The Environmental Protection Agency is nearing the approval of a key air-quality permit that would pave the way for the Royal Dutch Shell's exploration project in Alaska's Beaufort Sea. "I believe we are very close to a strong permit that will actually allow them to have three drilling operations going on in the Arctic in a way that is protective of public health and consistent with current law," said Gina McCarthy, an assistant administrator for EPA. Shell had planned to commence Beaufort Sea operations this summer.

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