Feds propose ‘seismic air guns’

U.S. Department of the Interior sets stage for controversial method of petroleum exploration

The U.S. Department of the Interior has cleared the way for controversial underwater seismic surveys off the Atlantic coast.

The department recently proposed rules that would allow seismic air guns—towed behind boats and emitting frequent blasts of compressed air as loud as a howitzer—to explore the sea floor in an attempt to discover new sources of gas and oil, according to The New York Times. The proposed area—from Delaware to Cape Canaveral, Fla.—has been off-limits to petroleum exploration since the early 1980s.

Allowing such exploration “could be a death sentence for many marine mammals, and is needlessly turning the Atlantic Ocean into a blast zone,” said Jacqueline Savitz, vice president of ocean-conservation group Oceana.

Seismic exploration “could alter feeding and mating habits” of marine mammals, as well as “simply drown out whales’ and dolphins’ efforts to communicate or find one another,” the article noted.