Arctic Daily Update: May 16, 2013
President Obama reappointed Mary Pete as a Commissioner on the US Arctic Research Commission. Pete is the Director of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks Kuskokwim Campus in Bethel, Alaska.
The Senate will consider the nomination of Ernest J. Moniz to be secretary of Energy. The House begins debate on a bill to repeal the 2010 health care law.
Forest Service Dedicating New Lab in Juneau. The U.S. Forest Service is dedicating its new forestry sciences laboratory in Juneau this weekend. Saturday's ceremony will included free guided tours and the raising of carved house posts. The Forest Service, in a release, says the 12,000-square-foot facility is next to the University of Alaska Southeast campus and will provide an opportunity for Forest Service research scientists to work with university faculty and students. Anchorage Daily News
Arctic Council Prioritizes Sustainable Development, Climate Action. Ministers from the eight Arctic states and representatives of the Arctic Indigenous Peoples Wednesday adopted a shared vision statement for the future development of the region as a "zone of peace and stability." "The economic potential of the Arctic is enormous and its sustainable development is key to the region's resilience and prosperity," states the "Vision for the Arctic." "We are concerned with the growing effects of climate change, and the local and global impacts of large-scale melting of the Arctic snow, ice and permafrost. We will continue to take action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and short-lived climate pollutants, and support action that enables adaptation," says the vision statement. Environment News Service
Meet the Alaskans Poised to Become 'America's First Climate Refugees.' If we think of them at all, Americans still tend to think of "climate refugees" as remote -far away and off in the future somewhere, driven by rising sea levels to flee Pacific islands or the plains of south Asia, places of which we know next to nothing. The 100,000 people of Kiribati, say, who are imploring Australia and New Zealand (so far without success) to accept them as displaced persons before the ocean erases the 10 feet now separating their homes from sea level. MinnPost
Council Sets 2015 Goal For Climate Pact. Eight Arctic nations committed Wednesday to working toward an international climate change accord in 2015 and preventing an oil spill in the environmentally sensitive region, while Secretary of State John Kerry warned that it will take "courage" to tackle climate change. "[W]hen the threat of climate change is as ominous as ever, its effects are as tangible as ever, and the courage - literally, the courage - that we summon in the coming months and years is as crucial as ever. This is one of the most obvious shared challenges on the face of the planet today," Kerry told the Arctic Council Ministerial Session in Kiruna, Sweden, according to a transcript. Politico
State Department Should Pick Alaskans for US Arctic Roles. [Opinion] The Chairmanship of the Arctic Council rotates between the eight Arctic nations. For the last six years the Chairmanship has been successively held by Scandinavian countries: Norway, then Denmark, and then Sweden. On May 15, in Kiruna, Sweden, Canada will assume the Chair, and in two years' time it will be the United States' turn. We continue to hope that Canada and the United States will work in tandem and closely cooperate during their respective Arctic Council leaderships, in effect joining together for a four year North American Chairmanship. Canada announced on August 23, 2012 that Member of Parliament (MP) Leona Aglukkaq would serve as chair of the Arctic Council during their Chairmanship. MP Aglukkaq is of the North -- she was born in Inuvik and has represented Nunavut in the Canadian House of Commons since 2008. When named the Minister of Health on October 30, 2008, she became the first Inuk to ever serve in the Cabinet of Canada. We appreciate Canada choosing a northern leader from their Arctic region to chair the Arctic Council. Alaska Dispatch
Canada Signals New Era for Arctic Council. Canada quickly established that the Arctic Council - like the fast-melting Arctic - was entering a new era on Wednesday. China and other Asian powers keen on shipping and development were welcomed to the circumpolar table; so was business. But the European Union was cold-shouldered, as were Greenpeace and other non-governmental organizations. Leona Aglukkaq, the Conservative Health Minister, Nunavut's sole MP, and now the first northerner to lead the eight-nation circumpolar council, wasted no time as she took the helm at the ministerial meeting that marked the end of Sweden's chairmanship. The Globe and Mail
Nunavut Premier Praises Arctic Council's Focus on Mental Health. During the Northern Premiers Forum held May 9 and May 10, Canada's three northern premiers expressed support for the Arctic Council and any support the council can provide towards improving the mental wellbeing of Arctic residents, Nunavut premier Eva Aariak said May 15 in the legislative assembly. "I very much hope that this will be a focus of Canada's chairmanship of the Arctic Council," Aariak said, in response to a question from Baker Lake MLA Moses Aupaluktuq about mental wellness. Nunatsiaq Online
Outgoing Swedes Say Arctic Council Should Not Ban Arctic Oil Exploration. Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt has rejected criticism from environmentalists and indigenous groups over Sweden's failure to push for an oil exploration ban in the Arctic. Ahead of Wednesday's meeting of the Arctic Council in Kiruna, which ends Sweden's two-year chairmanship of the group, Bildt wrote in Sweden's Dagens Nyheter newspaper that an anti-oil stance would have been futile. "We would not have achieved a ban on oil exploration," he wrote, "because that is something which only the coastal countries [bordering the Arctic] can decide - and they absolutely don't want that." Alaska Dispatch
Aglukkaq Calls Greenland Premier's Boycott of Arctic Council Meeting a "Domestic Issue." A "domestic issue," is how Leona Aglukkaq, Canada's minister responsible for the Arctic Council, described the decision by Greenland's premier to boycott the May 15 Arctic Council ministerial in Kiruna, Sweden. Aleqa Hammond, the premier of Greenland, decided to boycott the May 15 Arctic Council gathering in Kiruna, Sweden, because she said Greenland should have a voting seat at the council, instead of sitting, in a non-voting capacity, behind the Danish foreign minister. At a news conference in Kiruna, Aglukkaq referred comment on the reasons prompting Hammond's decision to Denmark's foreign minister, "because that is a domestic issue within the country of Denmark." Nunatsiaq Online
Arctic Biodiversity Report Calls for "Decisive Actions" from Arctic Council. A report tabled May 15 in at the Arctic Council meeting in Kiruna, Sweden called for "decisive" action on biodiversity to protect more than 21,000 "cold adapted species" and to "help sustain vast, relatively undisturbed ecosystems of tundra, mountains, fresh water and seas and the valuable services they provide." But Arctic Council ministers would only encourage their officials to follow up on the report's recommendations. At the May 15 ministerial meeting in Kiruna, Sweden, Arctic Council ministers noted "with concern" that Arctic biodiversity is being "degraded" and that climate change is "the most serious threat" to the region's plants and animals. Nunatsiaq Online
Mikulski Pushing Spending Bills, Even Absent a Budget. Senate appropriators are moving forward with spending bills for the next fiscal year, even without a House-Senate agreement on the budget. Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski told CQ Roll Call she's setting a goal of finishing the committee process before the August recess. She plans to meet with subcommittee chairmen (known in appropriations parlance as "cardinals") next week to go over the amounts they have to spend on their respective bills, known as 302(b) allocations. Roll Call
Commerce Nominee Pritzker Makes Senate Rounds, Gains GOP Support. Penny Pritzker, President Barack Obama's Commerce secretary nominee, won support from key Republicans on Wednesday as she met with senators ahead of her confirmation hearing next week. "I'm sure I'll support her," said Ron Johnson, R-Wis. "She's got some business sense. We speak the same language." Congressional Quarterly
Moniz Confirmation Expected This Afternoon. Ernest Moniz is likely to be confirmed as the next Energy secretary this afternoon, Senate aides said. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology physics professor has broad support from both parties, but his confirmation was delayed by a hold from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who wants the administration to commit to maintaining plans to build a new facility in his state that would process weapons-grade plutonium into fuel for nuclear power plants. Graham lifted the hold last week, although he said he has yet to extract any concessions related to the proposed facility (E&E Daily, May 15). E&E News
Despite Senate's Quick Work on WRDA, House Action Still Months Away. The Senate may have cleared its Water Resources Development Act with decidedly bipartisan support yesterday, but the legislation's success in the House is anything but a fait accompli. On the eve of yesterday's vote, the Heritage Action for America objected to the bill's $12.2 billion decade-long price tag and warned conservatives that it would include votes on WRDA in its legislative report card. Thirteen Republican senators voted against the bill yesterday, setting the stage for conservative objections in the House. E&E News
Jewell Queried on Priorities for Energy Development, Conservation on Tribal Lands. Energy development and addressing climate change will be among the top priorities of the Interior Department when it comes to tribal lands, the agency's top official told lawmakers yesterday. In her first appearance before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell described how her time working in commercial banking had given her experience working with tribal communities. But given that she's just weeks into her new role as head of the department that encompasses the Bureau of Indian Affairs, she acknowledged that there's still a lot to learn and even more to do. E&E News
EPA Environmental-Education Program Also on Budget Chopping Block. SunWise isn't the only EPA education program on the budget chopping block. The Obama administration also has proposed eliminating the almost $10 million environmental-education program, which offers grants for projects that increase public awareness about environmental issues. The White House recommended eliminating the program in its fiscal 2013 budget and renewed the proposal in its fiscal 2014 blueprint. The National Environmental Education Act of 1990 (PL 101-619) authorized the EPA to create environmental-education programs for elementary and high schools, though efforts to reauthorize the program faltered in 2008 and 2010 when Democrats controlled Congress. The Bush administration suggested eliminating the program in each of its budget proposals starting in fiscal 2003. Roll Call
Ash Plumes From Pavlof Volcano Reach 20,000 Feet. Steam and ash clouds are occasionally rising to 20,000 feet from an active Alaska volcano. The Alaska Volcano Observatory says in a release that an ash plume was reported rising from Pavlof Volcano on Tuesday evening at about 15,000 feet. It extended to the northeast about 100 miles before it dissipated. The observatory says a pilot reported an ash plume about 20,000 feet on Wednesday, extending east-northeast from the volcano, located about 625 miles southwest of Anchorage in the Aleutian Islands. Anchorage Daily News
Rep. Young Seeks to Toss NPR-A Plan. Rep. Don Young has filed legislation that would toss out the recently completed management plan for the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. A news release from Young's office said the bill also would set firm timelines for federal approval of infrastructure permits in the reserve and require annual oil leases within its boundaries. Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
Lummis Heads Endangered Species Act Working Group. Thursday U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo) joined fellow House Republicans in announcing the creation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) Working Group. The goal of the Working Group is to examine the ESA from all angles. Throughout this year, the Working Group will hold a series of events, forums, and hearings that will invite open discussion and input on ways in which the ESA (last reauthorized in 1988) is working well, how it could be updated, and how to boost its effectiveness for both people and species. The Working Group will examine a number of specific topics and questions including: how to measure ESA progress; how to define success; if the ESA is working to achieve its goals; whether litigation is driving the ESA; the role of state and local governments in recovering species; whether the ESA ensures compatibility of property and water rights and species protection; the need for public engagement and input; and more. Congresswoman Lummis
Group To Sue to Force Polar Bear Recovery Plan. An environmental group says it will sue the Obama administration for failing to develop a polar bear recovery plan. Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also has not conducted a five-year review of threats to polar bears as required by the Endangered Species Act. The group Wednesday sent a required 60-day notice of intent to sue to Interior Secretary Sally Jewel and USFWS Director Dan Ashe. Your Alaska Link
Former HIPAS Researcher to Please Guilty to Fraud. The former director of a University of California Los Angeles atmospheric science research facility near Two Rivers has agreed to plead guilty to defrauding the government. Alfred Wong, a retired UCLA plasma physicist, will have to pay the U.S. government almost $1.7 million in fines and restitution as part of a plea agreement obtained and published online by technology magazine Wired last week. Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
No formal legislative action was taken on Arctic legislation yesterday.
Private Sector Transportation, Infrastructure, Assets, Response, Capacity, and Development in the Arctic, May 30, 2012, Seattle, WA. A recently-held Arctic transportation workshop in Iceland highlighted the need to better understand private sector transportation infrastructure and assets, recognizing industry's role in the responsible development of resources, response and supportive infrastructure. As a follow-up to its efforts to inventory and map Arctic transportation infrastructure, the Institute of the North is hosting a workshop at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center in Seattle, Washington that focuses on three critical areas: private sector assets and infrastructure in the Arctic, staging areas outside the Arctic that support Northern development, and vessels and technology that are difficult to map but need to be measured for future decision-making. Participants include industry representatives, technical experts, researchers, Coast Guard and other response personnel.
10th International Symposium on Cold Regions Development (ISCORD 2013) (June 2-5, 2013) (Anchorage, Alaska) The International Association for Cold Regions Development Studies (IACORDS) and the Technical Council on Cold Regions Engineering of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) will host a conference on "Planning for Sustainable Cold Regions." Special Keynote Sessions each day include "Bridging the Gap Between Climate Change Science and Engineering Practice"; "The Challenges of the Debris from the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake in Japan"; and "Energy in Alaska - Current and Future Projects."
Hundreds of Earth and space scientists, students, policymakers, and industry professionals will discuss key Earth and space science topics that address challenges to our economy, national security, environment, and public safety. This meeting will focus on the science that helps inform policymakers' decisions related to energy, natural hazards, technology and infrastructure, climate, oceans, and the Arctic (see 6/25 forum titled "US Government Investment in Arctic Change Research"). The event is hosted by American Geophysical Union (AGU), a Washington, D. C.-based international nonprofit scientific association.
5th Symposium on the Impacts of an Ice-Diminishing Arctic on Naval and Maritime Operations, July 16-18, 2013 (Washington, D.C.). The U.S. National/Naval Ice Center (NIC) and the U.S. Arctic Research Commission (USARC) co-host this follow-on symposium to address the changing state of Arctic sea ice and associated environmental conditions vis-a-vis emerging or expected naval, maritime, and associated activities and operations in the region. Invited speakers include nationally and internationally recognized experts on Arctic observations, climate change, and maritime operations.
7th International Workshop on Ice Drilling Technology (September 9-13, 2013) (Madison, WI). The event is sponsored by the Ice Drilling Program Office- Ice Drilling Design and Operations (IDPO--IDDO), International Partnerships in Ice Core Sciences (IPICS), International Glaciological Society (IGS). Following in the footsteps of the sixprevious ice drilling technology workshops held between 1974 and 2006, the Seventh International Workship on Ice Drilling Technology will take a comprehensive look a the latest innovations in ice drilling technology, including ice coring, borehole logging, subglacial sampling, core logging and handling, and field logistics.
The 2013 Arctic Energy Summit, October 8-10, (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 inaugural Arctic Circle will be held October 12-14, 2013. Subsequent Arctic Circle gatherings will be held in a different Arctic location each year, so that participants can become familiar with the challenges, needs and opportunities presented by these unique environments. The agenda for the first Arctic Circle gathering will include plenary sessions with international leaders on emerging topics of interest, such as: Sea ice melt and extreme weather; Security in the Arctic; Fisheries and ecosystem management; Shipping and transportation infrastructure; Arctic Resources; and Tourism.
Community Oil Spill Response in Bering and Anadyr Straights, (November 7-8, 2013) (Anchorage, Alaska). This workshop will bring together a diversity of stakeholders to advance a collective dialog to learn more about and respond to community desires to be part of oil spill first-response efforts that help protect food security and other local resources; come to agreement on the multiple roles local community members can play in responding to oil spills; and create an action plan for moving forward on this topic. The workshop is sponsored by the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Arctic Cities, Global Processes, and Local Realities, December 2-4, 2013 (Rovaniemi, Finland) The conference is organized jointly by the City of Rovaniemi and the Arctic Centre of the University of Lapland, Finland. The goal of the conference is to present the latest research scientific knowledge about the global processes as they become local realities. Even if the Conference is scientific in orientation, it aims to bridge science and knowledge into action by bringing top scholars to share their research results, and to organize joint discussion with the leaders of the Arctic Cities. Sessions include: Rovaniemi Process: past, present, future; Arctic responses to global environmental problems; people and extractive industries; tourism in the Arctic; the Arctic in global economy; climate change in the Arctic; indigenous peoples in cities; and, Arctic global flows. Cross cutting themes include: Arctic cities and global processes; management and governance in the Arctic; and, Arctic together with non-Arctic.
Posted: May 16, 2013