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Soundings Archive

NGOs' Seismic Complaint Is Factually Suspect
On June 30, 2010, several NGOs filed a complaint in a New Orleans federal court. Their complaint alleges that the Department of the Interior and what used to be the Minerals Management Service have violated several federal laws regulating the sue of seismic airguns during oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere. A copy of their complaint is available online here.

Their complaint is either deliberately or negligently misleading. For example, their complaint alleges that in 2002

"endangered adult humpback whales were reported to have stranded in unusually high numbers along Brazil's Abrolhos Banks, where oil-and-gas surveys were being conducted."

"Based on this and other evidence, the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission, one of the world's leading bodies of marine biologists, concluded in its 2004 report that the increase in noise from geophysical exploration and other activities was "cause for serious concern, and the IWC has since held special symposia related to the impacts of seismic surveys of whales."
Their complaint fails to note that everyone including the IWC has concluded that seismic did not cause the Brazilian whale standings.

The argument that seismic caused the Brazil strandings was based on the so-called Engel study of the strandings, copy available online here.

The Center for Regulatory Effectiveness gave NOAA/NMFS and the IWC a CRE white paper which explained why the Engel paper does not meet the Information Quality Act's standards and, therefore, should not be used by US agencies or IWC or anyone else. The CRE White paper is available online here.

Other organizations produced documents demonstrating that the Engel study is wrong. E.g., IAGC study here.

In response, NOAA/NMFS sent CRE a letter agreeing that the Engel study is flawed and that US agencies cannot use the study because it does not meet Information Quality Act standards. See Hogarth Letter to CRE available online here.

The IWC also repudiated the Engel study. Report of the standing working group on environmental concerns. Annex K to Report of the Scientific Committee. J. Cetac. Res. Manage. 9(Suppl.):227-260.

This glaring inaccuracy calls the rest of the complaint into question.

Copyright 2005 The Center for Regulatory Effectiveness.
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