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[January 17, 2014]
Commission Co-Chairs Create Package of Arctic Policy Legislation
(Targeted News Service Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) ANCHORAGE, Jan. 16 -- The Alaska Senate Majority issued the following news release: The Co-Chairs of the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission (AAPC), Senator Lesil McGuire (R-Anchorage) and Representative Bob Herron (D-Bethel) are preparing to head to Juneau for the 2014 legislative session armed with an Arctic legislation package. The package will include two bills aimed at infrastructure: an Arctic investment bill and House Bill 165, already introduced by Rep. Herron, creating an Arctic Port Authority. Additionally, the co-chairs will introduce a resolution speaking to the upcoming US Chairmanship of the Arctic Council.
"The Alaskan Arctic is in great need of investment in infrastructure, to improve the lives of those who live there, and for responsible resource development," said Rep. Herron. "Our two infrastructure bills are designed to help kick-start that investment." Senator McGuire is preparing a bill that would find ways to creatively fund Arctic Infrastructure. There is an estimated $100 billion of private funding that is looking for an investment home in the Arctic. The idea is to give the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) tools to create partnerships between the state and those looking to invest.
"The next important step in the evolving Arctic arena is infrastructure development in the region" said Sen. McGuire. "With increased activity in the Arctic, it will be paramount that Alaska is prepared not only to deal with the activity, but also to capitalize on it. In order to do that, Alaska must have the capacity to respond to emergencies, lend logistical expertise, harbor ships, and monitor changing weather and ice conditions. This requires not only a deep draft Arctic port and roads, but also increased telecommunications and energy infrastructure. We need to ensure that our natural resources are developed in a responsible way, but also that tourism can flourish and that local economies can take advantage of the new Arctic." The financing mechanisms of the Arctic Infrastructure bill would be very similar to the Sustainable Energy Transmission and Supply Development Fund (SETS) that was created by Senator McGuire in Senate Bill 25, during the 2012 Legislative session. Senator McGuire and Representative Herron are looking for innovative ways to draw in private investment to partner with the state's public funding. One way to do that is to allow AIDEA to issue bonds or bond guarantees to banks willing to enter into a financing deal with private partners.
Another key piece of this Arctic legislation package is HB 165, which was introduced by Representative Herron in March of last year. Senator McGuire is preparing to introduce the same bill in the Senate. The bill seeks to establish an Alaska Arctic Port and Development Authority as a public corporation of the state. Though the bill saw little movement last session, it is currently gaining a lot of traction.
"HB 165 would create an Arctic Port Authority, a holistic mechanism to encourage port and related infrastructure development with the entire region in mind," said Representative Herron. "The bill is meant to begin a discussion - the form this will take is by no means final. We are going to work with stakeholders to make sure this legislation would not interfere with existing port operations, such as Nome and Dutch Harbor. We encourage and seek further input." Representative Herron and Senator McGuire are also introducing a resolution promoting Alaskan priorities for the U.S. Chairmanship of the Arctic Council, which begins in 2015. The resolution also asks the State Department to involve Alaskans in the decision of who will be appointed to lead the Arctic Council. "We've said it 735,000 times: Alaska is America's Arctic and as such we must have a large say in Arctic Council priorities when the United States is Chair," said Representative Herron. "And the State Department should also consult Alaskans before deciding who will lead the Arctic Council." For the last year, the AAPC has been holding meetings across the state gathering information and public testimony in order to prepare a preliminary report for the legislature. Meetings began in Juneau last March, and then went on to Barrow, Unalaska, Fairbanks and most recently Anchorage. The 26 member Commission was divided into policy teams that cover a wide swath of subjects pertaining to the new and changing Arctic. The teams include: Governance and Indigenous Perspectives, Science and Research, Planning and Infrastructure, Oil and Gas and Mineral Resources, Security and Defense, Marine Transportation, Response Operations: Search and Rescue/Oil Pollution, Energy and Power, and Fisheries and Wildlife.
The AAPC will deliver their preliminary report to the legislature on January 30, 2014. The final report will be delivered on January 30, 2015 - one year from now.
"One of the things I have learned working with Commission members is the Arctic is changing. Not just the ice cover, or the landscape, but the very way we think about the Arctic," explained Representative Herron. Senator McGuire continued, "And, the way we will do business in the Arctic needs to change as well. Alaskan's can be leaders in responsible Arctic development and it is our intent as AAPC Co-Chairs, to jumpstart that Arctic evolution with this important legislation." Senator McGuire and Representative Herron are looking forward to hearing feedback on the Commission's Preliminary Report after it is released January 30. They also are ready to assist should any other legislators want to introduce new Arctic-related legislation derived from recommendations in the Report.
After January 30, please check www.akarctic.com for news on the release, other updates, details about public comment and upcoming meetings.
For more information, please contactJesse Logan in Senator McGuire's office at 907-465-2995 or Graham Judson in Representative Herron's office at 907-465-4942.
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