Lewis Diuguid

Obama’s OK of Arctic oil drilling surprises environmental groups

With the Olympic Mountains in the background, a small boat crosses in front of an oil drilling rig as it arrives in Port Angeles, Wash., aboard a transport ship after traveling across the Pacific. Royal Dutch Shell hopes to use the rig for exploratory drilling during the summer open-water season in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's northwest coast. Royal Dutch Shell cleared a major hurdle Monday when The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management approved Shell's exploration plan. However, this isn't the final step that Shell needs for Arctic drilling.
With the Olympic Mountains in the background, a small boat crosses in front of an oil drilling rig as it arrives in Port Angeles, Wash., aboard a transport ship after traveling across the Pacific. Royal Dutch Shell hopes to use the rig for exploratory drilling during the summer open-water season in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's northwest coast. Royal Dutch Shell cleared a major hurdle Monday when The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management approved Shell's exploration plan. However, this isn't the final step that Shell needs for Arctic drilling. The Associated Press

Someone must have spliced some of Sarah Palin’s “drill, baby, drill,” DNA into President Barack Obama for his administration to willingly grant even conditional approval for Shell Gulf of Mexico to drill for oil off the Alaskan coast this summer.

It’s like a solar energy manufacturer deciding to open a gasoline station in its front lot. The Obama administration shift is a huge blow to environmental groups. They had depended on the president to prevent offshore Arctic drilling, fearing it potentially could do more damage than the devastating Gulf of Mexico spill in 2010.

The Deepwater Horizon rig blew up, killing 11 persons and spewed millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf. It took weeks to contain the spill, and multibillion-dollar cleanup from that environmental disaster is still ongoing.

Oil industry and environmental groups agree that the Chukchi Sea is one of the most dangerous places to drill, The New York Times reports. Yet, the Interior Department’s approval for Shell Gulf of Mexico was conditional.

It depends on Shell receiving approval of state and federal drilling permits for the project. That includes permits from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and authorizations under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Shell wants to drill up to six wells in the Burger Prospect, about 70 miles off the northwest coast of Alaska. Shell has spent about $6 billion so far on Arctic offshore oil exploration.

The region is thought to hold up to 15 billions barrels of oil. The company promises to be environmentally responsible.

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