Royal Dutch Shell won U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service authorization to disrupt the habitats of polar bears and walruses during oil and gas exploration off the Alaska north coast.
The authorization, disclosed by the agency this week in an e-mail, moves The Hague-based company closer to drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas this year. Shell needs Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement approval.
Shell’s plans to tap resources estimated to have more than 20 billion barrels of oil had been thwarted by environmental groups and native Alaskans, who oppose the operations citing the risks of an oil spill and added air pollution. The company, which spent about $4 billion in Alaska so far, plans to drill as many as five wells this year.
The letters of authorization allow “the anticipated incidental take of small numbers of polar bears and Pacific walruses associated with Shell’s planned oil and gas open-water exploration,” the agency said in a letter to Shell dated June 1.