Shell scored a "key approval" from the Department of Interior to drill for oil in the Arctic on Thursday. The New York Times calls the move "another sign that the Obama administration is easing the regulatory clampdown on offshore oil drilling" and reports:

Thursday’s decision to tentatively approve Shell’s plan to drill four exploratory wells in the Beaufort Sea off the North Slope of Alaska represented a major step in the company’s efforts to exploit the vast oil and gas resources under the Arctic Ocean, although a number of hurdles remain. The company has spent nearly $4 billion and more than five years trying to win the right to drill in the frigid waters, against the opposition of many environmental advocates and of Alaska natives who depend on the sea for their livelihoods.

Alaskan environmentalists aren't too happy with the news. "This announcement is proof that all of Secretary Salazar's promises of reform after the Deepwater Horizon disaster amount to nothing, " the director of the local Center for Biological Diversity Rebecca Noblin told the Alaska Dispatch. "This Administration is as willing as ever to rubber stamp dangerous drilling plans in the Arctic Ocean."