Environmental groups say that Shell’s plans for oil exploration this summer in the Chukchi Sea don’t comply with federal rules that seek to protect marine mammals.

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Environmental groups say that Shell’s plans for oil exploration this summer in the Chukchi Sea don’t comply with federal rules that seek to protect marine mammals.

In a Tuesday letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, environmental groups said this represented a “fundamental flaw,” and that Shell should not be allowed to proceed with the summer drilling.

The Interior Department’s 2013 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulations prohibit the drilling of wells within 15 miles of each other to minimize the cumulative effects of oil exploration on the walrus. The two wells that Shell wants to drill this summer are about 9 miles apart.

Earthjustice and 10 environmental groups sent the letter. It called for the Interior Department to rescind Shell’s conditional approval to explore this summer. The letter also asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department not to grant a letter of authorization still required for drilling to proceed.

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Any letters of authorization issued to Shell ‘‘would violate an explicit condition’’ of the governing regulations, the organizations said in the letter.

Interior Department spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw said the Fish and Wildlife Service ‘‘is reviewing Shell’s program to ensure compliance with all applicable laws.’‘

‘‘Their review will ensure that measures are in place to minimize potential disturbances to walrus and other marine mammals,’‘ Kershaw said.

Curtis Smith, a Shell spokesman, said Tuesday that the company will continue to consult with regulators on the terms of the letter of authorization. “All of our permit applications are based on sound science.”

Smith declined to comment on whether it would be possible to space the two wells more than 15 miles apart.

The questions about Shell’s drilling plans arise as the company’s Arctic offshore-drilling fleet already is en route from the Puget Sound to the Chukchi Sea.

There, the company intends to embark on a multiyear exploration effort to find oil in the Burger Tract off Alaska’s North Slope, a site where the company first drilled exploratory wells in 1989.

Shell already has spent nearly $7 billion on that effort, which has been the target of fierce opposition from environmentalists concerned about the potential for oil spills and the impacts on climate change of developing major new fossil-fuel reserves.

Seattle has been a hub of these protests, with Shell’s decision to base part of its Arctic fleet at Terminal 5 spurring protests and opposition from Mayor Ed Murray, even as maritime-industry officials rallied to the oil company’s side.

For years, environmental organizations have been involved in protracted legal battles to try to block the offshore drilling.

And the letter is a warning shot, signaling any authorizations issued to Shell are likely to be battled in court.

All together, Shell still needs four more government approvals.

Two well-specific drilling permits from the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and approvals from the Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service.

Shell appeared to be aware of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s prohibition on contemporaneous drilling activities as far back as February 2013, when it sent a letter to the agency objecting to the then-proposed rule.

‘‘Shell knew these rules (but) nonetheless chose to ignore them when it submitted its plan to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean,’‘ said Holly Harris, a staff attorney with Earthjustice. ‘‘Interior cannot allow Shell to flout the government’s own requirements for protecting Arctic wildlife. It is time to deny Shell’s request to drill for oil in the fragile Arctic Ocean.”

The groups that signed the letter included the Natural Resources Defense Council, Oceana, and the Sierra Club. The letter could set the stage for new legal action should Shell get final federal approvals to drill two wells within 15 miles of each other.

Shell officials are hoping for a major oil find, and their fleet heading north includes both the Polar Pioneer oil rig and the drill ship Noble Discoverer. Company officials have said they hope both rigs will have time during the brief summer season to drill to depths where oil might be found.