The Obama Administration is weighing a decision on an important early step that could open the door to drilling for oil and gas in the Atlantic Ocean.
An environmental review due out in the next three months is expected to say whether to allow seismic testing of the sea bottom up to 200 miles off the East Coast. The tests could update estimates of how much hydrocarbon deposits may be out there.
The decision is being lobbied by Southern politicians and energy industry groups to allow exploration.
Drilling, refineries and the jobs that could accompany them are at least a decade away, and the undersea deposits could be relatively puny.
Environmentalists say current estimates of modest yields make risks to marine animals and coastal economies unwise.