05/13/2015 02:47 EDT | Updated 05/13/2016 05:59 EDT

Shell Exploration Plans In Alaska Stoke Concern, Hope In Canada

BEN STANSALL via Getty Images
Ben van Beurden, Chief Executive Officer of Royal Dutch Shell, addresses a press conference in central London on January 29, 2015, to release its fourth quarter results announcement and its fourth quarter interim dividend announcement for 2014. Energy group Royal Dutch Shell on Thursday announced an eight-percent drop in annual net profits owing to a slump in global oil prices and said it would accelerate spending cuts. AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

CALGARY - Royal Dutch Shell's plans to explore for oil off Alaska's northwestern coast are being closely watched in Canada with a mixture of hope and concern.

Earlier this week, the energy giant cleared a major hurdle when the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management approved a multi-year exploration plan in the Chukchi Sea, though it still needs to obtain other federal and state permits.

Shell isn't active in the Canadian Arctic these days, but both proponents and critics say the U.S. plans have implications for Canada.

David Ramsay, the Northwest Territories minister in charge of resource development, has been eager to see northern natural resources safely developed and says this week's U.S. milestone sends a good signal.

Doug Matthews, a consultant who works on northern energy issues, says any mishap with Shell's drilling program in Alaska could put a freeze on any further development, both in the U.S. and Canada, for years to come.

Environmental groups are enraged by the U.S. approval and have been planning big protests in Seattle, where Shell wants to keep its drilling equipment.

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