The Obama administration announced this week that it would allow, conditionally, Shell to drill for oil off the coast of Alaska. Meanwhile, Two East Coast states, North Carolina and South Carolina, have federal permits that allow them to begin offshore seismic surveys ahead of drilling for oil and gas in the Atlantic.

President Obama has been labeled as an anti-oil and gas president by the oil lobby and many in the Gulf of Mexico energy industry because of his moratorium on offshore drilling following the Deepwater Horizon debacle back in 2010. His reaction to the disaster was to restructure the federal department overseeing the issuance of drilling permits (the Minerals Management Service became the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement) and to lay down a new set of rules governing the application and drilling processes involved in offshore drilling.

Now there is the possibility of drilling for oil in Alaska and the Atlantic Ocean off the U.S. East Coast, two places that have been off limits to such activity in the past.

Shell’s new Arctic exploration plan describes all exploration activities, including the timing of these activities, information concerning drilling vessels, the location of each planned well, and actions to be taken to meet important safety and environmental standards and to protect workers, resources, wildlife and access to subsistence use areas. In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, the review of the EP included the preparation of an Environmental Assessment and a subsequent Finding of No Significant Impact.

Shell’s previous attempt at drilling in the Arctic did not go well, however. In late 2012 the towing vessel Aiviq left Dutch Harbor, Alaska, for Seattle with the drilling rig Kulluk in tow. Eventually, even with the help of the Coast Guard and other rescue vessels, the Kulluk was intentionally released and ran aground on an island beach south of Kodiak on New Year’s Eve.

But BOEM says it is satisfied that such problems won’t happen this time around. “The review of this Exploration Plan was a team effort,” James Kendall, BOEM Alaska regional director, said in a statement announcing the administration’s decision. “We’d like to thank the experts in our cooperating agencies, the tribal government representatives who took time out from their busy schedules to do government-to-government consultations and of course the many members of the public and stakeholder organizations who provided us with valuable comments during the review process.”

“We have taken a thoughtful approach to carefully considering potential exploration in the Chukchi Sea, recognizing the significant environmental, social and ecological resources in the region and establishing high standards for the protection of this critical ecosystem, our Arctic communities, and the subsistence needs and cultural traditions of Alaska Natives,” BOEM Director Abigail Ross Hopper, said in a statement. “As we move forward, any offshore exploratory activities will continue to be subject to rigorous safety standards.”

The National Ocean Industries Association, a trade group representing the offshore industry, applauded the announcement. “The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s decision to conditionally allow Shell to proceed with the carefully planned and coordinated drilling effort in Alaska is good news,” NOIA president, Randall Luthi, said in a statement. “The potential for energy development in the Chukchi Sea would allow Alaskans to benefit from well-paying jobs and resources to safeguard the environment, protect native traditional activities, and improve communities. The Trans-Alaska Pipeline may also benefit from the flow of resulting production.  For the rest of the U.S. and the world, successful oil and natural gas development in the area will help to meet the ever increasing demand for reliable, reasonably priced energy.”

Ken Hocke has been the senior editor of WorkBoat since 1999. He was the associate editor of WorkBoat from 1997 to 1999. Prior to that, he was the editor of the Daily Shipping Guide, a transportation daily in New Orleans. He has written for other publications including The Times-Picayune. He graduated from Louisiana State University with an arts and sciences degree, with a concentration in English, in 1978.