Arctic Update Header
September 30, 2013

The Senate and House of Representatives continue to grapple with a Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government into Fiscal Year 2014, with the deadline looming at the end of the day.



Murkowski 2 Begich Alaska elected leaders differ on cause of and response to climate change. "Do you believe there is a human-caused element to climate change? Gov. Sean Parnell: 'Climate change is occurring. Both human and natural elements, like volcanic eruptions, are responsible.' Sen. Lisa Murkowski, through spokesman Robert Dillon: 'She's never denied climate change. She believes that human activity is a contributing factor to changes in the climate.'" Anchorage Daily News 


NOAA scientists document new walrus haulout in Alaskan Arctic. Tipped off by reports from the local community, NOAA scientists were the first to photograph from the air and document thousands of burly, mustachioed mammals lounging on the shore near Pt. Lay, Alaska this summer. The team's small airplane carried digital cameras for documenting whale sightings, so they took aerial photos of the crowded beach and shared them with colleagues at partner agencies. It turned out those photos were evidence of a relatively new phenomenon. Due to loss of sea ice in offshore areas, Pacific walruses are foraging in more coastal areas and using beaches for resting, or hauling out. NOAA 


Friend or foe? Villagers ponder proposed Pebble mine. "In the vast, green, windswept tundra of Southwest Alaska, the planet's greatest remaining stronghold of wild salmon, an open-pit mine of staggering proportions is being hatched. Right now it's just a cluster of buildings in a remote valley, where the silence is broken by the buzz of helicopters bringing workers to collect core samples. But the proposed Pebble mine could become the largest open-pit mine on the continent, and the Environmental Protection Agency figures it could wipe out nearly 100 miles of streams and thousands of acres of wetlands." Anchorage Daily News 


Can Beaufort region learn from Barents Arctic transportation plan? "Transportation ministers from the four Barents countries -- Russia, Finland, Sweden and Norway -- released the Joint Barents Transport Plan this week in conjunction with the Narvik Conference on Arctic shipping and development in Norway. The plan covers everything from railway and roads to ports and air travel. Experts say comprehensive regional planning will allow the Barents countries to take advantage of increased economic activity in the European Arctic." Alaska Dispatch 


Oil Drilling in Alaska Oil companies seek to drill in deep Beaufort Sea. "Imperial Oil Canada, Exxon Mobil and BP have jointly filed an application to drill at least one well in the Beaufort Sea 125 kilometres northwest of Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T. The project description Imperial Oil has submitted says they are planning to drill one or more wells in unspecified locations on two exploration licences and they will drill between three and six kilometres into the sea floor. The almost 500-page-long project description doesn't say how much it would cost to drill in the deep Beaufort but the partners won the rights to explore the area by pledging to spend a total of $1.7 billion." CBC News 


Mine dispute intensifies in Arctic Sweden. "Sami reindeer herders and mining companies have coexisted uneasily in the forests of northern Sweden since 1890, when the region's first modern mine opened in the town of Kiruna, a few dozen miles north of the Arctic Circle. In the contest for natural resources that followed, both sides kept up with the times. The Kiruna complex grew into the world's largest iron ore mine, and the indigenous Sami - who have lived in the area for more than 4,000 years - now use snowmobiles and helicopters to herd their reindeer." Barents Observer 


Northern Sea Route: Sabetta Port seen as focal point. "During a meeting on the implementation of the Yamal LNG project, Russian President Vladimir Putin noted the value of the seaport of Sabetta for further development of the Northern Sea Route, reports 'Arctic Info'. According to the President, the volume of traffic on the Northern Sea Route this year was 1.5 million tonnes. By 2015, this figure may reach 4 million tons, and he considered that the construction of the modern Arctic port, with construction funds of 47.3 billion rubles, should consolidate this trend." Marine Link 


Forum discusses Arctic oil And gas searches. "A protest in the Russian Arctic has dramatized growing problems with oil drilling there. Every country has a stake in the enormously lucrative search for oil and gas in the Arctic, says retired professor Lawson Brigham. But pollution from reckless attempts at development are evident on an island near the Polar circle." NPR 


Russian court remands last of Greenpeace Arctic oil protesters. "A Russian court has ordered eight remaining Greenpeace activists be held in custody for two months over a protest against Arctic offshore drilling, the environment advocacy group said on Sunday, dashing any hope some might be released quickly. Authorities detained all 30 members of the pressure group who were aboard icebreaker the Arctic Sunrise when they broke up attempts to scale state-run Gazprom's Prirazlomnaya offshore oil platform on September 18. Of those, 22 people, including a freelance photographer and crew members had already been remanded until November 24 while officials investigate charges of piracy which Greenpeace denies." Reuters 


Norway Oil Development Opinion: Arctic drilling needs federal standards. "Federal standards are needed to ensure safe Arctic drilling, a new report says. The report, 'Arctic Standards: Recommendations on Oil Spill Prevention, Response, and Safety in the U.S. Arctic Ocean' from Pew Charitable Trusts, comes in advance of a draft of standards for offshore Arctic drilling due to be released by the U.S. Interior Department before the end of this year. Interior initiated the process to update its regulations following its review of Shell's 2012 Alaska offshore oil and gas exploration program." UPI 


Opinion: Drill, comrade, drill: Why the Kremlin's Arctic plan worries activists. "The way the Kremlin sees it, the vast treasures being revealed by the retreating Arctic ice - oil, gas, iron ore, minerals-are Russia's manifest destiny, with Moscow writing a new chapter in the history of the desolate, once-frozen region. It's a narrative that hasn't had much challenge in Russia. But now, after a daring raid on a drilling platform by Greenpeace, the gunpoint arrest of 30 activists, and threatened charges of piracy and terrorism, environmentalists are hoping for scrutiny of how these Arctic resources are developed." Christian Science Monitor 

Legislative Actionfutureevents  


No formal legislative action was taken on Arctic legislation, Friday. 


Future Events


Pacific Rim Institute Panel Discussion: Environmental Permitting Process Risks and Efficiency, October 4, 2013 (Anchorage, Alaska). "Hosted by Pacific Rim Institute, the discussion brings together Alaska's regulating, regulated, science and NGO communities to identify realistic and achievable actions that could help sustain and enhance investment into responsible resource development projects while maintaining full compliance with environmental laws. The group will be asked to comment on the record of effectiveness, what is working well and what could be improved, to identify priorities and action items. Consistent with PRI's mission, the meeting aims to promote trust and to reduce uncertainly around regulatory risks by encouraging predictable, efficient, rigorous permitting process, while highlighting consequences of, what some may call, arbitrary or untimely decisions." 


The 2013 Arctic Energy Summit, October 8-10, 2013 (Akureyri, Iceland).
"The 2013 Arctic Energy Summit is a multidisciplinary event expected to draw together several hundred industry officials, scientists, academics, policymakers, energy professionals and community leaders to collaborate and share leading approaches on Arctic energy issues. Building on the work done at the highly successful 2007 Arctic Energy Summit and Technology Conference, the 2013 Summit will address energy extraction, production and transmission in the Arctic as it relates to three thematic areas: richness, resilience and responsibility.  The 2013 Summit will be hosted by the Institute of the North in cooperation with local host Arctic Portal."


The Inaugural Meeting of The Arctic Circle, October 12-14, 2013 (Reykjavik, Iceland). "The Arctic Circle, an open assembly for international cooperation on Arctic issues, will hold its first gathering October 12-14, 2013, at the Harpa Reykjav