"The Obama administration took a step closer Friday to allowing oil and gas exploration off the Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic coasts, drawing praise from the energy industry and criticism from environmentalists.
The Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management approved a framework for doing seismic testing from the Delaware Bay to mid-Florida and up to 400 miles offshore. The decision sets the stage for federal officials to begin issuing permits for surveying an area roughly the size of California.
Federal officials said testing is needed to update 40-year-old data on the region's offshore oil and gas reserves. But they stressed they would require "the highest practicable level" of protections for marine life during the testing."