U.S. takes key step toward Atlantic drilling, sparking debate over sea life

|By:, SA News Editor

This week's Interior Department endorsement of seismic testing in Atlantic waters is a first step toward allowing drilling from Delaware to Florida's Cape Canaveral for the first time in decades.

The American Petroleum Institute calls the recommendation a critical step toward bolstering U.S. energy security, while environmentalists say the decision turns the Atlantic Ocean into a "blast zone" that could be a "death sentence" for marine mammals.

Actual drilling of test wells can't begin until an existing ban on Atlantic production expires in 2017, and even then only after the government agrees to lease ocean tracts to energy companies.

The area, particularly off the coasts of Virginia and the Carolinas, is estimated to hold ~3.3B barrels of oil and 312T cf of natural gas.

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