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Feds Issue Permit For Oil And Gas Exploration By Air

View of Atlantic Ocean in early morning in summer, Outer Banks, NC
View of Atlantic Ocean in early morning in summer, Outer Banks, NC

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Managementhas issued a permit allowing a geophysical imaging company to search from the air for oil and gas deposits over the ocean. The search will be along the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Jim White, President of ARKeX, says he hopes the company's small planes will begin collecting data by the end of the year, adding that it could take up to eight months to put together a map of the region.

"It will be a subsurface map that will aid the geoscientists, the geologists and geophysicists to better understand the complexities of the subsurface geology," White says. "It won't depict whether there's oil and gas present. All it will do is it will map formations that are likely to trap oil and gas."

Testing with seismic cannons tends to produce more accurate results, but those permits are on hold as regulators consider the impact on wildlife.

Douglas Nowacek teaches Marine Science at Duke University. He says the constant noise could alter marine species' breeding and foraging patterns.

"We want to minimize the amount of energy put into the water, because it's that sound energy that has the potential for impacts on ocean animals," says Nowacek.

Nowacek and White both testified Tuesday before a Congressional Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources in an Oversight Hearing on "The Fundamental Role of Safe Seismic Surveying in OCS Energy Exploration and Development."

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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