The Corps of Engineers gave Exxon and PTE Pipeline a wetland permit, allowing them to build three drilling pads for work in the Beaufort Sea.
Mike Holley, a division leader from the Alaska district of the corps, was quoted by Alaska Public Radio as saying the permits include considerations for wetland protection.
"We asked Exxon Mobil if they could move two of their pads, what's known as the East pad and the West pad, further off the coast, because normally when polar bears are hunting, they are either out on the pack ice, or they are right on the shoreline," he said.
The company's Point Thomson project is expected to hold as much as 8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Exxon, under the terms of the permit, will use directional drilling to reach offshore reserves.
"The resource is actually located slightly off-shore but they'll be able to get to the resource using extended reach drilling from on shore pads," said Holley.