* Interior releases enviromental analysis of seismic testing
* Republicans-Administration not doing enough for drilling
* Interior approves Shell spill plan for Beaufort Sea
By Ayesha Rascoe
WASHINGTON, March 28 The Obama administration
said on Wednesday it was moving toward allowing private
companies to begin assessing the oil and gas potential off the
country's Atlantic coast, but full exploration is likely still
The Interior Department released a draft environmental
analysis on Wednesday that found minor to moderate impact if it
allowed companies to begin seismic testing off the country's
"As we move forward with the safe exploration and production
of our domestic energy supply, this environmental analysis will
help provide the critical information we need to make smart
decisions in the Mid- and South Atlantic," said Interior
Secretary Ken Salazar.
The release of the analysis comes as the Obama
administration faces growing criticism over gasoline prices that
have soared to around $4 a gallon.
Republicans have blasted the administration for leaving
Atlantic and Pacific coastal waters out of its proposed offshore
oil and gas leasing plan that runs through 2017.
The Interior Department canceled a scheduled 2011 lease
sale off the coast of Virginia after the BP oil spill in 2010.
"This president is focused on trying to talk his way out of
what he's done, rather than taking real steps to boost American
energy production," said Republican Congressman Doc Hastings,
who heads the House natural resources committee, in response to
the department's announcement.
The Interior Department plans to accept public comment on
its environmental analysis and begin issuing permits for
companies to conduct seismic activity as early as next year,
depending on its final assessment.
Separately, the Interior Department approved Royal Dutch
Shell's oil spill response plan for Alaska's Beaufort
Sea on Wednesday.
Shell is working to begin drilling off Alaska's coast this
summer after repeated regulatory delays for the company's Arctic
Shell will still need well-specific permits before it starts
drilling. Interior approved Shell's response plan for Alaska's
Chukchi Sea earlier this year.
Environmentalists cried foul over the approval of Shell's
"Unfortunately, today's approval ... is another sign the
Administration is going after a 'quick political fix' that
places the public trust behind Big Oil's bottom line," said
Susan Murray of Oceana, a ocean conservation group.