ANCHORAGE–(ENEWSPF)–February 7, 2012. In a speech to the Alaska Forum on the Environment today, Department of the Interior Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes and Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Policy Heather Zichal outlined a series of new initiatives aimed at bringing the best available science to energy-related decisions in the Arctic. The announcement today underscores the Obama Administration’s commitment to science-based decision-making in the Arctic’s sensitive environment.
“We are committed to a comprehensive, science-based approach to energy policy in the Arctic. These initiatives are part of the Administration’s commitment to continuing the expansion of safe and responsible production of our domestic resources,” said Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Policy Heather Zichal.
“We must draw on the best available science when making development decisions,” said Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes, who chairs the federal interagency working group established in July 2011 by President Obama to coordinate energy development in Alaska. “Today’s announcements demonstrate that collecting, synthesizing and delivering relevant information to decision-makers is a top priority for this Administration.”
The new initiatives outlined today follow recommendations laid out by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the U.S. Arctic Research Council (ARC), and the President’s National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. They focus on the importance of continuing to gather new data on the Arctic and making it available for the decision-makers, for state, tribal and local officials, nongovernmental organizations, and for the general public.
Today’s announcements include:
- Making Key Data Available to Support Emergency Response Activities: DOI’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement is partnering with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Response and Restoration to develop an Environmental Response Management Application (ERMA) for the Arctic region, to be operational before this summer. The ERMA system will collect and put on easily-accessible Geographic Information System (GIS)-based maps data that officials can utilize in responding to emergencies in the Arctic, and engaging in ecological and restoration activities. For example, the Arctic ERMA will track the extent and concentration of sea ice, locations of ports and pipelines, and vulnerable environmental resources. For more information, go to: http://www.BSEE.gov/BSEE-Newsroom/Press-Releases/2012/press02072012.aspx
- Energy Companies Expected to Share Arctic-Related Data with the Public: The interagency working group will call on energy companies operating in the Arctic to share data regarding Arctic conditions to enhance access to the best available science regarding Arctic conditions. This data sharing effort would go beyond the current enhanced federal requirements for spill response planning and will emphasize the collection of traditional knowledge by federal, state and Native Alaskan leaders. For example, ConocoPhillips recently agreed to support the collection of data on baseline conditions in the area of its CD-5 project, as well as hydrologic conditions on the Nigliq Channel during spring break up and overbank flood events. Other companies operating in the Arctic will also be called upon to share information on conditions in the areas in which they are working and to add to the scientific databases available in the Arctic. Information collected from these sources will be disseminated among federal, state, local and tribal entities through the Arctic Landscape Conservation Cooperative, the Alaskan Climate Science Center, and other collaboratives.
- Bringing scientists and decision-makers together: In December 2011, Deputy Secretary Hayes and ARC Chair Fran Ulmer hosted a dialogue with top federal policymakers and members of the federal government’s science community to discuss how to facilitate the delivery of relevant scientific information to officials responsible for making decisions related to energy development in Alaska. The leaders will convene a second meeting this spring with scientists, nongovernmental organizations, industry officials, Native Alaskans and state and federal decision-makers to enhance collaboration between the scientific community and decision-makers in the Arctic. The dialogue responds to the USGS’s 2011 report recommendation that there be more dialogue and collaborative science planning between and among the science community and federal entities involved in the “decision arena” of federal oil and gas development.
Chaired by Deputy Secretary Hayes, the interagency working group coordinates the efforts of federal agencies responsible for overseeing the safe and responsible development of onshore and offshore energy in Alaska. For more information, go to:http://www.doi.gov/alaskaenergy/index.cfm.