The United States Department of the Interior has revealed that the administration of President Donald Trump has approved permits for oil exploration off the coast of Alaska under leases held by Eni US.
Eni US could begin oil exploration in federal waters off Alaska as early as next month under leases the company has held for a decade.
Reuters News Agency reports that the department's Office of Safety and Environment (BSEE) issued Eni US, a unit of Eni of Italy, a permit to explore for oil from an artificial island in the Beaufort Sea.
Eni is the first company authorized to explore for oil in federal waters off Alaska since 2015.
The approval is part of the Trump administration's policy to maximize the production of fossil fuels for domestic use and for export.
Scott Angelle, director of the BSEE, said that the responsible development of Arctic resources was a "critical component to achieving American energy dominance."
Environmentalists said exploring for oil in the Arctic was dangerous.
"The Trump administration is risking a major oil spill by allowing this foreign corporation to practice in unforgiving waters off Alaska," said Kristen Monsell, chief legal officer for oceans at the nonprofit group the Center for Biological Diversity.
Eni wants to drill in the Beaufort from the island using extended wells more than 10 kilometers long.
Eni US did not immediately respond to a request for comment on when it would begin drilling.
In April, President Trump signed an executive order of the so-called America-First Offshore Energy Strategy to extend offshore drilling to areas in the Arctic and other places that have been off-limits.
Eni's leases, which were to expire at the end of the year, were outside an area protected by former President Barack Obama weeks before he left office.
Reuters reports that the company's plan to go ahead with risky and expensive drilling in the Arctic comes despite years of low oil prices and abundant sources of crude in the continental US.
Royal Dutch Shell abandoned its exploration mission off the coast of Alaska in 2015 after a vessel it had chartered suffered a fissure in unknown waters and environmentalists discovered an existing law limiting the company's ability to drill.
Republicans are eager to drill in other parts of Alaska.
A tax bill approved by the Senate budget committee this week contained a provision to open drilling in a portion of the Arctic Alaska National Wildlife Refuge.
Conservationists said the refuge was one of the last paradises on the planet.
The bill, which Republicans hope to pass in full Senate this week, faces an uncertain future.
By David Twomey
Original article (in English)