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Begich Outlines Alaska Energy Priorities to President


Revenue sharing, natural gas line, oil & gas development top senator's list

As part of his efforts to promote a national energy policy to help secure economic and national security for the country, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich has outlined Alaska's energy priorities, including increased development of Alaska oil and gas resources, in a letter to President Barack Obama.

"Energy is a leading concern of my constituents for two keys reasons. Alaskans already pay the nation's highest energy costs due to long distances to markets, high transportation costs, and a widely dispersed population," Begich writes. "And Alaska has served as America's energy storehouse for decades, at one time producing up to a quarter of the nation's domestically produced oil, which generates thousands of good-paying jobs."

Begich also states the need to recognize Alaska is ground zero for climate change. The state is experiencing its near-term impacts far more than any other state. He says various versions of national energy legislation under discussion so far are inadequate to address Alaska's unique needs.

In the letter, Sen. Begich outlines Alaska's priorities on energy, including:

·         Revenue Sharing for Affected Communities: Alaskans must be able to receive their fair share of revenue from oil and gas development from federal waters off the Arctic coast. Revenue sharing would allow state and local communities, including Native villages, to ensure they have the emergency response, mitigation measures, and infrastructure to address the potential effects of development;

·         Build the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline: Alaska's Arctic holds tremendous natural gas reserves, up to an estimated 220 trillion cubic feet, which can help our nation transition to cleaner burning, renewable energy sources. Any bill aimed at low-cost greenhouse gas pollution reduction must include greater emphasis and expanded incentives for natural gas to shift the economy to this clean-burning source;

·         Increase Domestic Energy Production by supporting development in NPR-A; OCS development in the Arctic; development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: In order to reduce the amount of oil imported by the U.S. from hostile countries, three Alaska projects should be green-lighted to increase domestic oil and gas production. Those include ConocoPhillips' plans to develop oil and gas reserves in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska; lifting of a moratorium on Shell's leases in the Chukchi Sea; and support for production of the 16 billion barrels of oil and up to 83 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves estimated to be beneath the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge;

·         Address Adaptation Needs: Climate change is responsible for flooding threats and erosion in 160 Alaska villages. Many need to be relocated. Drinking water, transportation routes, and subsistence fish and wildlife resources are threatened. Current energy legislation does not address these adaptation needs nor provide funding necessary to deal with the impacts;

·         Pre-empt Clean Air Act Regulation of Greenhouse Gases: The Clean Air Act is an inefficient and costly way to regulate greenhouse gas pollution. Industry needs clear, consistent rules. Any future policy limiting greenhouse gas pollution must also eliminate the threat of duplicative regulation under the Clean Air Act.

·         Recognize Alaska Hydropower as Renewable: Alaska has more than a third of the untapped hydropower potential in the United States. Hydropower needs to be given the same treatment as other renewable energy technologies in the Department of Energy loan and financial assistance programs;

·         Expand Arctic and Climate Research: Any legislation passing the Senate should include a focus on and support to broaden the understanding of how Arctic communities can adapt to changing conditions and develop sustainable communities.

"I appreciate the opportunity to bring these issues and opportunities to your attention. I pledge my cooperation with you and Senate leaders in crafting comprehensive energy legislation that addresses Alaska's unique needs and national issues," Begich said.

Begich has introduced legislation to accomplish some of the initiatives detailed in his letter to the President, including revenue sharing, expanded Arctic research and facilities, and adaptation funding.

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