On the heels of a major mining victory, Alaska’s natural resource development received more good news this week. Shell has finally received tentative approval to drill in the Arctic. As Shell has already invested $4 billion into permits that would allow them to drill in Alaska, this news comes as a major success for the oil industry.
Administration officials cautioned that the company must win a number of secondary permits before it can begin punching holes in the seabed. The plan approved Thursday, considered the overarching one, contains detailed information on how the company would respond to any blowout and spill.
“We base our decisions regarding energy exploration and development in the Arctic on the best scientific information available,” said Michael R. Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, which oversees offshore drilling. “We will closely review and monitor Shell’s proposed activities to ensure that any activities that take place under this plan will be conducted in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.”
Shell enthusiastically welcomed the decision. “We feel very good about it,” said Pete Slaiby, Shell’s vice president in Alaska. “It’s one of the road marks we wanted to see. It makes us very happy.”
Shell has also received approval for 4,000 ft well in the gulf. With the return of workers to rigs shut down by the Obama administration after the BP oil spill and these new permits, things look brighter for oil drilling in the United States. Unfortunately, both of these victories can be reversed by the courts and already are facing legal challenges from environmental groups.