Trump OKs Seismic Tests for Oil in Atlantic

The surveys, which haven’t been conducted in decades, are criticized by environmentalists as extremely harmful to marine life.

By Alan Neuhauser, The Atlantic, November 30th, 2018

ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS slammed the Trump administration’s announcement Friday that it plans to allow oil-seeking seismic surveys across an enormous swath of the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in decades, saying the tests will take a massive toll on ocean wildlife.

The move, which would allow five companies to conduct the tests in waters spanning Delaware to Florida, marks the most significant step since the 1970s to open the Atlantic to drilling, although several steps remain before such production might begin.

“What’s exceptional is to see five companies all covering a region at this scale at the same time. It reflects a gold rush mentality,” says Michael Jasny, director of the Marine Mammal Protection Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Seismic surveys are believed to be particularly harmful to marine life. The tests involve repeatedly blasting deafening booms underwater, often seconds apart for months at a time. Whales and dolphins, as well other underwater creatures, have especially sensitive hearing, and environmentalists fear the tests will injure or kill thousands of the mammals as well as fishes.

“Seismic airgun blasting would harm marine mammals and threaten fishing, and it is a precursor to drilling that coastal communities strongly oppose,” Alex Taurel, director of the conservation program at the League of Conservation Voters, said in a statement. “Rather than setting our shores on the path to dirty and dangerous drilling, we should be investing in our nation’s clean energy economy.”

The move by the Trump administration Friday inherently acknowledges the harm that environmentalists fear. The National Marine Fisheries Service, which is part of the Commerce Department, issued what’s known as an “incidental take” permit, which allows companies to injure even endangered and threatened wildlife while engaging in activities such as seismic surveys.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, a division of the Interior Department, still needs to issue its own permits before the tests can begin, but the agency’s acting director told Congress earlier this year that he would expect to greenlight the surveys as soon as two weeks after the approval from the Fisheries Service. A legal expert for one environmental group called is “a fait accompli.”

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Board meeting turns ‘toxic’ as UN climate fund runs low

Rich and poor country representatives clash over policy priorities and replenishment at Green Climate Fund board meeting

By Megan Darby, Climate Home News, 7/3/18

Paul Oquist and Lennart Båge, co-chairs of the Green Climate Fund board, were accused of poor preparation for this week’s meeting (Photo: GCF)

A meeting of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) board in Songdo started unevenly on Sunday, as co-chair Paul Oquist was detained by political turmoil in Nicaragua, leaving Sweden’s Lennart Båge to run the session single-handed.

With developing countries complaining their priorities were not properly represented, it took nearly two days to agree on the agenda for the meeting.

“I have never served on a board that is this dysfunctional and toxic in my life,” said US representative Geoffrey Okamoto, as the discussion dragged on.

In the context of Donald Trump’s US cutting off contributions to the fund, however, Okamoto’s comment rankled with some.

“It is typical playing to the crowd,” said Zaheer Fakir, who represents South Africa. “The reason why it is dysfunctional and toxic is the way [the co-chairs] prepared for this board meeting.”

He said there had been a “serious lack of consultation” and the chairs had not responded to comments regarding the agenda before the meeting.

The barely veiled hostilities come as the fund faces a cash crunch. It has $2.8 billion left to allocate from its start-up donations. Projects up for consideration on Wednesday would claim $1bn of that.

As well as the US withholding $2bn of its pledge, the pot has lost some $1bn in value due to exchange rate fluctuations since 2014, officials reported.

Discussions on how to top up the budget were rolled over to the final day of the meeting, after lively but inconclusive talks on Tuesday. There were divisions over how much to hinge donations on closing policy gaps, many of which have defied resolution since the fund started.

Trump’s refusal to contribute has driven a wedge between other wealthy countries and the developing world, which still expects governments to fulfil a collective promise to deliver $100bn climate aid a year by 2020, partly through the GCF.

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