For the first time in two years, the federal government has approved an oil company's request to explore for oil in the Arctic Ocean.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) granted a permit for Italian oil giant Eni U.S. Operating Co. Inc. to drill an exploratory well in the Beaufort Sea. That’s three miles offshore of Oliktok Point near Prudhoe Bay, on a manmade island called Spy Island.

Eni submitted its application in August. The company already owns leases there but had planned to let it expire before the Trump Administration reversed the Obama Administration's policy, which all but banned offshore drilling in federal waters.

Drilling for the exploratory well is expected to start as soon as next month, after a review by BSEE to make sure the request meets safety and environmental standards. Eni says the exploratory operations would add an additional 100 to 110 jobs during drilling; new development could create 100 to 150 jobs and 20,000 barrels of oil per day in the Trans Alaska Pipeline.

If you remember, Shell was the last company to drill exploratory wells in Arctic Waters. It spent seven years and $7 billion on its failed hunt for oil. During that time, the Obama Administration added more regulations, including limiting Shell to drilling one hole at a time and allowing the company to work just three months of the year. Shell pulled out of Alaska in 2015 citing the unpredictable Federal Regulatory environment in Alaska.

The move is part of the Trump Administration’s policy to maximize fossil fuels for Americans and to export to other countries. If you remember, in April, the President signed an executive order to extend offshore drilling leases for places in the Arctic that had previously been off-limits.

“Responsible resource development in the Arctic is a critical component to achieving American energy dominance,” BSEE Director Scott Angelle said in a statement.

Meanwhile, environmentalists say the move creates a major risk for an oil spill.

“Offshore drilling threatens coastal communities and wildlife and will only push us deeper into the climate crisis,” said Kristen Monsell, oceans legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This is a totally boneheaded decision by a reckless administration.”

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