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Executive Summary for May 26th

We review the latest Arctic news, including renewed calls for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, pushback against proposed federal cuts in Alaska, and plans to prevent future water leaks inside Svalbard’s seed vault.

Published on May 26, 2017 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Clash Continues Over Calving Grounds and Crude Oil

The decades-long battle over whether to allow oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is about to resume, thanks to U.S. President Donald Trump’s federal budget, which proposes oil leases in the area.

It’s believed that billions of dollars of oil sit beneath the refuge along Alaska’s northern shore. The area is also important to Arctic wildlife, particularly the wide-roaming Porcupine caribou herd, which calves in the refuge. As the Washington Post reports, Trump is far from the first Republican president to call for oil drilling in the refuge. So far, none have made it happen.

Sea Grant on the Chopping Block

Alaska’s Republican federal lawmakers have cheered on plans to allow oil drilling in ANWR, but they’re much less happy about the federal budget’s proposed program cuts. As we reported this week, that includes axing Alaska’s Sea Grant program, which provides support to coastal Alaskan communities for everything from the whale-watching economy to providing quality assurance for seal oil products.

And, as the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports, other cuts would impact programs that support air travel to remote communities’ rural water and wastewater infrastructure and low-income heating assistance. Alaska’s federal representatives were quick to denounce these proposed cuts, and are vowing they won’t happen. “If I had to sum it up quickly,” said U.S. Rep. Don Young, “I’d say this proposal was dead in Congress before the ink was even dry.”

Svalbard Seed Vault Safe

Recent reports of melting permafrost causing Svalbard’s “doomsday” seed vault to flood are, it turns out, exaggerated. This climb-down has provoked some cheeky online responses compiled by Arctic Journal, with one observing that initial headlines did sound better than “Climate Change Causes Puddle of Water to Form in Vault Lobby. Man Slips, is Unharmed. Puddle Mopped Up.”

As the Washington Post reports, water from melting permafrost has pooled inside the entrance in past years as well, and the amount that made its way into the site recently falls well short of qualifying as a flood. The organization responsible for the vault has offered assurances that the seeds are safe and far from what water has made its way inside. But to head off future problems, heat sources such as a transformer are being moved from the entrance and waterproof walls are being built inside the tunnel.

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