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Alaska Arctic Policy Commission Introduces Preliminary Recommendations

AAPC legislative members discuss accompanying legislation & national strategy

JUNEAU-This week, the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission’s (AAPC) Preliminary Report was officially introduced to the record on the Senate and House Floors.  AAPC Co-Chairs Senator Lesil McGuire and Representative Bob Herron both gave Floor speeches on the report and held a press availability immediately following Floor Session.  To watch to the press availability, please click here.

“2014 is the Year of the Arctic for the Alaska Legislature. There is a need to make sure Alaska is in the captain’s seat as arctic decisions are made that will affect all Alaskans today and for hundreds of years,” said Senator McGuire.  “Planting a flag in the Arctic is like planting a flag on the moon. It is an important symbolic message telling us to push boundaries and move with purpose toward Arctic endeavors.   This report is a great step in that direction.”

As part of meeting the AAPC recommendations, this week Senator McGuire introduced Senate Bill 154, a companion measure to House Bill 165, as well as Senate Joint Resolution 17 a companion to House Joint Resolution 24.   SB154 creates an Arctic Port Authority to help depoliticize the siting of Arctic ports and to offer a holistic port plan for the entire region.   SJR17 asks the United States Department of State to consider Alaska’s priorities during its Arctic Council Chairmanship beginning in 2015 and to consult Alaskan officials before appointing an individual to lead the Arctic Council.

“If we act now, we have an opportunity to lead the way,” said Representative Herron.  “The United States will be Chair of the Arctic Council in two years and it is imperative for Alaskans to develop and pursue our own Arctic vision. We must strive to make sure Alaska is in the driver’s seat of Arctic policy as the world begins to look to the North.”

Last week, Senator McGuire and Representative Herron introduced Senate Bill 140 and House Bill 288 which allow AIDEA to leverage private money for Arctic infrastructure by financing up to 1/3 of well-vetted, projects’ costs.

“Alaska is what makes the U.S. an Arctic nation and you can’t separate western and northern Alaska from the rest of the State,” said Representative Herron.  “That’s why it is imperative we all work together as legislators to review and push forward these recommendations.  This report is consistent with the interest and commitment our neighbors in the circumpolar north have shown in developing Arctic policies for their homelands. In addition, it coincides with the warranted but past due attention that the United States has given the topic in the last twelve months.”

In addition, during today’s press conference, the AAPC Co-Chairs commented on the National Strategy for the Arctic Region (NSAR) Implementation Plan, which was also released last week by the White House.   Senator McGuire and Representative Herron regularly meet with the NSAR Task Force Leads and have appreciated the opportunity to discuss implementation and the efforts of federal agencies. The Guiding Principles for the Implementation Plan emphasize fostering partnerships with Arctic Stakeholders, and in particular the State of Alaska and Alaska Natives in Arctic Regions, in all lines of effort.   To read the plan, click here.

“Thanks to the Commission’s work and these monthly teleconferences, we were able to effect change on the Federal level,” said Senator McGuire.  “When I saw the initial draft, the implementation plan talked about Alaska as if the state was just land somewhere afar.  After our series of discussions, the implementation plan included much more about Alaskans, the economy, and safety plans.”

The Preliminary Report will be presented in a joint House/Senate State Affairs Committee at 9 AM Tuesday February 4th in a joint Senate World Trade/House Economic Development, Trade, and Tourism Committee at 11:15 AM.

To see the executive summary of the report, click here.

To read the entire plan, click here.

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