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Sen. Begich Chairs Commerce Committee Field Hearing in Barrow


Focus on Changing Arctic, Energy Opportunities

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, will hold a field hearing in Barrow, Alaska on August 19 focusing on America's Arctic, emerging energy opportunities, and the effects of climate change in the region. The hearing will include a number of witnesses from federal agencies and community leaders offering a variety of perspectives on the implications for local communities and federal responsibilities in those communities. Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan will join Sen. Begich for the hearing.

"Alaska is America's only Arctic state, and the changes we are seeing in the area are dramatic," Begich said. "As we look toward the future, we know there will be new energy opportunities, changes in the fisheries of the Arctic, increased shipping and tourism potential, and much more. I am looking forward to gathering information from many of the people and agencies who play a key role today and will in the years to come as we deal with changes in this dynamic region."

The field hearing will include two panels of invited witnesses who will give testimony. Following that, a town hall meeting will be convened by Sen. Begich to take additional comments from others who have expressed an interest in giving their comments.

The official witnesses include:

Panel 1 - Federal Government Witnesses

Rear Admiral Christopher Colvin, Coast Guard District 17

Laura Furgione, Deputy Assistant Administrator, National Weather Service

Panel 2 - Local Witnesses

Mayor Edward S. Itta, North Slope Borough

Mary Pete, U.S. Arctic Research Commission

Richard Glenn, Vice President, Arctic Slope Regional Corporation

Representative Reggie Joule, Alaska House of Representatives

Marilyn Crockett, Executive Director, Alaska Oil and Gas Association

Some of the topics of interest for the hearing include shifting ecosystems, permafrost thawing, oil spill response, fisheries management, NOAA's Arctic strategy, and climate services such as long-term sea ice forecasting.

"This hearing is intended to underscore that the Arctic is not a frozen wasteland, rather it is a unique ecosystem that is home to strong people who endure the hardships of long winters, and have built a vibrant culture around subsisting in the north," Begich said.

Last year, Begich introduced a series of bills focused on the Arctic. The package includes legislation to deal with strengthening basic research into changing Arctic conditions; addressing the adaptation needs of communities; the need for a strong Coast Guard presence, including icebreakers and forward operating bases; revenue sharing so local communities share in the benefits of development off their shores; and the health of the local people.

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