The Trump administration said Wednesday it is moving forward on seismic surveys in the Atlantic Ocean, the first step toward offshore drilling in a region where it has been blocked for decades, the AP reports. The Interior Department said it is reviewing six applications by energy companies that were rejected by the Obama administration. Environmental groups and many East Coast lawmakers oppose the surveys, saying loud sounds from seismic air guns could hurt marine life. The oil and gas industry has pushed for the surveys, which map potential drilling sites for oil and natural gas. No surveys have been conducted in the mid- and south-Atlantic regions for at least 30 years. Any new drilling activity is expected to be limited to the coasts of Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia.
President Trump signed an executive order last month aimed at expanding drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, part of his promise to unleash the nation's energy reserves in an effort to reduce imports of foreign oil. Trump's order reversed an action by former President Obama and faces fierce opposition from environmental activists and many Democrats, who say offshore drilling harms whales, sea turtles, and other marine life and exacerbates global warming. The Interior Department said in a statement that the surveys are needed to update information about the Outer Continental Shelf that was gathered more than 30 years ago, "when technology was not as advanced as today." (Read more offshore drilling stories.)