The Obama administration said Monday that it would honor the December 2008 lease sale that the Bush administration held for oil exploration in 2.8 million acres of the Chukchi Sea off the northwest coast of Alaska.

The announcement by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management provoked protests from environmental groups, which called it “a clear case of politics trumping science.”

In July 2010 a federal court ordered the administration to reconsider the lease sale because of a dearth of scientific data on the impact of drilling. BOEM said Monday it completed a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement and reaffirmed the lease sale. Shell, the biggest leaseholder in the area, is working to get the permits needed to begin drilling next year.