In push to expand drilling, Trump administration clears way for seismic blasting off Florida coast

The Trump administration on Friday cleared the way for seismic blasting in search of oil off Florida and much of the Atlantic coast for the first time in more than three decades.

The approval of wildlife permits by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will now allow five companies to proceed with requests to use air guns to search the sea floor between Florida’s Space Coast and New Jersey. It comes nearly two years after the Obama administration ruled risks from the deafening surveys outweighed any benefits, and it outraged environmental groups, which plan to fight the move.

“Virtually the entire East Coast would be affected by it,” said Michael Jasny, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It’s a needless and shameless blow to the health of our coasts and oceans.”

Scientists have long warned that ocean noise can harm marine life that use sound to find food, escape prey, communicate with young and locate mates. Sound can be amplified many times over underwater and travel thousands of miles. Last year, the U.S. Navy agreed to limit explosions and sonar use along parts of the southeastern coast to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales, which now number only about 450.

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