Norwegian energy giant Statoil has received approval to explore for oil in an area next to the Georges Bank and the entrance to the Gulf of Maine, raising environmental concerns on both sides of the border.

In a move opposed by fishermen, Canadian authorities have granted the company an exploratory lease for the area 225 miles southeast of Bar Harbor and bordering on the eastern flank of Georges Bank. Environmentalists fear drilling could leave the ecologically sensitive Gulf of Maine susceptible to a catastrophic oil spill.

It would be the closest that exploratory drilling has come to Maine since the early 1980s. Five wells were drilled on the U.S. side of Georges Bank in 1981 and 1982, before U.S. and Canadian moratoriums were put in place to protect the fishing grounds.

Final approval was granted Monday afternoon as a deadline passed for federal and provincial authorities to veto a Nov. 12 recommendation by the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, an intergovernmental entity responsible for regulating petroleum activities near the province.

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