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US Gives Shell Go-Ahead for Arctic Drilling

Activists who oppose Royal Dutch Shell's plans to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean prepare their kayaks for a protest in Seattle's Elliott Bay, May 16, 2015.

The Obama Administration has given Royal Shell Oil permission to drill in the Arctic Ocean off Alaska’s northwest coast. This is the first time gas and drilling operations have been given the go-ahead since an exploratory well was drilled in 1991. In a statement released Monday, an administration environmental official pledged to monitor the work around the clock. Brian Salerno said, “Activities conducted off shore Alaska are being held to the highest safety, environmental protection, and emergency standards.”

The news was greeted with cries from environmental groups, which have lobbied hard to prevent drilling in the Arctic, and protect the polar bears, walruses, whales and seals, already threatened by climate change and shrinking sea ice. “Granting Shell the permit to drill in the Arctic was the wrong decision, and this fight is far from over,” said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune in a statement. “The people will continue to call on President Obama to protect the Arctic and our environment.”

The Arctic region is estimated to hold 20 percent of the world’s untapped oil and gas.