United States approves Eni's plan to drill offshore Alaska

Environmentalists say the project could put polar bears at risk

Environmentalists say the project could put polar bears at risk

Inc., part of Eni S.p.A.

In its plan, Eni describes its intent to drill four exploration wells into the federal submerged lands of the Beaufort Sea from its Spy Island Drillsite, a pre-existing facility located in Alaska state waters.

Eni plans to drill into the Beaufort Sea from an artificial island using extended wells more than 10 km (6 miles) long starting in December.

Eni's Spy Island is one of four oil and gas producing artificial islands in the waters of the Beaufort Sea.

Trump in April signed an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy executive order to extend offshore oil and gas drilling to areas in the Arctic and other places that have been off limits to support the industry. Environmental and Alaska Native groups in May sued to maintain the ban.

Eni's leases would have expired at the end of 2017, said Kristen Monsell, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, in a prepared statement.

"Eni brought to us a solid, well-considered plan", says BOEM Acting Director Walter Cruickshank.

Among the conditions of approval is the requirement that Eni must also procure all appropriate permits from other state and federal agencies, including permits to drill from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

"Approving this Arctic drilling plan at the 11th hour makes a unsafe project even riskier", Monsell said.

The federal exploration plan proposes two extended-reach main holes and two "sidetracks" to evaluate oil and gas at federal leases.

"We're glad to see this project move forward, and will continue to work with BOEM and BSEE to ensure that Eni can begin exploratory drilling this winter", Nicole Daigle, a spokeswoman for the Senate Energy Committee, said in an email Thursday. "Along with Hilcorp's Liberty project, we are optimistic that nearshore development will soon deliver new production needed to help refill our Trans-Alaska Pipeline".

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