Fairbanks Daily News - Miner: Murkowski lauds U.S. focus on the Arctic

JUNEAU — Alaska’s senior U.S. senator said Friday that national leaders heard first-hand this week of the need for greater investment in and attention to the Arctic.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski joined two White House Cabinet members at a multilateral Arctic Council meeting Thursday, where officials from eight nations signed a binding search-and-rescue agreement for the region.

The council also approved a project aimed at taking candid stock of capital infrastructure — and shortfalls therein — needed to oversee a busier Arctic.

“We’re going to have to commit some resources in the north” to address the expected gap, Murkowski told reporters Friday.

She said the expectation faces the prospect of a fight in Congress, given calls for deficit reduction, but was glad Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar helped lead the country’s delegation to hear of the problem directly.

The council also launched a two-year review of oil spill response preparedness in the north.

Murkowski said she has asked for a study of a northern Alaska deep-water port and has sought funding for investments in new polar class icebreakers. She said she believes Congress will also consider more funding for Arctic research in general.

 The multilateral council was formed in the 1990s to help navigate difficult environmental protection and economic factors in the largely undeveloped Arctic. It includes as permanent members the United States, seven other northern nations and a handful of indigenous groups.

 Murkowski said this year’s high-profile U.S. delegation “elevates” acknowledgment of the United States’ role and responsibility in the region. She said Clinton’s vocal recognition of the duty that position carries was “music” to her ears.



Source: By Chris Eshleman. Originally Published May 13, 2011