New working group aims to coordinate scientific info for regional drilling plans
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Facing criticism for its approval of oil drilling in the Arctic, the Obama administration is boosting the role of science in resource management decisions regarding both onshore and offshore energy development activities in Alaska.
A new Interagency Working Group on Coordination of Domestic Energy Development and Permitting in Alaska is intended to function as a scientific clearinghouse for decision-makers and the public and is supposed to develop a framework for an integrated approach to evaluating potential infrastructure development in the Alaskan Arctic.
The working group’s initiatives are outlined further in a memorandum available here.
“The federal government must take a comprehensive, science-based approach when addressing energy and other development issues in the Arctic – one that recognizes both the region’s enormous resource potential and its irreplaceable natural and cultural resources,” said Deputy Secretary David Hayes, who serves as chair of the Alaska Interagency Working Group.
“Getting it right in the Arctic requires a transparent, disciplined and integrated approach so that we can make sound, long-term planning decisions. Today’s efforts are important steps toward strengthening our scientific knowledge-base and opening up the lines of communication between the science community and decision-makers.”
The working group will partner with the Arctic Research Commission and other members of the scientific community to create an accessible database of scientific information and traditional knowledge relevant to resource management in the Arctic. One of the goals is to ensure that cultural and traditional knowledge are considered in resource management decisions.
“Pulling relevant Arctic science information together in a more accessible and consolidated portal is critical,” said Fran Ulmer, Chair of the Arctic Research Commission. “I look forward to continuing to work with Deputy Secretary Hayes and the mix of scientists and policy-makers involved in the Alaska Interagency Working Group – including my colleagues Dr. John Holdren, Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Dr. Marcia McNutt, Dr. Subra Suresh, and Dr. Alan Thornhill, among others – to make this happen.”
Working with the State of Alaska, Alaska Natives, local communities and the many agencies and stakeholders that have been focusing on specific projects or regions, the working group will prepare an initial report to address key elements of an “Integrated Arctic Management” framework for evaluating potential infrastructure development in the Alaskan Arctic.
The report will identify:
- ecologically and culturally important areas, natural resources and processes, and key drivers of environmental changes in the Arctic;
- trends – environmental and otherwise – that affect these resources over time; and
- commercial, societal, and governmental trends that could lead to future infrastructure related needs in the Arctic.
As a member of the eight-nation Arctic Council, the United States has embraced the concept of using this type of an “ecosystem-based management” approach to assist in making sound decisions regarding potential future infrastructure development in the Arctic. It recognizes the importance of a comprehensive approach in the Arctic, rather than evaluating activities on a sector-by-sector, project-by-project, or issue-by-issue basis.
Completion of these initial key steps will lay the foundation for a full dialogue in how best to develop and apply an Integrated Arctic Management approach when making important development decisions in the Arctic.
For more information on the initiative, click here.