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US approves Alaska offshore drilling from gravel island

Federal regulators have conditionally approved exploratory drilling in Alaska's Beaufort Sea by a subsidiary of an Italian multinational oil and gas company.

Eni US Operating, part of Eni SpA., plans to drill four exploration wells from Spy Island, an artificial gravel island in state waters, starting in December.

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced conditional approval of the exploratory drilling plan late on Wednesday.

The conditions include obtaining permits to drill from Alaska and other federal agencies.

Environmental groups object to Arctic offshore drilling and say potential spills put polar bears, bowhead whales and other marine mammals at risk.

Kristen Monsell of the Centre for Biological Diversity says Eni's plan calls for extended-reach wells that could stretch more than six miles into federal waters.

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