Federal regulators are taking the unusual step of providing a 30-day public review and comment period before acting on applications related to proposed seismic surveys for oil and natural gas off the Atlantic coast. A decision on whether to issue the permits could come by the end of the year.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries offices, also known as the National Marine Fisheries Service, or NMFS, announced last week that it had filed notice on four requests for permits to incidentally harass animals protected by the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act. Companies that are planning seismic surveys of the Atlantic Ocean for oil and natural gas have made the requests.

NMFS, which oversees the conservation and protection of marine mammals under the act, said in the announcement that the initial public review comment period is not typical for the issuance of permits, “but it is required for more complex actions."

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