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NOAA gives more time to comment on offshore seismic tests

15 S.C. mayors urge Obama to say no to seismic blasting (copy)

A seismic survey ship in operation offshore mid-Atlantic states. File/International Association of Geophysical Contractors/Provided

Federal regulators are giving people two more weeks to comment on plans for permitting seismic testing offshore because of the deluge of comments already received. Drill-or-don't-drill has become a controversy.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has received thousands of comments, a news release said.

"These requests indicated that additional time was needed to consider more fully the information supporting the proposals and to provide comments on the proposed authorizations," said NOAA spokeswoman Kate Brogan.

"Multiple commenters indicated a need for additional time to review the proposal to consider the information more fully and provide comments," she said.

The new deadline for commenting is July 21. Email comments to ITP.Laws@noaa.gov or submit electronically by going to www.nmfs.noaa.gov/​pr/​permits and following the links.

Five companies have filed permit requests to explore for oil and gas, and all of them want to explore at least part of the waters off South Carolina. The National Marine Fisheries Service in June issued the rules for how the tests would take place regarding the safety of marine mammals. Those rules are up for public comment.

Seismic testing entails firing powerfully loud sonic guns underwater every 16 seconds to read “echoes” from the bottom geology. The tests take place over miles of ocean for months at a time.

Industry representatives say it's been done for a half-century without any demonstrated real world harm. Controlled studies have indicated it harms sea life as basic as vital zooplankton food organisms.

Opposition to the drilling and testing has grown to millions of East Coast residents, more than 120 municipalities, 1,200 elected officials, 41,000 businesses and a half million fishing families.

For many people, the fight over drilling cuts to the heart of coastal life, where interests are divided between exploring for potential the economic benefit of fossil fuels to restricting exploration to protect marine life and a billion-dollar tourism economy.

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