Arctic Update Header
September 24, 2012

Today's Eventstodaysevents 


The House and Senate are not in session.



capitalSenate Approves CR, Leaves Washington Under Cover of Night. In a midnight session, the Senate wrapped up business until after the elections, clearing must-pass stopgap legislation that will keep the government funded through March. The late votes came as the result of an agreement announced earlier in the day by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). The continuing resolution passed the Senate 62-30 after clearing the 60-vote cloture hurdle. The House overwhelmingly passed the bill last week. The vote takes a potentially politically damaging fight over federal spending and a possible government shutdown off the table, enabling Members to return home and campaign. Roll Call 


Senate Passes Slew of Bills; Defense Authorization Measure Meets Objection. The Senate early Saturday morning passed a slew of bills before departing until November, including a Coast Guard reauthorization measure, an energy efficiency bill and legislation addressing aid to Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. Meanwhile, efforts around 1:30 a.m. to advance a defense authorization bill met objections. By unanimous consent, the Senate passed an amended bill (HR 2838) that would reauthorize the Coast Guard. Substitute amendment details were not yet available. The chamber cleared by unanimous consent a measure (HR 6431) that would grant the Treasury secretary the authority to direct international financial institutions to vote in favor of providing assistance to Myanmar if President Obama determines such assistance is in the U.S. interest. Congressional Quarterly 


lame duckWork Unfinished Before Recess. As Congress returns home to campaign ahead of the November elections, they leave behind a raft of unfinished business that is likely to be revisited in the lame-duck session, including a defense authorization bill, a farm bill and domestic abuse legislation. Democrats, who hold the majority in the Senate with 53 votes, contend that these measures remain uncompleted because Senate Republicans have blocked their legislative plans in a strategy to create a dysfunctional Senate, for which they hope to score political points on which to campaign and win back the majority. "I am disappointed that this session of Congress has been so unproductive, but I know the reason why," Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said on the floor Friday. "It isn't for a lack of effort." Roll Call


Damaged Container Dome Makes Shell Limit Chukchi Sea Drilling. Shell Offshore Co. limited its Chukchi Sea activity after its spill containment dome was damaged during a final test on Sept. 14, Royal Dutch Shell PLC reported. It said its subsidiary will not penetrate hydrocarbon-bearing zones for the rest of the 2012 Arctic drilling season, but drill top holes instead. Shell emphasized that the accident occurred following several successful tests of its Arctic containment system. "It is clear that some days will be required to repair and fully assess dome readiness," it said Sept. 17 in a statement. "We are disappointed that the dome has not yet met our stringent acceptance standards, but, as we have said all along, we will not conduct any operation until we are satisfied that we are fully prepared to do it safely," the company said. Oil and Gas Journal  


canadian flagNew Research Links ADHD Diagnosis With Childhood Mercury, Lead Exposure. Canada's Inuit population in Quebec has among the highest levels of exposure to mercury and lead as any population around the world. Scientists have been studying their children since this became known and recently concluded that children with higher levels of contamination are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. About one in every ten children in the United States has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, perhaps better known simply as ADHD. Over the last decade, prescriptions issued for attention deficit medications have increased nearly 50 percent. But now scientists at Laval University in Quebec say certain environmental pollutants may be to blame for increases in the incidence of attention problems. In a study just published in Environmental Health Perspectives Dr. Gina Muckle and her colleagues found an association between ADHD in children and exposure to mercury and lead. Public Radio International


BowheadBowhead's Southern Adventure Intrigues Biologists: "Climate change would result in animals searching around a little more wildly." Why did the bowhead whale go to the city of Boston on the northeastern coast of the United States? That's just what scientists are still trying to figure out. Last winter, for the first time in recorded history, a bowhead whale was spotted with a group of right whales off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. "It was extraordinary and mind-blowing because no bowhead has been recorded at this low of a latitude in the Atlantic," said Dr. Charles "Stormy" Mayo, a senior scientist at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies, on Cape Cod. Nunatsiaq Online


begichBegich Introduces Revised Arctic Science Bill. U.S. Senator Mark Begich introduced a revised Arctic science bill Friday to address the nation's need for increased Arctic research. As the Arctic sees an expanded presence of industry activity like oil and gas exploration, marine shipping, and tourism and at the same time undergoes environmental changes, more must be understood about the region. Begich's bill, the Arctic Research, Monitoring and Observing Act of 2012, amends a previous bill he introduced on the subject by providing a stable revenue stream to pay for it by tapping an existing fund source intended for this purpose. "There is a greater demand to better understand the Arctic ecosystem as we enter the twenty-first century. As we see increased traffic in our northern waters and shores, we also see our polar ice caps melting, with a new all-time low in Arctic sea ice this year" said Begich. "This bill helps us better understand potential threats to marine mammals and other wildlife, impacts on subsistence resources, and spill prevention and response. The legislation will further fund this needed research using the expertise of the existing Arctic Research Commission and an established, but mostly untapped, endowment for the work." Alaska Native News 


Expedition to Study Methane Gas Bubbling Out of Arctic Seafloor. In the remote, ice-shrouded Beaufort Sea, methane (the main component of natural gas) has been bubbling out of the seafloor for thousands of years. MBARI geologist Charlie Paull and his colleagues at the Geological Survey of Canada are trying to figure out where this gas is coming from, how fast it is bubbling out of the sediments, and how it affects the shape and stability of the seafloor. Although Paull has been studying this phenomenon for a decade, his research has taken on new urgency in recent years, as the area is being eyed for oil and gas exploration. Phys.Org 


Arctic Undersea Cable Could End Nunavut's Dependence on Satellites: "We don't need any government subsidy." As Telesat Canada conducts a marketing blitz in Iqaluit this week to tout its fleet of satellites, an Ontario-based firm called Arctic Fibre Inc. is beavering away at a big, bold plan that could one day eliminate northern Canada's nearly total dependence on expensive satellite bandwidth for internet, voice telephone, television and other services. "We don't need any government subsidy. What we ask of the governments at the federal, territorial and local level is just to transition to fibre from satellite over time," Doug Cunningham, Arctic Fibre's president, told an audience at Iqaluit's Hotel Arctic this past June 25. Nunatsiaq Online


Oil Drilling in AlaskaClimate Change Creates New Opportunities, Risks in Russia's North: Retreating Ice Spurs Russia to Drill for Oil and Gas in the Arctic Ocean. As climate change alters the Arctic landscape, shrinking the ice cover on sea and land, it opens up more of the region to resource exploitation. On Sept. 16, the ice cover in the Arctic Ocean reached the record for the smallest area since satellite tracking began. For decades, Russia has been the pioneer in Arctic development, and it continues to forge ahead. Some of the consequences of that development can be gleaned from a Russian government report that outlines its program for protecting the Russian Arctic Environment. CBC News


Arctic MapSovereignty Disputes Intensify as Arctic Sea Ice Recedes. With rapidly shrinking Arctic ice and expanding interest in northern shipping and resource exploitation, issues of sovereignty loom ever larger over the northern landscape. The Arctic region is incredibly vast. While land boundaries between the Arctic nations are, for the most part, clearly established, ownership of more than 14 million square kilometers of Arctic Ocean -- an area equal to the size of Russia -- is not quite as clear. But one thing is certain. As Arctic ice disappears - a factor that is also at play in this summer's search for the lost ships of Sir John Franklin's 1845 mission - the world focus on the region's resources intensifies, and the question of who owns the Arctic becomes much more than an academic discussion. Alaska Dispatch

Legislative Actionfutureevents  


H.J. Res 117, the Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2013 (Rep. Rogers, passed/ agreed to in the Senate)

H.R. 2838, Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act (LoBiondo, passed/ agreed to in the Senate with amendment)

S. 3613, a bill to promote research, monitoring and observation of the Arctic and for other purposes (Begich, introduced and referred to committee)

Future Events                      


Debate on Arctic Challenges Set for Brussels, October 4-5, 2012.The challenges facing the Arctic during a time of change and global warming uncertainty will be the subject of frank and lively debate between policymakers, Ambassadors from European Union and Arctic nations, polar scientists, and representatives industry and Arctic indigenous peoples groups, at the 2012 Arctic Futures Symposium, taking place in Brussels on October 4th and 5th. High-level speakers include Prince Albert II of Monaco, Maria Damanaki, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Belgian Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and European Affairs Didier Reynders, and Charles Emmerson, Chatham House Senior Research Fellow on Energy, Environment and Resources, and author of The Future History of the Arctic.  Guest speakers will also include Sweden's Arctic Ambassador Gustav Lind, Greenland's Deputy Foreign Minister Inuuteq Holm Olsen, Robert Blaauw, Senior Advisor to Shell's Arctic programme, Bernard Funston, Chair of the Canadian Polar Commission, British Antarctic Survey glaciologist Prof. David Vaughan and Lars-Anders Baer, chair of the Working Group of Indigenous Peoples in the Barents Euro-Arctic Region.


inuitconferencelogoArctic/Inuit/Connections: Learning from the Top of the World; October 24-28, 2012.  The 18th Inuit Studies Conference, hosted by the Smithsonian Institution, will be held in Washington, DC. The conference will consider heritage museums and the North; globalization: an Arctic story; power, governance and politics in the North; the '"new" Arctic: social, cultural and climate change; and Inuit education, health, language, and literature.  


U.S.-Canada Northern Oil and Gas Research Forum (2012) Northern Oil and Gas Research Forum 2012, November 13-15, 2012. The Northern Oil and Gas Research Forum is a biannual event with representation from government, industry, academia, Aboriginal groups, and northerners from both Canada and the United States. The forum provides an opportunity for United States and Canadian decision makers, regulators, Aboriginals, industry members, non-governmental organizations and scientists to discuss current scientific research and future directions for northern oil and gas activities. The focus is on technical, scientific, and engineering research that can be applied to support management and regulatory processes related to oil and gas exploration and development in the North. The North Slope Science Initiative and the U.S. Department of the Interior is hosting, in partnership with our counterparts in Canada and the United States, the third United States - Canada Northern Oil and Gas Research Forum from November 13 to 15, 2012, at the Hilton Hotel, Anchorage, Alaska. The Forum will showcase the value of Northern scientific research in support of sound decision-making for oil and gas management. 


Wakefield28th Wakefield Symposium: Responses of Arctic Marine Ecosystems to Climate Change, March 26-29, 2013. This symposium seeks to advance our understanding of responses of arctic marine ecosystems to climate change at all trophic levels, by documenting and forecasting changes in environmental processes

and species responses to those changes. Presentations will focus on collaborative approaches to understanding and managing living marine resources in a changing Arctic, and to managing human responses to changing arctic marine ecosystems. Hosted by Alaska Sea Grant and sponsors.

USARC header

Find us on FacebookFollow us on Twitter 

4350 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 510
Arlington, VA 22203, USA 
(703) 525-0111 (phone)