May 11 (UPI) -- A move to open up parts of the Atlantic to oil and gas activity by the Trump administration went against regional interests, a letter shows.
The U.S. Interior Department said it would reassess permits denied to six companies looking to conduct seismic surveys in the Atlantic Ocean. Usually seen as a precursor to oil and gas drilling, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said it could advance other technologies as well.
"Seismic surveying helps a variety of federal and state partners better understand our nation's offshore areas, including locating offshore hazards, siting of wind turbines, as well as offshore energy development," he said in a statement.
The Interior Department said seismic data for parts of the Atlantic Ocean are at least 30 years old. Former President Barack Obama removed the Atlantic for consideration for oil and gas leases, but Zinke said the White House under President Donald Trump was now moving in a different direction.
His decision came a week after 15 Democratic senators, 11 of which border the Atlantic, reintroduced the Clean Ocean and Safe Tourism Act, which was drafted to prohibit the Interior Department from issuing leases for oil and gas development in the Atlantic Ocean or the Straits of Florida.
In a letter tied to the legislation, and emailed to UPI, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said the oil and gas development would harm other regional economic interest.
"We do not want offshore drilling along the Atlantic coast because it could harm our economy and environment," he said.
The nation's first offshore wind farm, Block Island, started operations off the coast of Rhode Island in December. At peak capacity, it should yield 30 megawatts of electric power, powering 17,000 homes.