The US Department of the Interior has approved the spill plan proposed by Royal Dutch Shell plc (NYSE: RDS-A), a nearly final step before the company can proceed with exploratory drilling off Alaska’s northern coast in the Chukchi Sea. Shell still needs to acquire several more permits, but this is a major step forward.
At the same time that it announced its Shell decision, the Department also said that it would target 2013 as the starting date for additional seismic studies off the east coast of the US. These coastal areas have been off-limits to exploration and drilling for more than 30 years.
Environmentalists have fought the Alaska project and will certainly object to the proposed exploration along the east coast. The exploration area stretches from Delaware Bay to Cape Canaveral, Florida, not exactly the cheapest real estate in the country. Environmentalists are likely to get some help from local property owners who will object to oil production in their own front yards.