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Committee Passes Resolution Urging Congress to Take Leadership in Arctic Policy

SJR10 calls for appropriate funding for vessels and facilities as well as official Alaska delegate for Arctic Council

JUNEAU-Today, the Senate Resources Committee passed Senate Joint Resolution 10, sponsored by Senator Cathy Giessel, R-Turnagain Arm/North Kenai, urging members of the United States Congress to take a leadership role in guiding international Arctic policy by, among other things, providing appropriate funding to expand the U.S. Coast Guard’s Arctic operations and adding an Alaskan member to the U.S. delegation for the Arctic Council.

“Arctic policy affects Alaska unlike any other place in the lower 48,” said Senator Giessel.  “That’s why it is important for Alaska to have a designated voice in Arctic policy discussion.”

SJR10 asks Congress to provide appropriate funding to build icebreakers and other vessels and facilities needed to expand the Coast Guard’s Arctic operations.  Right now, Russia has 17 government operated vessels in its icebreaker fleet. Canada has six icebreaker vessels, with a seventh planned by 2017.   Meanwhile, the United States has three U.S. Coast Guard icebreakers, two of which are currently out of service. 

“Melting sea ice has opened up the Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route, both of which pass through the Bering Strait.  Because these new routes cut down on the time it takes to get from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, we are seeing a sharp uptick in the sea traffic along our coastline,” said Senator Giessel.  “Should disaster strike, whether oil spills or search and rescue missions, Alaska and the U.S. should be ready to respond.”

SJR10 will also help the U.S. establish its rights as an Arctic nation by urging Congress to map the United States outer continental shelf for the purpose of preserving and defending the nation’s sovereign territorial rights and being able to assess future resource development opportunities in the Arctic.

“Russia has already planted a Russian flag on the Arctic Ocean seabed and resumed strategic bomber flights over the Arctic region for the first time since the Cold War ended,” said Senator Giessel.  “They’ve also submitted a claim to an area that equals the size of Germany, Italy, and France.  So, our time to act is now.  The United States can’t afford to get any further behind in this important quest to establish a strong presence in the Arctic.”

SJR10 also urges the federal government to allow the Governor of Alaska to appoint a delegate and an alternate to join the nation’s official delegation to the Arctic Council.  The Arctic Council is a high-level forum of eight Arctic nations including the U.S., Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, and Sweden as well as six organizations representing Arctic indigenous peoples.  The Arctic Council promotes cooperation and discussion among Arctic nations on international Arctic issues such as sustainable development and environmental protection. In 2011, the Arctic Council signed its first binding agreement to coordinate Arctic  search and rescue missions.

“This is a chance for Alaska to be at the table as critical decisions are made about Arctic policy that will affect generations to come,” said Senator Giessel.  “It is important that Arctic policy actually reflects the people who live in the Arctic and that the needs of Alaskans are heard and acted on.”

Senate Joint Resolution 10 will now head to the Rules Committee to be scheduled for a vote on the Senate Floor.

For more information, please call Joe Byrnes in Senator Giessel’s office at (907) 465-4843.

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