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Oil And Gas Drilling Decision Could Affect New England

The Trump administration has approved a first step toward offshore drilling on the Atlantic coast. Five companies got federal permission last week to look for oil and gas off the Atlantic coast. The companies may soon be able to conduct offshore seismic tests from New Jersey to Florida.

The permits allow for whales to be disturbed during the seismic surveys, which will take place in the mid- and southern Atlantic.

Michael Jasny with the Natural Resources Defense Council said the permits don't do enough to protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale, which migrates between New England and southern waters.

"But more than right whales, today's decision is about our coastal economies, the sustainability of our fisheries, the health of our oceans,” Jasny said.

Seismic pulses can confuse whales and separate them from their babies.

“Unfortunately, much of the right whales' habitat is right in the crosshairs of the seismic blasting that's been authorized,” Jasny said.

Jasny says the surveys could also be a precursor to more drilling activity across the region, which residents and politicians from almost every East Coast state have opposed.

This report comes from the New England News Collaborative: Eight public media companies, including Rhode Island Public Radio, coming together to tell the story of a changing region, with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

North Atlantic Right Whales
North Atlantic Right Whales
NOAA