Posted on May 24, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Research aims to fine-tune sea-level rise projections
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — As part of a global study of melting glaciers and rising sea level, two University of Alaska Fairbanks geophysicists helped compile a global inventory of glaciers, with a focus on Alaska.
Before the study, only about 40 percent of Alaska’s glaciers were inventoried. The two researchers, Anthony Arendt and Regine Hock, concluded that Alaska remains one of the top contributors to global sea level. (more…)
Filed under: climate and weather, Environment, global warming | Tagged: Alaska, Clark University, climate change, glaciers, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, sea level rise, University of Alaska Fairbanks | Leave a Comment »
Posted on April 29, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Coordinated planning needed to address major environmental and social challenges
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Increased coastal erosion, bigger and more destructive tundra fires and caribou starvation are just a few of the impacts anticipated in a major new report on the Arctic.
The report, compiled by an interagency working group, calls for an integrated management strategy for the rapidly changing region, using a coordinated approach that uses the best available science to integrate cultural, environmental and economic factors in decision-making about development and conservation.
“This report chronicles how Arctic residents are dealing with rapid, climate change-induced impacts on their resources and traditional ways of life at the same time that new economic activity and opportunities are emerging — notably oil and gas, marine transportation, tourism and mining,” Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes. (more…)
Filed under: Arctic, climate and weather, global warming | Tagged: Alaska, Alaska Natives, Arctic, Arctic Research Commission, Arctic Science Portal, climate change, energy, global warming | 1 Comment »
Posted on March 15, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Equipment failures, environmental violations and lack of oversight need to be addressed before moving ahead with drilling plans
Feds tell Shell to rethink Arctic offshore drilling plans.
* More coverage of Shell’s Arctic drilling program
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Eager to exploit the Arctic for fossil fuel resources and to live up to shareholder expectations, Royal Dutch Shell rushed into its offshore drilling program without being “fully prepared in terms of fabricating and testing certain critical systems and establishing the scope of its operational plans,” according to a U.S. Department of Interior report released this week.
Key failures included Shell’s inability to get certification for an oil spill containment system required to be on site in the event of a loss of well control. The report said the company’s failure to deploy the system was due “to shortcomings in Shell’s management and oversight of key contractors.”
The review was launched after a string of well-publicized problems culminated with a runaway drill rig that ended up running aground on a remote Alaskan island. The company is also under investigation for a string of violations of various environmental requirements. In February, Shell announced a one year pause in its Arctic drilling program to address the shortcomings. (more…)
Filed under: Arctic, energy, Environment, gas drilling, oil drilling | Tagged: Alaska, Alaska offshore oil drilling, Arctic drilling, Arctic Ocean, offshore drilling, Royal Dutch Shell, Shell Oil | Leave a Comment »
Posted on March 2, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Polar bears are threatened by global warming and qualify for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Photo courtesy Susanne Miller/USFWS.
Court rejects challenge by Alaska and trophy hunters
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — A federal appeals court has rebuffed Alaska’s efforts to weaken polar bear protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Explaining that global warming has already caused reductions in survival and recruitment rates in some regions, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service satisfied its duties under the law and adequately supported it decision to protect polar bears from extinction. Read the decision here.
The agency said the record makes it clear that federal biologists were aware of Alaska’s concerns and addressed them during the listing process. “We find … that under any reasonable reading of the Act, FWS committed no error in its response to the concerns raised by the State of Alaska,” the appeals court wrote in the March 1 ruling. (more…)
Filed under: Arctic, biodiversity, climate and weather, endangered species, Environment, global warming | Tagged: Alaska, Arctic sea ice, climate change, endangered species, global warming, polar bears | 1 Comment »
Posted on January 13, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
The conical drilling unit Kulluk sits grounded 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2012. The Kulluk grounded after many efforts by tug vessel crews and Coast Guard crews to move the vessel to safe harbor during a winter storm. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Zachary Painter.
Company responds to violations by asking for permission to emit more pollution
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Environmental groups say numerous and ongoing violations of the Clean Air Act stemming from Shell’s ongoing efforts to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean are yet another sign that the company isn’t prepared to operate in the pristine environment off the north coast of Alaska.
Most recently, the EPA issued notices of violation for failures to install required air pollution control technology, for failures to maintain and calibrate the equipment it is using and for violating emission standards set to protect human health and ambient air quality. (more…)
Filed under: air quality, Arctic, Environment | Tagged: air quality, Alaska, Arctic oil drilling, Clean Air Act, EPA, Shell Oil, Shell Oil Arctic drilling violations | 1 Comment »
Posted on January 12, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
The anchor-handling vessel, the Aiviq, tows the drilling unit Kulluk to a safe harbor location in Kiliuda Bay, Alaska on Jan. 7, 2013. Photo by U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg.
Documents suggest loopholes in state’s review of emergency response plans
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Alaska officials may have failed to adequately vet a tugboat under contract to Royal Dutch Shell before the company used the vessel to tow a conical drilling rig on an ill-fated trip that ended up with the drill rig running aground on a remote island.
Working in stormy seas at the end of December, the 360-foot Aiviq lost its towline with the 266-foot-wide Kulluk. Aiviq then suffered a complete engine shutdown. The Kulluk went adrift and ended up on the rocky shores of the remote, unpopulated Sitkalidak Island.
According to documents obtained under a public records act request, it appears that the State of Alaska’s oil spill prevention requirements did not cover the towing capacity for the Aiviq. Instead, the state only looks at the ability of the towing ship to be towed itself, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. (more…)
Filed under: Arctic, energy, Environment, gas drilling, oil drilling | Tagged: Alaska, Arctic, Arctic drilling, Environment, Kulluk, Shell Oil | Leave a Comment »
Posted on January 10, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Sunset over the Beaufort Sea. Photo courtesy USGS.
Recent mishaps, lack of data cited in request for suspension of operations
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — Citing huge data gaps about the basic ecology of the Arctic Ocean, as well as a string of recent accidents and near-misses in Royal Dutch Shell’s ongoing efforts to drill in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, a coalition of environmental groups this week asked the Obama administration to suspend fossil fuel development in the region.
The letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar came just a few days after the Interior Department announced a 60-day assessment of the Arctic offshore drilling program.
In a press release, the groups said any investigation will show that oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean cannot be conducted now in a safe and responsible manner. Along with equipment issues, there are still unanswered questions about the ability to contain and clean up potential spills in the remote, harsh Arctic environment. Those questions remain despite the fact the federal government has already signed off on Shell’s emergency response plan. (more…)
Filed under: Arctic, energy, Environment, gas drilling, oil drilling | Tagged: Alaska, Arctic Ocean, Environment, Ken Salazar, offshore Arctic drilling, oil drilling, oil spills, Royal Dutch Shell | 1 Comment »
Posted on December 19, 2012 by Bob Berwyn
Some critical wildlife areas protected
The BLM has mapped out areas that will be open for development in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve, as well as areas that will be off limits to protect wildlife.
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Another big slice of the Arctic will be opened for energy development, as the U.S. Department of Interior this week announced a plan that will open up 11.8 million acres of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska to drilling and open the door for construction of a pipeline from offshore oil development in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.
The area opened for drilling could produce up to 549 million barrels of oil and 8.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The environmental study released this week tries to balance energy extraction with protection natural resources and subsistence resources for Alaska natives.
At nearly 23 million acres, the Reserve is the largest contiguous piece of public land in the United States, harboring a wide array of wildlife including two caribou herds, threatened polar bears, wolves, wolverines, the largest density of Grizzly Bears in North America and millions of migratory birds and waterfowl. (more…)
Filed under: energy, Environment, gas drilling, oil drilling | Tagged: Alaska, Alaska North Slope Oil, energy, Environment, National Petroleum Reserve, Teshekpuk Lake | Leave a Comment »
Posted on December 9, 2012 by Bob Berwyn
Summer sojourn in the Alaska high country
The Alaska Range from Denali State Park.
Kim Fenske at Wonder Lake campground.
Story and photos by Kim Fenske
Denali National Park is the home of Mount McKinley, North America’s highest peak at 20,320 feet, named Denali or “The Great One” by the native Athabaskans. A thousand people each year attempt to reach the summit of this dominant promontory of southcentral Alaska. Most climbers fly by ski plane to a base camp at 7,200 feet on the face of the peak. Roughly half of the climbers who spend two to three weeks attempting to reach the summit are able to achieve the goal. Since 1932, Denali has killed 120 climbers, primarily due to falls and avalanches. The annual search and rescue costs for the mountain are nearly $500,000.
During five days of backpacking around Denali National Park, I was exploring terrain beside the road that penetrates 92 miles of the park from the eastern entrance. On the first evening, I enjoyed all of the developed comforts of Riley Creek Campground. The Riley Creek Mercantile offers showers, laundry, electronic re-charging outlets, and wireless internet. After paying for a walk-in campsite, I enjoyed the evening in camp by dining on angel food pancakes, blueberry pie filling, and a pound of fresh cherries with a glass of wine. Then, the daily rain began to fall as I retreated into my tent for the evening.
Riley Creek campground.
Filed under: hiking, recreation, Travel | Tagged: Alaska, Denali, Denali National Park and Preserve, Mount McKinley, Toklat River | 1 Comment »
Posted on December 3, 2012 by Bob Berwyn
A gray wolf in Denali National Preserve. Photo courtesy Kent Miller/NPS.
State and federal bear, wolf and coyote hunting regulations at odds
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — There could be a clash between state and federal hunting regulations in Alaska, where the National Park Service is proposing some changes in Denali National Preserve, including a ban on taking brown bears over bait stations, using artificial light to take black bears at dens, taking black bear cubs and sows with cubs. The new regs would also shorten the season for hunting wolves and coyotes.
According to the park service, the changes are in response to new state regulations that allow the killing of brown bears over bait stations in three game management units, which included portions of three National Preserves. The state rules allow the killing of brown bears over bait stations in three game management units, which included portions of three National Preserves. (more…)
Filed under: biodiversity, Environment, national parks, public lands, wildlife | Tagged: Alaska, Denali National Park and Preserve, hunting, National Park Service, wildlife | 4 Comments »