With Final Stamp of Approval, White House Places Fate of Arctic in Shell's Hands

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With Final Stamp of Approval, White House Places Fate of Arctic in Shell's Hands

The permit comes days after President Barack Obama announced an upcoming Alaska visit to highlight what he said was 'one of the greatest challenges we face this century: climate change.'

Activists in Seattle protest against Shell's Arctic drilling plans. (Photo: Backbone Campaign/flickr/cc)

Activists in Seattle protest against Shell's Arctic drilling plans. (Photo: Backbone Campaign/flickr/cc)

Placing the "fate of the Arctic" in the care of Big Oil, the Obama administration on Monday granted Shell the final permit to drill deep into the waters off the Alaskan coast.

The permit, issued by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), comes days after President Barack Obama announced an upcoming Alaska visit to highlight what he said was "one of the greatest challenges we face this century: climate change."

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Shell applied for the permit after the icebreaker, the MSV Fennica, was held up due to damage. The vessel carries the "capping stack," which the BSEE requires to be easily deployed ahead of drilling in potential oil-bearing zones "in the unlikely event of a loss of well control."

"The capping stack, staged on the vessel M/V Fennica, is now in the region and capable of being deployed within 24 hours," the BSEE statement said.

In a statement, Greenpeace USA executive director Annie Leonard said the approval "means the Obama administration is leaving the fate of the Arctic up to Shell this summer. But that doesn’t mean the future of the Arctic has to be in Shell’s hands." 

Referring to the groundswell of activism that has erupted in opposition to the Arctic drilling plan, Leonard added, "The President has seen how big the movement to save the Arctic and to keep fossil fuels in the ground has become, and it’s only going to get bigger if he doesn’t put a stop to this catastrophic plan."

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