Trump administration OKs seismic tests in Atlantic that could harm dolphins and whales

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration took an important step toward future oil and natural gas drilling off the Atlantic shore, approving five requests allowing companies to conduct deafening seismic surveys that could harm tens of thousands of dolphins, whales and other marine animals, according to studies.

In an announcement Friday, the National Marine Fisheries Service, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, declared that it issued final “incidental take” authorizations permitting companies conducting the surveys to harm wildlife if its unintentional.

“NOAA Fisheries is clear in the documentation related to incidental take authorizations that we do not expect mortality to occur as a result of these surveys,” said spokeswoman Katherine Brogan. But numerous scientific studies show acoustic sound can harm or potentially kill animals.

The decision is likely to further antagonize governors in states along the Eastern Seaboard who strongly oppose the administration’s proposal to expand federal oil and gas leases to the Atlantic. The authorizations clear the way for surveys across a stretch of ocean between Delaware and Florida.

Every state executive on the coast below Maine opposes the plan. Federal leases could lead to exploratory drilling for the first time in more than a half-century. Several Democrats representing those states in the House and Senate decried the authorizations.

In addition to harming sea life, acoustic tests — in which acoustic waves a....

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