Shell wins approval to drill in U.S. arctic

Shell is one step closer to being able to drill in the United States arctic. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management conditionally approved the oil company's exploration plan in the Chukchi Sea on Monday.

Unalaska radio station KUCB reports that these conditions include that Shell still has to get permits from other federal agencies to actually drill for oil, discharge waste water and work around marine mammals. "So while our agency has conditionally approved this plan, there are some things Shell still has to do before it can go out", said John Callahan, spokesperson for the Bureau.

Shell plans to send oil rigs towards the arctic within the next few weeks. The company is still waiting for environmental permits and a final plan from the Coast Guard regarding buffer zones around the rigs. The buffer zones are intended to keep people and ships about a 100 meters away from the rigs while they are traveling.

According to Shell spokesperson Megan Baldino, the company is hoping that the environmental permits will come through in time for a full summer season. "We achieved these permits in 2012 and we're looking forward to their delivery for 2015", she says, according to KUCB.

In contrast to Shell's positive outlook, some environmental associations are still very much opposed to Shell drilling in the U.S. arctic. The Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission is concerned that the noise from Shell's operations could displace the whales in the area. Susan Murray, vice president of the conservation group Oceana, thinks that Shell is not ready to return to the arctic after the series of mishaps that happened in 2012. "If Shell hasn't shown us yet they can take bad decisions out of the equation, and their contractors can't take bad decisions out of the equation, they don't belong in the offshore Arctic yet. The risk is simply too high." she says, according to KUCB.