Interior approval brings Shell closer to drilling in the Arctic this summer

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Shell called approval of the plan a “major milestone” in its longtime efforts to drill in the Arctic.

“It further reinforces that Shell’s approach to Arctic exploration is aligned with the high standards the Department of Interior expects from an offshore leader and adds to our confidence that drilling will finally commence in the shallow waters off Alaska this summer,” Shell spokeswoman Kelly op de Weegh said in a news release.

Shell said it hopes to begin drilling in the Beaufort Sea in July, after receiving a slew of additional federal approvals. Interior stressed Wednesday that Shell must receive permits for each well before it can begin drilling.

Wednesday’s approval is a blow to environmental groups, which have long opposed drilling in the region.

The news comes more than six months after Interior conditionally approved Shell’s plan to drill up to four oil-and-gas wells over two years in the Beaufort Sea.

Interior backed a separate plan by Shell to drill in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea last month.