Federal regulators have put oil giant Shell one step closer to final approval to drill three new exploratory deepwater wells in the Gulf of Mexico.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says the project 130 miles off the Louisiana coast meets strict safety and environmental requirements.
Shell Offshore Inc., a unit of Royal Dutch Shell PLC, proposes to drill three exploratory wells in roughly 2,950 feet of water.
What was announced Monday was an intermediate step and not final approval to drill. A drilling permit will be required for that.
A moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf imposed after last year's BP oil spill was lifted Oct. 12, but the government has only recently begun issuing permits again for previously suspended activities.