U.S. reviewing permits for Atlantic coast drilling surveys

HOUSTON, May 10 (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Interior on Wednesday said it would begin reviewing permit applications from six companies seeking to conduct seismic surveys in the Atlantic Ocean, marking a sharp reversal from the previous administration’s stance on oil and gas exploration activities off the U.S. East Coast.

The move comes roughly one week after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke issued a Secretarial Order to implement President Donald Trump’s directive to review drilling bans for parts of the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific Ocean as part of his America-First Offshore Energy Strategy.

The six companies - TGS Nopec Geophysical Company ASA , GX Technology Corp, WesternGeco Ltd, CGG Services Inc , Spectrum Geo and Petroleum Geo Services ASA - were previously denied permits to conduct seismic surveys in the Atlantic portion of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf.

The surveys can be used to help determine the location and size of potential oil and gas reserves.

The decision is likely to anger environmentalists and lawmakers in coastal states who have either pushed to move to away from fossil fuels to renewable fuels or are concerned about environmental impacts on tourism.

The Bureau of Ocean Management (BOEM) estimates the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf contains some 90 billion barrels of undiscovered but technically recoverable oil and some 327 trillion cubic feet of gas. (Reporting By Liz Hampton in Houston; Editing by Marguerita Choy)