Environmentalists of the world rejoice! In the ongoing battle between those who want to save the planet and those who want to pillage it, us saviors need to relish every small victory, whether through our own efforts or just happy circumstance.

This week’s news involves a bit of both. Shell Oil announced on Monday that it will be postponing the completion of its Alaskan Arctic wells until 2013. The reason behind the setback of a $4.5 billion, six-year investment? A spill containment dome — equipment required by environmental regulations — was damaged during a testing accident. It’s almost as if the environmental regulations are actually working!

“The time required to repair the dome, along with steps we have taken to protect local whaling operations and to ensure the safety of operations from ice floe movement, have led us to revise our plans for the 2012 – 2013 exploration program,” the company said in a statement. “In order to lay a strong foundation for operations in 2013, we will forgo drilling into hydrocarbon zones this year.”

While this isn’t the end of Arctic drilling, it is a wake-up call to Shell and other “Drill, Baby Drill!” advocates that are extracting oil from thousands of feet below Earth’s surface. Temperatures below freezing, icy waters and high swells make the region an especially dangerous one for offshore drilling.

Environmentalists have long opposed using the Arctic as an oil reservoir. “We think it’s crazy,” said Niel Lawrence, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “And the evidence is mounting that shows it’s crazy.” Greenpeace echoed those sentiments in an email: “Investors must now be asking whether investing such vast sums of money trying to exploit the fragile Arctic is really worth it.”

Other factions, unsurprisingly, are expressing different sentiments. “It’s a disappointment that this particular system is not ready yet,” said Marvin E. Odum, the president of Shell Oil.

This “disappointment” for Shell Oil may be a small bit of good news for the Pacific walrus, one of Alaska’s many victims of climate change and its receding ice.

Main photo credit: Shutterstock