the way for energy exploration off North Carolina’s coast. Governor Pat McCrory says the tests are necessary to update 30-year-old data on the region’s oil and gas reserves.
Seismic testing gauges oil and gas deposits by shooting blasts of compressed air into the ocean for weeks and months at a time. It was a hot topic at the first annual Coastal Energy Summit. While energy experts inside the Wilmington Convention Center called for such testing, protesters marched outside in opposition. But Governor McCrory says he feels confident in the new technology:
"The last thing I want to do is any harm off our coast because I have other industries that are dependent upon our coast—the fishing industry, the travel and tourism industry, the shipping industry, and many others."
The federal government requires mitigation measures. For example, before full testing gets underway, smaller blasts are sent out to encourage marine wildlife to leave the area. If survey crews detect a mammal nearby, testing must be put on hold.
But according to the environmental impact statement released by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, seismic testing would disturb feeding, calving, and breeding for many marine creatures in the mid and south Atlantic. The Huffington Post reports that, by the government’s own estimates, over one hundred thousand dolphins and whales could be injured or killed.