News From Senator Begich; January 31, 2011: Senate Back to Business
February 3, 2011
Washington, D.C. Coffee w/ Sen. Begich
Alaskans in D.C. visit
with Sen. Begich
Dirksen Senate Office Building
8:30 - 9:30 a.m. (Eastern)
February 18, 2011
Anchorage ASYMCA Salute to the Military
Anchorage Sheraton Hotel
6:45 p.m. (Alaska)
February 19, 2011
Anchorage SouthCentral Foundation's
14th Annual Gathering
Dena'ina Civic and
10:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. (Alaska)
February 20, 2011
Anchorage African American Educational Summit
Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church
5:30 p.m. (Alaska)
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January 31, 2011 Senate Back to Business
Sen. Begich sat with Congressman Don Young during the State of the Union. After the speech they spoke with Alaska reporters in the U.S. Capitol Building (Photo: Libby Casey, Alaska Public Radio Network).
This week the Senate continues to focus on the economic recovery and putting Americans back to work. Today we begin debating reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, which is vital for Alaska. The aviation industry means $3.5 billion for our economy and employs more than 47,000 Alaskans. The FAA reauthorization bill continues Essential Air Service to rural communities, improves safety by advancing use of NextGen air traffic control technology pioneered in Alaska and invests millions into sorely needed airport improvements across our state.
I'm heartened that policies enacted over the past two years to reverse the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression are working. The Recovery Act created or saved 3 million jobs, every American received a tax cut and the stock market has rebounded to record levels. The Act brought nearly $2 billion to Alaska and completed key projects such as Anchorage's Lake Otis and Tudor intersection and a new Nome Hospital.
I'm pleased that President Obama is keeping his focus on the economy. His State of the Union speech last week was an upbeat call to action to Americans to capitalize on our ingenuity and optimism to create a bright future for this and future generations. I agree that by improving our schools, building the basic infrastructure to allow the private sector to flourish and reforming our ways of doing business, Americans can achieve big things.
As we take steps to reduce the national debt, I believe sacrifice by all is essential for our nation's long-term economic prosperity. The President's call for eliminating incentives for oil and gas production is a non-starter and could hurt Alaska's energy industry. The State of the Union was made more enjoyable for me this year in that Congressman Don Young sat together in the House chambers.
We also had a little fun last week with the White House. After President Obama referenced salmon in his national speech, we sent the President a sample of Alaska smoked salmon with a plug to keep Alaska's salmon wild and not allow genetically-engineered salmon, which we call "Frankenfish."
Senator Mark Begich
Begich to President Obama: Try Alaska Salmon!
After learning during the State of the Union address that President Obama has an interest in salmon, Sen. Begich wanted to make sure the President has an opportunity to try the best. Sen. Begich sent the President wild caught Alaska smoked salmon and a letter reminding him of the dangers of genetically engineered "Frankenfish."
Begich Asks EPA to Swiftly Resolve Shell's Air Permit Issues In an ongoing effort to give Shell Oil the opportunity to move forward in 2011 on exploration in the Beaufort Sea, Sen. Begich last week requested Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson swiftly resolve outstanding issues created by the recent Environmental Appeals Board's (EAB) remand of air quality permits for exploration in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. Begich also met Thursday with Shell President Marvin Odum about Shell's exploration plans, the federal hurdles that remain, and Begich's ongoing efforts to help the company with its development plans in Alaska. In a letter to the EPA, Begich points out the issues on remand have been unresolved in one form or another since at least 2007 and expressed his growing frustration with the lack of progress. He also noted the permits are critical to Alaska's economy and central to the nation's domestic energy supply.
Meeting with Governor Parnell
Governor Parnell and Sen. Begich met last week to discuss a number of issues including the future of off-shore drilling and what can be done to remove federal roadblocks; the importance of the Denali Commission; education reform and infrastructure development.
Begich Introduces Arctic Oil Spill Bills; Including Revenue Sharing for Alaska As a leading advocate in the U.S. Senate on Arctic issues and a key player in discussions about a comprehensive national energy plan, Sen. Begich has introduced three bills designed to accommodate safe and responsible oil and natural gas development in the Arctic. All three bills promote responsible development by initiating comprehensive Arctic oil spill research and planning and requiring transport of oil ashore via pipeline. The third bill also provides Alaska with revenues from offshore development, a provision currently given to states in the Gulf of Mexico. "Arctic oil and gas development is a necessary part of any comprehensive national energy policy which is needed if we are going to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy," Begich said. "We need build the necessary infrastructure and do everything possible to prevent oil spills, but we also need to get moving on our oil and gas development to secure economic and national security. And there's absolutely no reason Alaskans shouldn't get their fair share of revenues from our OCS development."
The North Slope Visits Washington
Sen. Begich met with Arctic Slope Regional Corporation President Rex Rock and North Slope Borough Mayor Edward Itta in his Washington, D.C. office. The meeting followed Sen. Begich's keynote address at the national Arctic Symposium.
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Added to Begich Roster Sen. Begich has been named to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (HSGAC), a committee with jurisdiction over most aspects of Homeland Security, terrorism prevention, government oversight and contracting oversight. Of particular interest to Alaska will be the committee's jurisdiction including Alaska Native Corporation 8(a) contracting and improving national security. As part of the 112th Congress, Sen. Begich will remain on the Senate Committee on Armed Services, Veterans Affairs, Budget Committee, and the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. The new committee also has jurisdiction over post offices, the census and some shared jurisdiction over the Coast Guard and the TSA. Begich said he also sees an opportunity for his work on the Budget Committee to overlap with Homeland Security's jurisdiction over government management and government expenditures.
New Mat-Su Borough Office
On January 19, Sen. Begich hosted a grand opening at his new Mat-Su Borough field office. You can find contact information for the new office here.
Special Assembly at South High
Sen. Begich met with government and social studies students at South Anchorage High School. The students asked a number of great questions during the Assembly.
Begich Campaign to Prohibit "Frankenfish" Continues with Legislation Recognizing the harm that could be done to Alaska's wild salmon stock and fishing industry, Sen. Begich has reintroduced his legislation to ban genetically-engineered salmon. Begich said one of his top priorities this Congress is legislation to stop the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from approving the sale of genetically-engineered (GE) fish for human consumption. "Many call them "Frankenfish" for good reasons: a monster that threatens our wild stocks and their habitat, our food safety, and economic harm to Alaska wild salmon fishermen," Begich said. In November, the senator introduced legislation to stop the FDA from approving GE fish as the federal agency is considering a proposal for the product from AquaBounty Technologies. A second piece of legislation, should the FDA approve the GE fish, would require labeling of such a product. As is common when bills don't pass in one Congressional session, they are introduced the next session.
Alaska's View From The Hill
Sen. Begich commends the President's State of the Union address, but says he will oppose new taxes on oil and gas development that will cost jobs and hinder future development. He shares his optimism that sitting together at the State of the Union will help create a more bipartisan atmosphere and help the Senate get to work on behalf of Alaskans and Americans.