June 12 (UPI) -- The process to open parts of the Atlantic Ocean up for energy exploration is ill-advised and lacks transparency, a group of Senate Democrats said.
President Donald Trump's administration issued a draft for public comment in the federal registry last week for seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic Ocean, a practice used to get a better understanding of the reserve potential in a particular basin.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., led a group of Senate Democrats in calling on the administration to provide more transparency in the proposal. In a letter sent to UPI during the weekend, Nelson's office said the call from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration came with little notice and afforded no opportunity for public hearings.
Nelson added the NOAA proposal erases previous efforts to sideline Atlantic energy work and counters the opposition from more than 1,000 elected officials already standing against action his office said could cause "significant harm" to maritime species that rely on seismicity to communicate.
"Given the widespread and strong public interest in this issue, it is essential that NOAA provide thorough and transparent information, and a reasonable opportunity for the public to participate in the review process," his letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross read.
The National Ocean Industries Association, an industry trade group, told UPI last week that it estimates the Atlantic holds about 4.7 billion barrels of oil and 37.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, though those estimates are based on seismic surveys from more than 30 years ago. From the industry's point of view, seismic surveys are safe.
The U.S. Interior Department in May said it would reassess permits denied to six companies looking to conduct seismic surveys in the Atlantic Ocean, a step usually seen as a precursor to oil and gas drilling. A handful of Democratic senators this year introduced legislation aimed at prohibiting the permits.