Shell suffered a new setback to its plans to drill offshore in the arctic after environmentalists successfully challenged a decision to grant the company air-quality permits.
Shell has invested $3.5 billion in an exploration program in Alaska's Beaufort and Chukchi seas but has yet to drill. The company's plans have been dogged by legal challenges and regulatory obstacles.
Shell had finally overcome all hurdles last spring, until BP's Gulf of Mexico oil well exploded, triggering the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. The Obama administration responded by suspending most new offshore drilling, including in the arctic, throwing Shell's exploration program into disarray.
Yet the Anglo-Dutch oil company remains committed to the region, which it believes contains up to 25 billion barrels of oil reserves--most of it in the Chukchi Sea. In 2008, Shell spent $2.1 billion to obtain leases in the Chukchi.