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USGS completes study of knowledge gaps on Alaskan OCS

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, June 24 -- The US Geological Survey released a study on June 23 identifying gaps in scientific knowledge about the Alaskan portion of the US Outer Continental Shelf, particularly the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. US Sec. of the Interior Ken Salazar ordered the study in March 2010 to better inform decisions regarding oil and gas development there.

“There is significant potential for oil and gas development in US Arctic waters, but this is a frontier area with harsh weather conditions as well as unique fish and wildlife resources that Alaska’s indigenous people rely on for subsistence,” Salazar said. “To make responsible decisions, we need to understand the environmental and social consequences of development and plan accordingly.”

The 279-page report contains more than 50 findings and an equal number of recommendations. They include developing a better understanding of climate change effects on Arctic physical, biological, and social conditions as well as resource management strategies; developing geospatial data on the Arctic OCS; synthesizing existing scientific information; and building on advances in spill-risk evaluation and knowledge by developing better information on key inputs to spill models.

USGS Director Marcia K. McNutt said the team that prepared the study examined more than 400 scientific publications, workshop findings, and science policy documents; met with more than 40 individuals and organizations with research and science assessments in those areas; and held a series of discussions with oil and gas industry, North Slope and Native Alaskan interests, Alaska’s state government, and nongovernmental organizations.

The report summarizes a large volume of existing scientific information about the area, much of which was conducted under the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement’s Environmental Studies Program.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.


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