As anticipated, Department of Interior’s capo Ryan Zinke announced yesterday that they plan on opening up the entire US Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) to Oil and Gas leasing. This is despite hundreds of thousands of voices speaking up against this proposal – and a disposition that was settled in consideration of these public, business, and governmental voices who did not want the future that the oilmen were offering.
Also being served up on this trajectory is a rolling back of post Deepwater Horizon safety measures, and the elimination of a 9 cent/barrel oil-spill trust fund. The Administration is also teeing up a proposal to eliminate the Well Control Blow Out Protector rule, and a hideous piece of legislation called “The SECURE Act,” which, once signed into law will all but eliminate the Marine Mammal Protection Act, restrict “Federal interference” in offshore operations, limit future Presidential authority over OCS protections, and a passel of other goodies for the oilmen – essentially handing over the management of the OCS to the fossil fuel industry.
Of course this festival of Government over-reach is not a done deal; it is more of an explosive gesture from a dying industry wanting to foist all of their costs onto all other ocean enterprises – from fishing, to tourism, coastal real estate, recreation; and even US Naval operations.
It is clear that when the industry wants to shed safety standards, unfetter themselves from environmental responsibilities, and transfer their field development and oil-spill mitigation costs to US Taxpayers (even to the point of nicking nine cents off the ~$56/barrel of oil), it is not a sign of a robust business model.
So what does this all have to do with our focus on ocean noise pollution? Should the oilmen get their way, the ocean will never sound the same. Once the seismic surveys required to find the deposits begin, they will never cease, because the surveys are required to continuously monitor the state of the deposits as they draw down. And then there will be thruster-stabilized platforms, seafloor processing, underwater acoustical communications networks, and all of the shipping traffic associated with transporting product, workers, and servicing a gargantuan offshore industrial enterprise.
So while there is ample concern for oil spills (which we are assured “won’t happen”) the clear and present environmental devastation that would result from handing the Outer Continental Shelf over to just one industry will be all the noise it will create – at the expense of all marine life (including our own marine food supply).
Fortunately, this is not an “open and shut case.” The extent of this over-reach is so broad that state governors and elected representatives (from both sides of the aisle), environmental NGOs, marine businesses, the majority of the American public, and even the US Navy are all opposed to the Grand Plan.
There will be public hearings and comment periods on the Offshore Five-year Leasing Plan and the rollback of the safety standards and well control rule. Even the “business friendly” Republican Congress has some reservations about the SECURE Act.
And there will be lawsuits. Lengthy. Expensive. Lawsuits.
Once all the dust settles, it will be a bitter pill to swallow if our delay in moving away from fossil fuels has us buying our solar panels, our wind generators, and our light rail and transportation infrastructure from China…