"A federal appeals court on Thursday rejected an effort by environmental and Native American groups to stop exploratory oil drilling off the coast of Alaska that could begin this summer.
The decision, by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, rejected several claims by the groups, including that the United States Minerals Management Service did not adequately consider the possibility that the project could cause a large oil spill in the remote Arctic.
The project is led by Shell Oil, which paid $2.1 billion in 2008 for rights to drill in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, off Alaska’s north coast.
The project could still be delayed. Last week, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar ordered a halt to all new offshore projects while his department reviewed safety measures for the work in light of the spill in the Gulf of Mexico. As part of the review, the minerals service asked Shell to explain ways it could improve its ability to prevent and respond to a spill. Shell is supposed to respond by Tuesday. The Interior Department report is to be submitted to the White House by May 28. "