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NOAA, oil companies reach agreement on data sharing

Posted: August 23, 2011 - 8:29pm

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Shell Exploration & Production, ConocoPhillips, and Statoil USA E&P, Inc. signed an agreement on Tuesday to enhance collaboration on ocean, coastal and climate science for the Arctic.

The agreement calls for sharing a number of scientific data sets for this largely frontier region, including weather and ocean observations, biological information and mapping studies for sea ice an sea floors.

The agreement provides a framework among the signatories to share high-quality data to enhance NOAA’s ability to monitor climate change and provide useful products and services that inform responsible energy exploration activities in the region. Integrating these types of data could also provide a greater national capacity to effectively manage and respond to environmental disasters, such as hazardous spills, in areas where limited personnel and facilities exist.

NOAA will conduct quality control on all data provided to the agency under this agreement before it is incorporated into NOAA products and services. This will be through compliance with the Office of Management and Budget and NOAA guidelines that implement the Information Quality Act. NOAA will make the data obtained under this agreement available to the public except as limited by a specific annex.

While NOAA’s data is generally available to the public, types of data the companies have agreed to share with the government address issues including meteorology, coastal and ocean currents, circulation, waves, sea ice studies, biological science and hydrographic services and mapping.

“Despite the wealth of scientific research conducted on the Arctic environment to date, much remains unknown, and no single government agency or entity has the resources or capacity to meet the task alone,” Jane Lubchenco, NOAA administrator and undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, stated in a release. “This innovative partnership will significantly expand NOAA’s access to important data, enhance our understanding of the region and improve the United States’ ability to manage critical environmental issues efficiently and effectively as climate change continues to impact the Arctic.”

The collaboration is to leverage existing capabilities, assets and strengths of the signatories, bringing together NOAA’s scientific expertise on weather, climate, oceans and fisheries management with the industry parties’ significant offshore experience and science initiatives in areas of potential drilling. Data and information will be shared with the public through NOAA’s existing products and services to the extent possible, in accordance with applicable laws, regulations and procedures.

“We will hold our industry partners to our high standards, and make sure that as we learn more, we also prepare for and minimize the risks involved in Arctic oil and gas development,” said Lubchenco. “Consistent with our commitment to quality-check data and make public as much of it as possible, we anticipate being able to take advantage of multiple sources of information. In view of the rapid of change in Arctic ecosystems and populations, additional credible courses of data are welcome.”

NOAA’s Arctic vision and strategy can be viewed at http://1.usa.gov/n2dRRL. The Summer sea ice outlook is at http://bit.ly/rdymbm.

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