Activist Groups Push Seismic Testing Myths in Big Cypress National Preserve

Last week, a group of environmental activist organizations – some among the most extreme in the country — filed a suit against the National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, and others in the Middle District of Florida. The organizations claim that the NPS violated sections of the federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Procedure Act by failing to address the environmental impacts of using seismic testing in the Big Cypress National Preserve to look for potential oil reserves. As with many nuisance lawsuits filed by anti-industry activists, the lawsuit – and the accompanying press release, which was really the point – is based on a falsehood.

While the plaintiffs — the South Florida Wildlands Association (SFWA), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, and Earthworks — refuse to acknowledge that seismic exploration is a non-invasive and safe technology with minimal environmental impact, the fact remains that it is. To put the NPS’s decision in perspective, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) — often in conjunction with the NPS — has ruled on numerous occasions that 3-D Vibroseis testing projects are safe and have no significant environmental impact. In the cases where certain elements might be “potentially effected,” BLM’s comprehensive regulations kick in, instructing project managers on how to effectively mitigate risks to soil erosion, federally listed threatened and endangered species, and others.

Earlier this year, EID published a factsheet that debunked activist claims that vibroseis trucks would damage the Big Cypress National Preserve. Despite continued activist assertions to the contrary, these trucks are actually a key part of reducing the environmental impact of exploration. In the past, the Big Cypress National Preserve has had 474 miles of 2-D seismic data acquired with dynamite.  And while exploratory drilling and the use of dynamite have themselves advanced to become much more precise and less impactful, current 3-D seismic exploration allows exploration and production companies to quickly pinpoint the location of hydrocarbon resources without having to drill exploratory wells, thereby lessening the impact to the environment.

As previously noted by EID, scientists with state and federal agencies, experts in academia, oil and gas industry geologists and engineers have repeatedly affirmed the safety of vibroseis trucks. So the NPS didn’t suddenly discover that vibroseis testing would have “no impact significant impact” – it simply understood and concurred with the vast body of scientific evidence confirming the technology’s safety. To deny the NPS’s findings is misguided and dishonest.

If the NPS’s findings aren’t enough for these activist groups, then they might consider the statements of scientists with state and federal agencies, experts in academia, oil and gas industry geologists and engineers:

 “Residents standing near a vibroseis truck… may be able to detect it, but this process will not cause any interruptions of daily life or cause damage to structures. –U.S. National Energy Technology Laboratory

“Despite their relatively benign operations, these big machines sometimes appear more daunting to the populace than the commonplace dynamite. To assuage any concerns in that regard, companies sometimes resort to public demonstrations prior to operations. … Two light bulbs and two raw eggs were buried eight inches under the vibrating pads. Following the demo, the eggs were retrieved unbroken and the light bulbs still worked – to the amazement of the crowd of onlookers…”–American Association of Petroleum Geologists

Groups like the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, CBD, Earthworks and the NRDC are no amateurs when it comes to using scare tactics on Floridians Energy production in Florida, like energy production anywhere else, is a highly regulated activity well-understood by the scientists entrusted with protecting public health and safety.

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