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EDT&T’s HJR 19 Again Urges Congress to Protect U.S.’s Only Arctic State’s Interests & Ratify U.N.’s Governing Oceans Policy Treaty

Juneau, Alaska – The Alaska State House of Representatives today passed a resolution supporting the state’s economic, shipping and tourism interests, emphatically urging the U.S. Congress to ratify the U.N.’s Law of the Sea Treaty. House Joint Resolution 19 asks congress to sign on to the treaty governing world ocean policy in order to protect our state’s rights – and our country’s sovereign rights – to reasonably access vast areas of the Arctic Ocean, Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.

The House Special Committee on Economic Development, Trade & Tourism Committee sponsored the resolution, which passed by a near-unanimous vote.

“United States Senate ratification of the Law of the Sea treaty is an important first step in strengthening Alaska’s position as a player in international Arctic affairs. Without ratification, national boundaries in the Arctic cannot be finalized and the United States and Alaska cannot fully participate in the Arctic Council and other Arctic forums,” Rep. Bob Herron, D-Bethel, said. “Ratification of this treaty will allow the United States to claim an area of extended continental shelf north of Alaska about the size of California – an area 163-thousand square miles in size and likely rich in mineral and hydrocarbon assets.”

Herron, The EDT&T Chair, says the U.S. is the only Arctic nation yet to sign-on to the pact and Alaska has the most to lose by failing to do so. “The United States has been active in negotiating this treaty over several decades, and arguably stands to benefit more from the treaty than any other nation,” Herron said. “Ratification will allow the United States to make claims to extended continental shelf areas in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic oceans equal to twice the size of Spain, approximately 400-thousand square miles”

The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea was entered into force in 1994, and establishes a treaty regime to govern activities on, over and under the world’s oceans. Herron says U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is working towards getting a ratification vote on the Senate floor, and told legislators in her speech last month to a joint session of the Legislature that a resolution in support would help her make her case to colleagues.

HJR 19 now moves to the Alaska Senate for consideration.

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