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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