The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded Shell an air permit for drilling vessel Noble Discoverer to start work next year off Alaska's northwestern coast.
Richard Ranger, a senior policy adviser at the American Petroleum Institute, said the decision shows smart economic stimulus can proceed in sensitive environments.
"EPA's decision is a welcome and critical step toward allowing Shell to move ahead to increase America's domestic energy supply, which will also create jobs and help increase government revenues," he said in a statement.
The API estimates oil and gas could bring in as much as $193 billion in government revenue through 2057. It said as much as 700,000 barrels of oil per day could be produced from Alaska's Beaufort and Chukchi seas for 40 years.
Environmental groups say they worry about the consequences of potential disasters in arctic waters.
The EPA said that, under the new permits, Shell is committed to reducing fleet emissions "in most key air pollutants" by more than 50 percent of the levels allowed in 2010 permits.