The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said it found a way forward that could address 40-year-old data about the oil and gas reserves potentially available off the eastern U.S. coast. The decision could open the door to seismic exploration in the Atlantic.
Advocacy group Oceana accused the federal government of caving into pressure from energy companies looking to exploit Atlantic resources. The group says loud blasts used during seismic surveys could pose a threat to sensitive marine wildlife.
"These dynamite-like blasts could injure and possibly kill up to 138,200 marine mammals, while disrupting the necessary activities of millions more," it said in a statement.
The National Ocean Industries Association, an industry group lobbying for more offshore work, said about 1.34 million barrels of oil equivalent per day could be produced from the Atlantic basin by 2035.
Oceana said Friday that despite BOEM pledges to mitigate the potential damage from seismic testing, the measures don't go far enough.
"We believe that the Obama Administration should reinitiate the environmental review process," it said.
BOEM said in its Friday statement its record of decision does not authorize seismic surveys, but instead "establishes a framework for additional mandatory environmental reviews for site-specific actions and identifies broadly-applicable measures governing any future [seismic] activities in the region."