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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell will soon get a temporary air permit to operate a drilling rig offshore Alaska, the Environmental Protection Agency said, helping the company move closer to its long-delayed goal of exploring for oil in the Arctic.

The EPA plans to issue an air permit for Shell's Discoverer drilling rig as soon as this weekend, a source at the bureau said on Friday.

A compliance order the EPA will issue expires in a year and will not waive any of Shell's permit requirements or any air quality standards, the agency said. Any proposed revisions to the permit will be subject to full public review and comment.

Shell has spent about $4.5 billion on its effort to drill Arctic oil, but the company has run into problems.

On Thursday the Department of the Interior allowed Shell to begin some "limited" drilling in the offshore Chukchi region, that is only navigable for a few months a year.

The company is still waiting for its oil-spill containment barge, the Arctic Challenger, to be approved by the Coast Guard. Without the containment system, Interior said it will not allow Shell to proceed.

In light of the delays, Shell has asked the government to extend its oil drilling season beyond the September 24 deadline.

Shell could not be immediately reached for comment.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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