The Department of the Interior is allowing Shell to begin preparatory work on its first well in the Arctic Ocean. The energy company will be allowed to put in place equipment designed to shut down a runaway well, but will not be allowed to drill in areas that contain oil or gas until the full array of safety measures are in place and final permits approved. Shell hopes to gain approval for its oil-spill response barge within the next week and to begin drilling in oil and gas zones before the expiration of the drilling season in September. The approval has left environmental activists displeased. “Secretary Salazar is right to keep repeating that he will hold Shell accountable to make sure drilling in America’s Arctic is safe,” said Niel Lawrence, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “But today’s action looks like the administration is playing right into Shell’s game of acting like drilling is inevitable.”
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