In a highly controversial decision global oil giant Royal Dutch Shell won approval from the U.S. Department of Interior to drill for oil in the Arctic in Monday.
The approval is not a final permit to begin operations as the firm must still receive approval from other regulators, according to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
The decision is controversial because shell had previous issues that resulted in it stopping Arctic exploration more than two years ago because of problems including an oil rig fire and safety failures.
Environmental campaigners strongly oppose the move to drill in the arctic, a region estimated to have about 20% of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas. One permit and successful exploration could lead to many more. That in turn would likely lead to severe ecological damage, according to environmental group.
“We have taken a thoughtful approach to carefully considering potential exploration in the Chukchi Sea,” said Abigail Ross Harper, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
This conditional approval requires permits from the federal government and the state of Alaska to begin drilling.
“Our government has rushed to approve risky and ill-conceived exploration in one of the most remote and important places on Earth” said Susan Murray, an official at Oceana, a group who opposes Arctic drilling.
The last time it tried to drill in the area it failed to have a spill-response barge on site, as it had promised, and the outbreak of fire on the Noble Discoverer rig.
In addition, The Kulluk, a drilling barge, broke away from its towing vessel and ran aground.