The Arctic This Week

Dear Friends,

As usual, welcome and thanks for joining us this week!

TATW’s esteemed editor, Kevin Casey, is embarking on a new and exciting adventure. With his days now considerably fuller, Maura will now take on the responsibility of compiling and editing TATW. But never fear, dear readers, Kevin will continue to write his superb energy section each week.
courtesy of ilovegreenland on

As the second member to join the TATW team back in early 2013, Kevin dedicated countless hours to “TDubbs” (as he affectionately calls it) and created its streamlined, reader-friendly new format. We are so pleased to have him stay on as an integral member of the team. To read some of Kevin’s analytical writing or listen to one of his podcasts, check out our website.

We hope that you find TATW interesting and entertaining to read. If you’re not a subscriber yet, you can sign up here. The PDF version can be found here. All editorial choices, opinions and any mistakes are the authors’ own. To comment, to point out an error, to share material with us, or to request a back issue, feel free to contact us directly. Thanks, and see you again next week!


The Arctic Institute maintains and provides access to a list of Arctic-themed conferences, workshops, and events. You can access the list by clicking on the following link:

Please help us keep this list up to date! If you would like to add an event to the list, please submit the required information including the event’s name, dates, location, description, website address and contact information using this submission form. The list will be updated weekly and a link to the list will be provided each week in TATW.


While Russia has portrayed the export of oil from the Prirazlomnaya as a triumph, this article by Kevin McGwin in the Arctic Journal shows how the economics of the new field’s oil are marginal, and even a slight drop in oil prices will quickly make the project unprofitable.
Canadian legal scholar Michael Byers weighs in on recent events in Arctic politics in a prescriptively-title piece in The Globe & Mail: “Squeeze Putin, but the Arctic is not Ukraine.”

As it turns out, smelly bacteria could help clean up old mine sites. With the right balance of ingredients to keep the bacteria happy, they take in the heavy metals from the mines and transform them into organic matter and water (YN).

The National Research Council recently published its reports on oil spills and adaptation to climate change. Eilís Quinn’s interview with Fran Ulmer, chair of the US Arctic Research Commission highlights the relevance of the National Research Council’s recent reports on the preparedness for oil spills and the potential effects of climate change (The Arctic in the Anthropocene; Responding to Oil Spills in the US Arctic Marine Environment) (EOTA).

Greenpeace has released video footage of the world’s first shipment of Arctic oil, which it tracked by helicopter and by boats. The oil on board the Russian tanker Mikhail Ulyanov, which is headed for Rotterdam in The Netherlands, comes from Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya platform (AJ). The company’s head of safety, Mikhail Suslin, complained about the safety problems created by Greenpeace’s “irresponsible publicity stunt” (Belfast Telegraph).

“NORAD Next” – a strategic review due to be presented in the upcoming months – will examine upgrading NORAD’s radar capabilities to allow for better monitoring of Arctic waters. NORAD’s current radar array for the region – the North Warning System – was built in the 1980s and has a life expectancy to only about 2025 (DefenseNews).


Putin, sanctions, and oil
Last week, western countries imposed sanctions on more members of President Putin’s “inner circle” (BO). Increasingly concerned by the presence of Russian troops near Ukraine, EU ambassadors targeted fifteen additional individuals, while the US added seven to its list (BO). Canada added nine (Mondaq). Following the announcement of the countries’ sanctions, Mr. Putin said, “I do not see a need for us to take countermeasures,” – at least for now (Website of the President). Despite testy relations, Norway and Russia will continue to cooperate on environmental and energy matters. According to Barents Observer, the two countries are “making first preparations for joint oil extraction in the Barents Sea.”

Byers’ Arctic accolades
These days, one might say there’s quite enough commentary about Putin, Ukraine, and the Arctic to go around. One familiar commentator is Michael Byers, whose recent piece in the Globe & Mail borders on hilarity with quotable gems such as “Mr. Putin is a thug, but not a fool,” and “Moscow in winter is like the bar scene in Star Wars.” Byers made headlines this week when his book International Law and the Arctic won the Donner Prize, a CAN 50,000 award given to the best Canadian-authored public policy book (The Vancouver Sun, The Toronto Star). For more from Byers, check out his recent interview with Radio National’s Future Tense.

Greenpeace does it again
On Thursday, Dutch authorities arrested forty-four Greenpeace activists – including seven of last year’s “Arctic 30” – outside Rotterdam (The Guardian). As part of Greenpeace’s most recent demonstration, eighty activists attempted to prevent a Russian tanker from docking at the Netherlands’ Rotterdam harbor (NN). The tanker, chartered by Russian oil company Gazprom, was carrying the first shipment of oil from the Prirazlomanaya platform in Russia’s Pechora Sea (Environment News, G&M). After Dutch authorities intervened, storming Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior and detaining its crew, the oil tanker successfully harbored in Rotterdam (Reuters, Grist). The website Popular Resistance said the Dutch authorities’ response to the demonstration “represented a stark contrast to the events of September 2013,” when Russian authorities held Greenpeace activists in custody for two months.



United States

The Nordics


Oil pipeline spill strikes Alaska’s North Slope
A pipeline carrying natural gas, oil and water ruptured in the western section of Prudhoe Bay last Monday, spraying oil over dozens of acres of the snow-covered tundra (PN). A 30-mile-per-hour wind contributed to the wide dispersal of oil from the pressurized pipeline (AD). By Wednesday, over 30 personnel were at work cleaning up the site (AD) and by the end of the day had removed over 70 cubic yards of contaminated snow (AD).

Controversy continues in Alberta and NWT oil patch
Environmental and public health groups in Yellowknife are calling for a public review of a ConcocPhillips fracking project near Norman Wells that was allowed to proceed without an environmental assessment. In response, legislators representing the Sahtu region told the Yellowknifers to mind their own business because the land’s management isn’t up to them (NJ). To pile wood on the fire, the Sahtu Land and Water Board announced that it will likely allow another fracking project, this one by Husky Energy, to bypass a full environmental assessment (NJ). In northern Alberta, First Nations are questioning the environmental review process around the Teck oilsands project (NJ), while Alberta regulators have given the green light to Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. to resume oilsands extraction at Cold Lake in spite of an oil spill that released a million liters over the past year (NJ). The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation is looking to translate oilsands money into clean energy through investing in a solar energy project (NJ), and Chinese oil companies continue to advance their interests in Alberta oilsands (NJ).

Geopolitics has presented new challenges to cooperation on energy development in the Arctic.  After it was announced that Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin would be placed on the international sanctions list, Statoil announced that it would postpone a planned partnership in Western Siberia, though the Norwegian company denied the decision was due to the crisis in Ukraine (BO). Sechin shrugged off the sanctions (saying they reflected a “high assessment of the effectiveness of Rosneft’s work”) while the American company ExxonMobil said it was still committed to working with Rosneft in the Arctic (BO). Cooperation of the atomic variety appears on track, as well, as Norway plans to continue its cooperation with Russia on nuclear energy in the near future (BO).

Despite the best efforts of Greenpeace’s “Arctic 30” and their protests against oil development in the Russian Arctic, the Prirazlomnoye platform shipped its first tanker of oil to Europe this week (AJ).

Are you in need a no-nonsense explanation of the LNG project legislation recently approved by the Alaska legislature? If you are, see this article in the Alaska Dispatch. The publicly owned Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority will invest USD 50 million to help finance a petroleum processing facility on the central North Slope (PN).

Two worthwhile articles in Petroleum News address oil and gas issues affecting Canada and the US, both by Gary Park. The first explores the conundrum of crude oil exports and whether or not they are in Canada and the US’s best interests (PN). The second looks at the state of Canada’s oil and gas pipelines (PN).

Is China interested in buying a coal mine that sits on 217 square kilometers on the island of Svalbard (BO)? I doubt China would go to such lengths to secure a few million tons of coal, though securing an Arctic foothold could be quite valuable for China’s Arctic ambitions (IBT).



The National Research Council releases reports on oil spills and adaptation to climate change
Eilís Quinn’s interview with Fran Ulmer, chair of the US Arctic Research Commission highlights the relevance of the National Research Council’s recent reports on the preparedness for oil spills and the potential effects of climate change (The Arctic in the Anthropocene, Responding to Oil Spills in the US Arctic Marine Environment). Nevertheless, the comprehensive reports need to be complemented by direct and personal contact and communication between the people living in the North and researchers in the capitals. This is essential to integrate traditional knowledge and values and scientific work (EOTA). Find out more about the Emerging Research Questions resulting from climate change here (National Academies).

“Help us farewell our Shorebirds”
Farewell Shorebirds, an event of BirdLife Australia, invites people to learn more about the 35 species of shorebirds, which migrate from Australia to breed in the Arctic. The website provides informative webcasts and detailed information about the birds’ flyway (Farewell Shorebirds).


Flora and fauna

Expeditions & research blogs
Under the Ice (Years of Living Dangerously).

Fun Arctic Facts for Kids (Science Kids).


Concerns continue over threat of conflict in Arctic
Writing in Newsweek, Max Strasser provides an overview of some of the concerns currently being examined by the US Navy with regards to the Arctic, and Navy Times looks provides an overview of current US capabilities in the region. Meanwhile, Voice of Russia – somewhat predictably – claims that the threat of conflict in the region is fuelled by “the West’s” conviction “that Russia has no right to own the largest Arctic territory, its subsoil and the seas.”




Smelly bacteria could help clean up old mine sites. With the right balance of ingredients to keep the bacteria happy, they take in the heavy metals from the mines and transform them into organic matter and water (YN).

Alaska’s federal regulators of surface mining stated that the state’s attorney fee rules in challenges to coal strip mines are inconsistent with federal law and must be changed. The rules make unsuccessful challenges against mining companies very costly: the challenger can be held accountable for the mining company’s attorney fees. This impedes lawsuits against mining companies (AD).





“Don’t buy Greenlandic.”
The Arctic Journal’s article uses this catchy phrase to point to the problems linked to buying Greenlandic (or generally local) food for the only reason of its origin. There are five problems associated with this “short-term, detrimental philosophy” relating to companies’ investments, inflation, ineffective uncompetitive companies, and international markets (AJ).


Other business and economic news
Fly like a bumblebee (Greenland) (AJ).


Canadian Olympian Clara Hughes visited Iqaluit last week as part of her cycling trip “Clara’s Big Ride” (NN). The trip is sponsored by Bell Canada’s “Let’s Talk” campaign. During the visit, Bell announced it would spend CAN 1 million on community mental health projects in northern Canadian provinces over the next five years (NN).


Can you hear me now? Alaska Communications expanded its 4G LTE services to the Fairbanks area last week (FNM), while in Rankin Inlet, Bell Mobility users are growing frustrated with the unreliability of their 4G services (NN).
Ordering pizza in the Arctic (Northier Than Thou).



Gambell hosts Arctic Infrastructure Conference
The conference was organized by The Bering Sea Alliance, LLC, which “is composed of seven village corporations in the Bering Straits Region,” and runs for two days. The conference focuses specifically on three components: resource development, infrastructure, and oil spill response, and featured speakers from the US Geological Survey and the Alaska State Legislature, among others (KNOM, Washington Times).






On twitter this week, check out a nice panoramic of Cape Dorset, a satellite view of the Kamchatka Peninsula, an expedition portrait and a campsite, an Arctic oceanography exhibit, Svalbard’s wildlife, and anotherexpedition shot. On Instagram, users posted “the suites at Hotel Duster,” an imposing glacier, a sunlit snowboarder, and Greenpeace’s latest Arctic oil protest. Also check out Destination Unknown’s photo essay “All about the Walrus” and National Geographic’s slideshow “Yukon: Canada’s Wild West.”

Abbreviation Key
Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN)
Aftenbladet (AB)
Alaska Business Monthly (ABM)
Alaska Dispatch (AD)
Alaska Journal of Commerce (AJC)
Alaska Native News (ANN)
Alaska Public Media (APM)
Anchorage Daily News (ADN)
Arctic Info (Russian) (AIR)
Arctic Institute (TAI)
Barents Nova (BN)
Barents Observer (BO)
Bristol Bay Times (BBT)
BusinessWeek (BW)
Canadian Mining Journal (CMJ)
Christian Science Monitor (CSM)
Eye on the Arctic (EOTA)
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (FNM)
Financial Times (FT)
Globe and Mail (G&M)
Government of Canada (GOC)
Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT)
Huffington Post (HP)
Indian Country Today Media Network (ICTMN)
Johnson’s Russia List (JRL)
Kalaallit Nunaata Radioa (KNR)
Lapin Kansa (LK)
Moscow Times (MT)
National Geographic (NG)
Natural Gas Europe (NGE)
Naval Today (NT)
New York Times (NYT)
Northern Journal (NJ)
Northern News Service Online (NNSO)
Northern Public Affairs (NPA)
Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI)
Nunatsiaq News (NN)
Oil & Gas Journal (OGJ)
Ottawa Citizen (OC)
Petroleum News (PN)
RIA Novosti (RIAN)
Russia Beyond the Headlines (RBTH)
Russia Today (RT)
Voice of Russia (VOR)
Wall Street Journal (WSJ)
Washington Post (WP)
Whitehorse Star (WS)
Winnipeg Free Press (WFP)
Yukon News (YN)