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Atlantic offshore oil & gas exploration gets hearing

The Obama administration's move to open the mid- and South Atlantic coasts to offshore oil and gas exploration is scheduled to get a public airing in Annapolis on Wednesday.

The Annapolis session is one of a series being held from Florida to New Jersey to take public comments on the Interior Department's proposal to permit seismic and other testing off the Atlantic coast from Delaware Bay to just south of Cape Canaveral, FL

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The administration had proposed lifting the long-standing ban on Atlantic offshore exploration in 2010, but then reinstated it in the wake of the massive Deepwater Horizon drilling rig blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.  Last month, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Atlantic testing was back on as part of President Obama's "all-of-the-above" energy strategy.

The testing, including the use of high-pressure airguns, would ostensibly be done to assess the potential for renewable energy offshore as well as oil and gas.  But it's the hydrocarbons that are drawing the most interest - and furor.

Environmental groups have come out against the move, arguing that the airguns can injure marine mammals, including endangered whales, and could also affect fish populations and habitat.

There will be two sessions in Annapolis, at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., both at the Annapolis Doubletree  Hotel, 210 Holiday Court.  For more info, go here.

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