Analytical Instrumentation

Is Trump Making Oil Exploration More Dangerous?

Apr 13 2018 Read 268 Times

Love him or hate him, it's no secret that Trump is shaking up US politics. He's made it clear that growing America's economy is a top priority, and this naturally includes the oil and gas industry. While producers are sitting pretty, environmentalists warn that new legislations could seriously disrupt the natural ecosystem. In particular, the wellbeing of whales, dolphins and other marine life.

Over the past few decades the US has heightened its focus on offshore oil. In the past, exploration was dictated by environmental rules designed to protect marine life from intense seismic blasting used to track down oil deposits and set up new rig sites. Now, the Trump administration is slowly dismantling these safeguards in a bid to overhaul seismic survey rules and make it easier for companies to carry out exploration projects.

Trump accused of prioritising energy over conservation

The administration is no stranger to environmental controversy, with the government attracting public attention for plans to open coastal waters to new drilling leases. Trump has also been slammed for plans to downsize protected marine areas in the name of oil and gas exploration.

The latest proposition has seen two bills working their way through congress, known as the Streamlining Environmental Approvals (SEA) and the Strengthening the Economy with Critical Untapped Resources to Expand American Energy (SECURE) acts. Supporters assert that they will help to create jobs, minimise production delays and support both naval activities and coastal restoration.

New bills slammed as "oil industry wish lists"

Environmentalists aren't quite as optimistic, accusing the bills of being "oil industry wish lists" disguised as political legislation. Not only will they upend existing protections, but they'll also fast-track the permit process for oil exploration in Alaska, the Atlantic and much of California. They also break down key provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which regulate the use of seismic blasts to locate resources. Scientists stress that the noises can disorient and damage the sensitive hearing of whales and dolphins, which could affect their ability to navigate, communicate and reproduce.

"So much legislation like this just goes under the radar," warns Rep. Jared Huffman, a representative from the House Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans. "It's a scorched earth effort right now across the whole of federal public policy to give things away to the oil and gas industry."

The administration has also been criticised for slashing funding to the Marine Mammal Commission, a group that exists to offer scientific expertise during the review process for new oil and gas exploration projects.

"It's like burning down the jail, eliminating all the laws and then shooting the court and jury," says Richard Charter, senior fellow at the Ocean Foundation. "This is a time of setbacks, but undoing the Marine Mammal Protection Act is one of the most damaging things that Congress could possibly do right now."

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