Begich Praises Nome Refueling Waiver Decision
Hurdle cleared to bring needed fuel to icebound Alaska community
U.S. Sen. Mark Begich praised a decision by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano today to allow a Russian flagged tanker to carry fuel from Dutch Harbor to Nome. The ice-classed tanker Renda, to be escorted by the Coast Guard icebreaker Healy, will bring one million gallons of diesel fuel and 400,000 gallons of gasoline to the icebound city whose usual fall fuel shipment was blocked by a record fall storm and ice.
Movement of the fuel between two U.S. ports by a foreign flagged vessel required a waiver of the Jones Act. Sen. Begich sent letters to Napolitano on Dec. 9 and22 in support of the waiver and has continued to press the department to grant the waiver quickly.
“This is great news for Nome residents who either faced a long, cold winter or soaring energy costs,” Begich said. “This decision also recognizes Nome’s key strategic position adjacent to the Bering Straits as well as the Coast Guard's need for maintained facilities to monitor our northern border.
“A lot of work remains to get this shipment delivered to Nome, but I appreciate the cooperation of all involved to get this far including the Sitnasuak Native Corporation, Vitus Marine, Nome Mayor Denise Michels, the U.S. Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, Maritime Administration and the U.S. shippers who agreed the waiver was justified. I especially appreciate the crew of the Healy who have given up their holidays to take care of the residents of Nome, a dedication to duty and public service which is in the best tradition of the United States Coast Guard.”
Before the delivery takes place, the Coast Guard still needs to inspect the tanker and the State Department of Environmental Conservation is reviewing the shippers’ contingency plan.
At last word, the Renda was near Attu Island in the western Aleutian Island chain and is expected to reach Dutch Harbor Tuesday.