Wednesday, November 25, 2009


After years of controversy and delays, a federal agency has given the green light to Royal Dutch Shell to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean.

The decision on Monday by the Minerals Management Service clears one of the last big hurdles for the company to drill two exploration wells on two offshore lease areas in the Beaufort Sea. The company plans to do the drilling between July and October 2010 — the next open-water season when the sea-ice melts.

Shell, which does not produce on the North Slope, has bet heavily on Alaska’s offshore potential. In 2008, it paid $2.1 billion for leases in both the Beaufort and the Chukchi Sea, and now has about 200 offshore leases.

“The reality of offshore oil drilling is that accidents will happen,” he said. “And when oil spills in Arctic ice, there is no cleaning it up. A blow-out like the one that recently despoiled waters off the coast of Australia would leave oil in the waters off the coast of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for decades, killing whales, seals, fish and birds and turning irreplaceable spawning and feeding grounds into an ecological wasteland.”

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