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State Agency Opposes Offshore Seismic Testing

Map of the east coast showing the outer continental shelf where drilling would occur.
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

The state Division of Coastal Management formally objected this week to a company's application for a federal permit to begin oil and gas exploration off the Atlantic coast from Maryland to Florida.

WesternGeco needs the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's approval to conduct seismic testing that would involve towing airguns offshore and firing them approximately every 10 seconds for more than 200 days over the period of a year.

"The sound that's generated from these airgun arrays can range hundreds of kilometers underwater," said Braxton Davis, director of the coastal management division, which is part of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.

Davis said the coastal management division conducted an extensive review and public comment period. All but one of the hundreds of written and oral statements the agency received, he said, opposed the seismic testing.

"We had comments from our Division of Marine Fisheries and from our Wildlife Resources Commission that described the potential for extensive impacts on marine fisheries," Davis said. "And that could range from fish behavior, navigation, [to] spawning activities."

In an email response to a WUNC request for comment, a company spokesperson said: "WesternGeco is committed to complying with state and federal regulatory requirements in carrying out its business."

The testing company has a 30-day window to appeal the Division of Coastal Management's objection.

Rusty Jacobs is WUNC's Voting and Election Integrity Reporter.
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