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Rep. Young Addresses Arctic Parliamentarians

March 18, 2010 

WASHINGTON, D.C.Alaskan Congressman Don Young addressed the Standing Committee of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region today during the group’s meeting in Washington.

The Conference of Arctic Parliamentarians is the larger body of legislators and NGOs from around the Arctic and the Standing Committee of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region is the head of that body. Every two years the Arctic Parliamentarians hold a conference on relevant issues important to all the Arctic nations. Between conferences, the Standing Committee holds meetings.

Congressman Young’s remarks, as prepared for delivery:

“Parliamentarians, thank you for inviting me to participate in this conference to address the changing Arctic climate.  

“The realities are that we are seeing diminishing sea ice, increased eco-tourism, and vast deposits of oil, gas, and minerals, as well as indigenous people who are dependent on marine resources.  And with that, the challenges we face are lack of infrastructure in the Arctic, lack of American icebreaking capabilities, inadequate charts, and so on.

“I’ve introduced 3 bills to address the changing Arctic.

“The Arctic Shipping Assessment Implementation Act of 2009 (H.R. 2865) addresses the needs for vital infrastructure and response capabilities for safe and reliable shipping through the Arctic.  The legislation requires the Coast Guard to determine:

•   Placement and Maintenance of Aids to Navigation
•   Search and Rescue capabilities
•   Spill response capabilities
•   Vessel Escorts for icebreaking, tug, and salvage operations
•   Long range vessel tracking
•   Report to Congress on cost-benefit analysis of constructing new polar icebreakers
•   Promotes international coordination with other Arctic nations (Russia, Canada, Norway, Iceland)

“I’ve included this bill in the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 (H.R. 3619), which passed the House last fall.  With the Coast Guard bill’s uncertain future in the Senate, I hope to include my Arctic Shipping bill in the next markup of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.  I was pleased to see Senator Murkowski introduce a Senate companion bill and Senator Begich introduce similar legislation.

“There is no secret that Arctic mapping and surveying is lacking in the American Arctic and so to help alleviate this problem, I introduced H.R. 2864 which would amend the Hydrographic Services Improvement Act, and authorize funding expressly for acquiring increased data, surveying, and mapping solely for the Arctic.  Having adequate hydrographic data is critical to ensuring safe navigation through the Arctic and providing for the baseline mapping and charting needs for any energy development off America’s extended Continental Shelf.  

“Additionally, I was pleased to introduce the House companion bill to Senator Murkowski, H.R. 4576, The Arctic Deep Water Sea Port Act of 2009.

“The U.S. must ensure that not only its economic and environmental interests in the arctic region are protected, but also its national and homeland security interests.  While the U.S. maintains a strong relationship with the seven other Arctic Nations (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation and Sweden), these nations also have their own interests to protect in the Arctic.  

“The ability for the United States to project its territorial claims and protect its economic interests in the Arctic will become increasingly important as the Arctic shipping lanes become more accessible due to the continual decrease in Arctic ice flows.  With the high potential for increased industrial and commercial activity in the Arctic region, the United States must ensure that it is prepared to protect human life as well as the Arctic environment.

“The Arctic Deep Water Sea Port Act of 2009 is the first step towards protecting vital U.S. interests in the region.  The Act directs the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, to conduct a study to determine the feasibility of establishing a deep water port in the Arctic to protect U.S. strategic interests in the region.  This two-year study is designed to determine what strategic capabilities this deep water port should provide as well as an optimal location that would provide protection for a wide spectrum of needs.  

“The Arctic is highly under-explored for resource potential, but even still, most scientists believe it is home to the highest resource potential left on the globe.  The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that the Arctic may contain as much as a fifth of the world’s yet to-be-discovered oil and natural gas reserves.  More specifically, they believe that the Arctic could house 90 billion barrels of undiscovered oil reserves, and 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.  And according to the USGS, off the coasts of Arctic Alaska, there may be over one-third of that amount.

“When British Petroleum (BP) began development at their Northstar oil field, Alaska became the first place in the world to produce oil from an Arctic offshore field connected only by pipeline to shore.  Since that time there has been more discovery and development such as at BP’s Liberty project, but we are still only dabbling, and I think that the future looks tremendous for Arctic development.

“Thank you for your time today.”

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