The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Safety Management announced on Wednesday it will be extending a public comment period for a draft impact statement needed before parts of the country's Atlantic seaboard are opened to geological surveying.

The public will now be allowed to comment through July 2, and comments will be used to determine whatever impact geological surveying will have on the Atlantic. Surveying is done to assess the potential discoveries of oil and natural gas in a region, as well as determine the potential hazards on the ocean floor that could complicate oil and natural gas exploration, said the bureau, the nation's regulator of leases and offshore exploration.

The Department of the Interior announced in late March  it was starting the process of opening parts of the Atlantic coast, from Delaware to near Palm Bay, Fla.

So far, there are no plans for offshore drilling along the Atlantic coast through 2017, but Interior Secretary Ken Salazar suggested he is open to a new plan that includes the coast before the current 5-year development plan expires.

Permits for the surveys for the assessment of oil and natural gas resources could be issued at the start of 2013.