San Francisco: Shell earned a huge boost towards returning to exploratory offshore oil drilling in the Arctic on Monday when the US government gave its thumbs up to the plan.
The Dutch oil giant has most elements of its planned Arctic campaign in place, all set to go barring several layers of red tape.
Official approval still needs to come from some state and federal agencies but Monday’s conditional nod from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is generally seen as the biggest stumbling block cleared. BOEM is an agency of the Department of the Interior.
Environmentalists fear that Shell is still not adequately prepared should an oil-spill – along the lines of BP’s 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill – happen.
The area of the Chukchi Sea, northwest of Alaska, where Shell would drill, is a remote and forbidding environment which would make clean-up and rescue extremely difficult, say concerned greens.
Scientists believe the region could hold up to 15 billion barrels of oil.
Monday’s BOEM endorsement will add urgency to protesters’ planned “Festival or Resistance” set for Seattle in Washington State on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Seattle is where Shell hopes to base its Arctic fleet, approvals permitting.