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Sen. Murkowski E-Newsletter for January 30, 2013

Energy Trip to Asia

Earlier this month, I traveled to Asia to meet with Taiwanese and Japanese officials to discuss trade opportunities for Alaska’s natural gas. We in Alaska are blessed with an abundance of natural gas but challenged with overcoming the transportation costs of delivering our gas to market. During my meetings, officials from both Japan and Taiwan expressed a strong interest in securing a long-term, stable supply of energy. I can confidently say the markets exist there.

Portions of my trip to Japan included visiting areas severely affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. I traveled to the Fukishima Daiichi nuclear plant, where major damage to three reactors forced Japan to shut down its nuclear power facilities – leaving the island nation without 30 percent of its energy base and in search of alternate sources of energy. The newly elected government has indicated that it will undertake a three year review of its nuclear facilities and in the meantime is looking to switch a major portion of its power generation to natural gas.

Tsunami waves reached more than 4-stories high as illustrated in this photo taken by Senator Murkowski in Rikuzentakata, Japan.

I also visited the small fishing village of Rikuzentakata, a town of roughly 23,000 that lost over 1,900 residents in the tsunami. I laid a wreath there to honor Anchorage teacher Monty Dickson, who was tragically killed by the tsunami.

It’s been almost two years since the tidewaters receded from the shores of Japan, but the work to rebuild only just begins. Just like many catastrophe struck communities, the harsh realities associated with these types of events are just setting in now. As Alaskans, we know all too well the feeling of moving forward from a disaster, whether from a catastrophic earthquake to a devastating oil spill. It will take time and support but the people of Japan will persevere and overcome this obstacle, just like we Alaskans have done in the past.

Senator Murkowski bows in respect at the memorial for the tsunami victims of Rikuzentakata, Japan including 26-year-old Alaskan teacher Monty Dickson.  

The rebuilding process only just begins for the people of Japan. Here, Senator Murkowski visits what remains of the local buildings in Rikuzentakata, Japan.

Frankenfish

As many of you have now heard, the Food and Drug Administration is ignoring the opposition of most Alaskans – along with hundreds of consumer, environmental and religious groups – and moving forward in the approval process of genetically modified fish, also known as Frankenfish.

Beyond my objections with their decision to open a comment period on an Environmental Assessment (EA), I’m also very concerned that they announced this the Friday before Christmas, when everyone’s attention was on family matters and the holiday.  Along with some of my Senate colleagues, I wrote the FDA and urged them to double the length of this comment period.

These “frankenfish” are engineered to reach marketable size faster than natural salmon through a process of splicing DNA with antifreeze elements. Like I’ve said before, this type of science — DNA splicing — belongs in movies like “Jurassic Park” and we shouldn’t mess with Mother Nature on a perfect food like salmon.

I can assure you I will continue to fight the advancement of this unproved and untested technology.

Senator Murkowski and her colleagues have spoken out against the advancement of Genetically Engineered fish.

Inauguration Day

Last week, our nation’s capital welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the country for the Inauguration of our 44th President – including hundreds of Alaskans who made the trip to take part in the week’s festivities. I often hear from my colleagues here in Washington, “You probably don’t get many visitors from Alaska, it’s just so far away,” and I’m always excited to show them how well Alaskans travel.

Though the audience was substantially smaller than four years ago, the environment was much the same.  The highlight for me was meeting with so many Alaskans the day after Inauguration Day, and hearing what was on their minds.  Alaska’s DC delegation hosted a coffee on Capitol Hill to visit with friends from back home. Like I always say, the feedback and input I receive from Alaskans helps me better represent you here in Washington, D.C.

A sea of visitors on Washington, D.C.’s National Mall during President Obama’s second inauguration.

Senator Murkowski listens with her colleagues and the nation as President Obama gives his inaugural address.

A view of the Capitol Dome from Senator Murkowski’s seat at the Presidential Inauguration Ceremony. 

Senator Murkowski meets with Pat Falon, Joan Wilson, Heidi Drygas, Sergio Acuna, and Larry Mooney.

Senator Murkowski discusses the inauguration events with Charlie and Karen Sakeagak from Barrow.

Congressman Young, Senator Begich, and Senator Murkowski meets with visitors from NANA Corporation.

Students from West Valley High School in Fairbanks spearheaded a trip to attend the 57th Inaugural, and came out for the Tuesday morning coffee and a tour of the Capitol.

Honoring Ted Stevens

Though we in Alaska have a special place in our hearts for Senator Ted Stevens and all he accomplished for our state, he also did so much for the national landscape.  One of his many legacies is what he did for amateur athletics – from leveling the playing field for women competitors to his leadership in our United States Olympic program.

To honor his accomplishments, the United States Olympic Committee is naming their new training facility in Colorado Springs after him.  One of the speakers there quoted a book’s passage that made him think of Senator Stevens, saying “He lived and died giving a damn.”

I think that’s a great way to capture Uncle Ted.  And I was proud to be there surrounded by his family and friends as we remembered the Alaskan of the 20th Century, knowing his impacts will continue to be felt long into the 21st century.

Senator Murkowski co-hosted a reception in honor of Ted Stevens to mark the naming of a new facility at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO.

A photograph of Ted Stevens warmed the room at a recent reception hosted in his honor.

Veteran Spotlight on Father Norman Elliott

The eighth in my “Veteran Spotlight” interview series features Father Norman Elliott, a U.S. Army veteran of World War II. Father Elliott shared the stories of his calling to join the war efforts in 1941, his training and endeavors through backcountry Europe, and more than 50 years in Alaska as a priest and community activist.

I’m pleased to introduce you to WWII Army veteran Father Norman Elliott. The “Veteran Spotlight” is an effort I’m working on with the Library of Congress Veteran History Project to draw well-deserved attention to Alaska veterans.  If you have a friend, relative or community member you want to nominate for the Spotlight series, please e-mail me at Spotlight@Murkowski.Senate.Gov.

(Click image for excerpt – CLICK HERE for longer interview)

Father Elliott flips through his scrap books from WWII during his Veteran Spotlight Interview.

Home In Alaska

Senator Murkowski met with leadership and researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks to discuss their research efforts on energy, unmanned aerial systems and climate science.

Senator Murkowski visited with AVTEC culinary students after they catered the reception for the new Seward City Library and Museum.

Senator Murkowski and the students of the Seward High School Debate Team at the opening of the Seward Museum and Library.

Senator Murkowski met with community members at the Sterling Senior Center to talk about the deficit, Medicare and Social Security.

Senator Murkowski met students at Soldotna High School who will be entering military service after they graduate.

After a presentation to the joint Kenai and Soldotna Chamber of Commerce, Senator Murkowski met with Kenai Peninsula non-profit groups to urge all Alaskans to Pick. Click. Give.

Senator Murkowski models her new Soldotna High School sweatshirt with members of the student body.

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