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Senate Bill Introduced to Boost Arctic Infrastructure

Bill aims to create incentives for private building of ports, roads, emergency and telecommunications projects

JUNEAU—Today Senator McGuire (R-Anchorage) introduced a bill designed to boost infrastructure development in the Arctic.  Senate Bill 140 aims to create incentives to attract private investment to build much needed ports, roads, emergency and telecommunications projects in the vast expanse of the Alaskan Arctic. 

“The Alaskan Arctic is in desperate need of infrastructure development both for those who live there now, and for new opportunities that will come with the opening of the Arctic,” Said Senator McGuire.  “Globally, all eyes are on the Arctic because of the changing conditions which will bring new opportunities in shipping, tourism and resource development.  In order for Alaskan’s to capitalize on this emerging situation, we need to think ahead and begin infrastructure development now, since we have lagged behind in the past.”

The financing mechanisms in this bill are modeled after the Sustainable Energy Transmission and Supply Development Fund (SETS) that was created by Sen. McGuire in 2012 (SB 25).  SB 140 would give AIDEA loan, bond, and bond guarantee authority for infrastructure development in the specific geographic region of the Arctic.  This would increase incentives to encourage private investment and partnership with the state.

The financing tools in SETS are currently leading to the first commercialization of Alaska’s North Slope natural gas while bringing much needed energy relief to Interior Alaska in the form of LNG trucking to Fairbanks.  Senator McGuire said, “We can be just as innovative with Arctic Infrastructure financing.  This will help pave the way for a vibrant 21st century economy in the Arctic.”

She continued, “Over the last year of meetings with the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission we had vast discussions regarding how we can craft an Arctic policy for Alaskans, and what that policy will look like.  All things pointed to infrastructure as the foundation, and all of the identified steps forward required a financing mechanism.  This is that mechanism.  It will attract the private investment that we need.  There is an estimated $100 Billion of private funding that is looking for investment opportunities in the Arctic.  This bill creates the incentives and gives AIDEA the tools it needs to build the necessary partnerships.”

The World Economic Forum has recently identified Investment in Arctic Infrastructure as one of the top four challenges and priorities for the Arctic region.  For further development to occur public, and private, interests must come together to boost the investment in necessary projects.

Globally, the Arctic has roughly four million residents with an annual economy of $230 Billion.  This is expected to increase in future.  Aside from certain areas in Norway and the western Russian Federation the region remains vastly underserved by transportation, ports, communication and other critical infrastructure.

“This bill is a result of the hard work we have done in the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission that I co-chair with Representative Herron,” said Senator McGuire.  “I look forward to working with him on this bill.  His legislation that would create an Arctic Port Authority needs a funding mechanism, together these important pieces will help jump start an emerging Arctic Economy.”

In SB 140 the Arctic is defined as, “the area of the state north of the Arctic Circle, north and west of the boundary formed by the Porcupine, Yukon, and Kuskokwim Rivers, all contiguous seas, including the Arctic Ocean, and the Beaufort, Bering, and Chukchi Seas, and the Aleutian Chain.”

SB140 is one of the first pieces of Legislation to be introduced as part of the work over the past year from the 26-member Alaska Arctic Policy Commission.

The AAPC, which Senator McGuire and Representative Herron co-chair, will deliver its preliminary report to the Legislature on January 30, 2014.  The final report will be delivered on January 30, 2015 - one year from now. 

For more information, please contact Jesse Logan in Senator McGuire’s office at 907-465-2995.

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