EPPR is the Arctic Council working group on Emergency Prevention, Preparedness, and Response. Jessica Garron, Science Team Lead at the Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration, represented IASC at this meeting in Bodø, Norway and submitted the following report. If you are interested in representing IASC at upcoming Arctic Council meetings, please contact the IASC Secretariat.


Arctic Oil Spill Research and Development Workshop & ARCSAFE/RADAR Workshop

On Day 1, there were two workshops running in parallel; the Oil Spill Research and Development workshop and the ARCSAFE/RADAR Workshop. I attended the Oil Spill Research workshop, where there were numerous opportunities to share and coordinate Arctic science in support of this topic.

The goal of the workshop was to exchange information on oil spill response research for Arctic and other cold water environments being conducted across the globe. To achieve this goal, the below specific objectives were identified,

  • To summarize R&D by participating states and organizations focused on the fate and behavior of spilled oil in cold water and ice environments
  • Identify and discuss strategies, plans and knowledge gaps related to oil spill response focused on non-mechanical recovery strategies
  • Explore joint plans and fields for research opportunities

To kick-off the workshop, four of the eight Arctic nations (Canada, Denmark, Norway, U.S.) discussed their current efforts in oil spill research, followed on by a presentation from the oil spill research contractor, SINTEF, based out of Norway. Each of these presentations highlighted research questions in need of further study, as well as some potential funding mechanisms to perform that research. One example question identified was what is the capacity of natural attenuation of oil in the Arctic? Another focused on the seasonality of localized microbial communities capable of oil degradation. There was much discussion of remote sensing tools available, as well as radio communication enhancements between unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), airplanes, and ground crews, and some discussion on  toxicity, other fuel types that could be spilled, and chemical countermeasures (herder and dispersant).

After the presentations were complete, the whole room broke into three groups to tackle a series of questions on how to integrate oil spill science into the EPPR more effectively. I took this opportunity to offer up ideas on how IASC can support the EPPR group through baseline data sets and connecting scientists with the group that may have the expertise needed to support the ecological questions about baseline conditions as well as how those conditions are changing with climate change. Some of the key outcomes of the discussion included,

  • Integrate scientists into oil spill drills so they can understand operational needs
  • How can the science be operationalized?
  • How can science be better integrated with the EPPR group?
  • Need more open data sources
  • Need to identify what risk the public is willing to accept
  • EPPR should host relevant science-focused workshops
  • EPPR will engage with academia through UArctic
  • EPPR will develop position papers on different R&D topics by country

The ARCSAFE/RADAR workshop focused on a tabletop scenario about a radioactive material release to the marine environment. The workshop promoted cross-border preparedness and handling of radioactive materials, and identified the need for more science and legal frameworks (specifically applicable laws for floating nuclear power plants).


EPPR Joint Marine Environmental Response (MER) – Search and Rescue (SAR) Expert Group Meeting

This meeting kicked off with a full morning of presentations about the Viking Sky incident that took place off the coast of Norway this spring. It was definitely a search and rescue focused review. After the Viking Sky presentations, each of the eight Arctic countries spoke about the hand-off from SAR to MER in each of their countries, and the different government agencies involved with the process.


Marine Environmental Response Expert Group Meeting

In the afternoon, the SAR and MER groups split and held separate working group meetings; I stayed with the MER group. There was a recap of the previous day’s R&D workshop, and formalization of the EPPR needs and actions to move the R&D discussion forward within EPPR as a whole. The discussion moved on to regular business, which included a discussion of a recent connectivity test (testing the emergency call list for each of the Arctic nations), an upcoming joint exercise for emergency response in Iceland, and the definition of new initiative to understand aerial surveillance capacity. As with each discussion on ways forward, I offered up IASC as a resource to support the scientific components of these future discussions and workshops.


June 5 - EPPR Plenary

The plenary sessions focused on the regular business of the EPPR group (https://www.eppr.org/). This first day, the EPPR work plan and its approval by the Arctic Council was discussed, leading me to ask internally, how can IASC support the EPPR work plan? The workshops from the prior two days were reported on, as was the need for more radiation science to support decision-making. Other reports included the status of short movies having to do with oil spill response in small Arctic communities (outside of Alaska), and the production of additional videos. Another reported item was a risk assessment for the Arctic, specific to Arctic risk influencing factors. The guidelines for this assessment are under development, with a workshop planned for Q3 of this year. There was brief discussion of available funding for research addressing pollution or radiations through the “project support” instrument of the EPPR group, wherein proposals are submitted, reviewed and selected for funding by the EPPR delegation. This is not a large sum of money, but is intended as seed funding for additional research dollar leveraging. Further discussion included review of Phase 2 of the Oil Spill Response Viability Analysis, as well as the conclusion of the GRACE project (https://www.grace-oil-project.eu/en-US/). The GRACE Project consists of 6 work packages, all focused on operational science needs; Oil spill detection, monitoring, fate and distribution, Oil biodegradation and bioremediation, Oil impacts on biota using biomarkers and ecological risk assessment, Combat of oil spill coastal artic water - effectiveness and environmental effects, Strategic Net Environmental Benefit Analysis, and lastly, for all the assembled knowledge, Management, Dissemination and Communication. There also was some discussion of the HORIZON 2020 project, and how there may be valuable science in those projects to support the EPPR. It is unclear if the GRACE and HORIZON 2020 projects have met all of their proposed goals, but the science is potentially valuable to EPPR, and they will need a scientific advisor to aid in its translation for the policy makers. The Russian delegation promoted the International Scientific Practical Conference, to be held September 24-26, 2019 in Magadan, Russia. The focus of this conference will be on emergency situations in the Arctic and their prevention. For those planning on attending, the EPPR Russian delegation offered support in acquiring the appropriate visas.


June 6 - EPPR Plenary

This second day of the EPPR plenary was kicked-off by a member of the Gwich’in Nation, who introduced a proposal for Circumpolar Wildland Fire Coordination across the Arctic, which will be an opportunity to leverage current and existing science in support of policy. Reports from the EPPR expert groups continued with the SAR expert group, which discussed specifically the integration of data sets available through the NOAA portal Arctic ERMA (https://erma.noaa.gov/arctic/erma.html). Other presentations included one from the Petroleum Safety Authority of Norway, legal concerns with the Marine Oil Pollution and Preparedness and Response in the Arctic agreement (MOSPA), as well as extensive discussion about the upcoming MOSPA oil spill response exercise, planned for Iceland in 2021; the exercise is an opportunity to leverage scientific and technical support relevant for these Arctic applications.

The EPPR Working Group meeting concluded with brief presentations from some of the observers, for which I presented information on the science of oil spill detection in the Arctic. Other reports came from Italy and the satellite resources available from ESA, as well as a presentation on the UArctic projects being undertaken at Nord University in Bodo. The Chair closed the meeting and the Record of Decision has been issued for review by the EPPR delegates.