Royal Dutch Shell has secured another federal authorization as it pursues plans to drill exploration wells in the Arctic waters off the Alaska coast.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday issued a letter of authorization allowing for the possible harassment of polar bears and Pacific walrus as part of Shell's drilling program. The authorization includes measures Shell must take to minimize the impact of its work on the animals, including a minimum spacing of 15 miles between all drill rigs or seismic survey vessels, something conservation groups had sought. Nonetheless, some of those groups still called on the Obama administration to stop Arctic drilling.
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Shell still needs drill permits. If it secures the necessary permits, it could begin drilling in the Chukchi Sea in mid-July.