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Begich Arctic, Energy Bills Passed by Commerce Committee

Legislation Promotes Arctic Science; Renewable Energy Jobs

Legislation sponsored by U.S. Sen. Mark Begich to improve scientific research in the Arctic, help reduce the nation's carbon footprint and boost jobs in renewable energy were marked up and passed by the Senate Commerce Committee Dec. 17. Begich is a member of the committee.

The Arctic Ocean Research and Science Review Act calls for a comprehensive strategy to better coordinate and integrate U.S. Arctic research and provide for a comprehensive, long-range U.S. Arctic Ocean research and monitoring plan.  It also includes analyzing research gaps, identifying priorities and providing a framework for modeling effects on climate.

"With the many changes underway in the Arctic today, our nation needs to make sure there are no information gaps and no overlap in our research efforts," Begich said. "It calls for a comprehensive strategy to better coordinate and integrate U.S. Arctic research and provide a comprehensive, long-range Arctic research and monitoring plan."

The bill, S.1562, is one of seven Arctic bills introduced by Begich earlier this year that he called the "Inuvikput" package, after the Inupiaq work for "the place where we live."  Added to the bill was S.1538, legislation by Committee Chairman Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and co-sponsored by Begich for research into black carbon (soot) and other airborne particulates and its effect on climate.

Begich's other bill, S.2852 the Renewable Energy Environmental Research Act, directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to implement a research program designed to collect, monitor, and distribute environmental data to assist development of renewable energy, particularly related to ocean energy.

"Renewable energy is the nation's fastest growing energy sector," Begich said.  "Wind, solar, geothermal and biomass supply a significant portion of our nation's energy and marine renewables like tides and current could supply a tenth of our energy needs. Tapping these renewable sources depends on atmospheric and oceanic information such as forecasts of winds, clouds, currents and tides. Improved atmospheric and marine research would accelerate the deployment of renewable energy. Better baseline information will support development of renewable energy and ultimately help foster new jobs in this emerging sector."

The bill, introduced just last week, authorizes $100 million for program implementation with up to half the amount eligible to states and educational institutions to carry out renewable energy environmental research. The bill won bipartisan support, cosponsored by Senators Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX).

Other legislation co-sponsored by Begich was also reported at today's markup hearing.  S.1609 allows creation of a cooperative in the Bering Sea freezer longline cod fishery.  The cooperative is intended to end the wasteful "race for fish," and promote safety and other efficiencies.

It was widely supported in the industry including western Alaska's Community Development Quota corporations. Sponsored by Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Begich was joined by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Patty Murray (D-WA) as co-sponsors.  Begich also co-sponsored S.583, the "Building a Stronger America Act," which encourages the development of Science Parks for research and job creation through grants and loan guarantees.

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