ANCHORAGE, Alaska - An Italian energy company has received permission to drill oil exploration wells in U.S. Arctic waters.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement announced Tuesday it approved an application from Eni (EN-ee) U.S. Operating Co. Inc. to drill in the Beaufort (BOH-fort) Sea.

Exploratory drilling could start next month.

The drilling will take place from Spy Island, a gravel artificial island near Prudhoe Bay.

Eni already has 18 production wells on the island that extract oil from submerged state lands.

Eni will use extended-reach drilling techniques to reach federal submerged lands.

Environmental groups oppose additional Arctic Ocean drilling.

Kristen Monsell of the Center for Biological Diversity in a statement says a major spill would threaten coastal communities and Arctic wildlife.

Multinational oil company with insatiable appetite for profit and little concern for the environment targets the Arctic, estimated to contain 30% of the planet’s undiscovered natural gas and 13% of its undiscovered oil. On cue Indigenous peoples join forces with environmental activists to oppose the proposed exploitation of one of the last great unspoilt natural regions on Earth.

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