Feds issue permit for offshore drilling in U.S. Arctic waters

Deep below the frozen surface of the Arctic Ocean, scientists aboard a U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker discovered a searing caldron of activity, including numerous underwater volcanoes and deep-sea hot springs that may harbor previously unknown marine organisms.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- An Italian energy company has received permission to drill oil exploration wells in U.S. Arctic waters. 

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement announced Tuesday it approved an application from Eni U.S. Operating Co. Inc. to drill in the Beaufort Sea. 

Exploratory drilling could start next month.

The drilling will take place from Spy Island, a gravel artificial island near Prudhoe Bay.

Eni already has 18 production wells on the island that extract oil from submerged state lands.

Eni will use extended-reach drilling techniques to reach federal submerged lands.

Environmental groups oppose additional Arctic Ocean drilling.

Kristen Monsell of the Center for Biological Diversity in a statement says a major spill would threaten coastal communities and Arctic wildlife.