The Department of Interior gave Shell the green light to begin drilling in the Arctic on Thursday, though the move is expected to prompt a legal challenge.
Enviros were hoping that the administration would take a more cautious approach to drilling there, given the disaster in the Gulf last year and the overwhelming evidence that a spill in the Arctic would be really, really bad. But with the conditional approval of the DOI's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), Shell will be allowed to drill four shallow-water wells starting in July 2012.
Reuters has more on the approval for Shell:
While this is a step forward in Shell's push to tap the Arctic's vast oil and gas reserves, the oil giant still has a long way to go before it can begin carrying out its ambitious drilling plans.
The conditional approval of the exploration plan is contingent upon Shell receiving permits from other government agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Earthjustice and other environmental groups say they are assessing their options for responding to the decision, which could include a legal challenge to the permit. So while Shell is closer to drilling, it's not quite a done deal yet.