The Environmental Protection Agency has approved air quality permits for a Shell Oil drilling vessel and accompanying vessels that the company hopes to use in Arctic waters next year.
The EPA on Monday approved the air permits for the drilling vessel Noble Discover.
The permits are a key hurdle for Shell to overcome before it can begin exploratory drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas off Alaska’s northwest coast.
Environmental groups and some Alaska Native groups oppose offshore drilling. Drilling was held up this year in part by a successful appeal of two air permits EPA issued to Shell in 2010.