Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Tuesday that it was “highly likely” that the agency would grant Shell permits to begin drilling exploratory wells off the North Slope of Alaska as early as next month.
Mr. Salazar, while acknowledging that the Arctic presented unique environmental and safety challenges for oil and gas operations, said he was confident that Shell would meet the Interior Department’s new standards for offshore drilling. He noted that Shell had successfully tested a new oil spill containment device in Washington State’s Puget Sound in recent days and said he believed the company’s claims that it could collect at least 90 percent of any oil spilled in the event of a well blowout.
“I believe there will not be an oil spill,” Mr. Salazar said in a telephone briefing from Trondheim, Norway, where he is participating in an international conference on Arctic drilling safety. “If there is, I think the response capability is there to arrest the problem very quickly and minimize damage. If I were not confident that would happen, I would not let the permits go forward.”