JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A key federal agency has given conditional approval to Shell Oil Co.'s plans to begin drilling in Arctic waters off Alaska's coast as early as next year.
Thursday's approval by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Enforcement and Regulation is contingent upon Shell securing other permits. Yet it represents a huge step toward Shell being allowed to start drilling in the Beaufort Sea.
Shell plans to drill up to four wells over two years in the Beaufort.
Responding to critics, Shell says that if necessary, it's prepared to deploy "the most robust Arctic oil spill response system known to industry."
Air quality certifications are among the permits still outstanding. The Environmental Protection Agency has released for public review draft air quality permits for projects in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.