My March column discussed the odds of geophysical contractors ever being allowed to shoot seismic surveys in the US part of the Atlantic Ocean. Since then President Barack Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar have announced that, as part of a new comprehensive energy strategy, some of those areas will no longer be off-limits.

That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that the US Minerals Management Service (MMS) had already determined that a programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) will be required before any geological and geophysical studies can be undertaken.

But government agencies always like feedback for their ideas. The MMS will be holding 13 public scoping meetings in seven locations to solicit comments for the development of the PEIS in the Mid- and South Atlantic outer continental shelf (OCS).

“It has been more than 25 years since G&G studies were conducted off the Atlantic coast,” stated the MMS. “This data will enhance, update, and supplement information to support future MMS planning decisions for both renewable and conventional energy development on the OCS.”

The PEIS will evaluate potential environmental impacts of multiple G&G activities in the area, including seismic surveys, sidescan-sonar surveys, electromagnetic surveys, geological and geochemical sampling, and remote sensing. It will also review advances in technology and improved knowledge of the impact of acoustic measurements on marine life.

Ultimately the report will be used to outline any mitigation or monitoring that might be needed to reduce or eliminate impacts to the environment.

While the original comment period was 60 days, the agency was not able to set up these meetings during that time frame, so the comment period has been extended to allow the meetings to take place.

Already several requests for permits have been submitted, but these permits won’t be granted until the PEIS is complete.

Meetings include:

Houston, April 20

Jacksonville, Fla., April 21

Savannah, Ga., April 23

Newark, NJ, April 27

Charleston, SC, April 27

Wilmington, NC, April 29

Norfolk, Va., April 29

Specific places and times are available at

I would encourage everyone to attend meetings in their areas, particularly those of you who have studied things like the impact of airguns on marine mammals. Misinformation has a way of creeping into these discussions unless sound science can be heard loud and clear.