WASHINGTON – The Interior Department on Monday gave the go-ahead for Shell Oil to begin drilling three exploratory wells in the Chukchi Sea, a move that opens the door for offshore oil and gas production in the Arctic.
“This is progress,” said Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, calling the announcement “an encouraging sign that Alaska’s oil and natural gas resources can continue to play a major role in America’s energy security.”
Shell Alaska Vice President Pete Slaiby said that his company thinks its exploration plan addresses the concerns he’s heard in North Slope communities, “including concerns around program footprint and pace.”
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar called the approval by the Minerals Management Service “conditional.” The agency still must comply with a court-ordered redo of an environmental sensitivity analysis, plus Shell still must obtain Environmental Protection Agency air quality permits for the vessels used in exploration.
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