Sen. Murkowski eNewsletter 01/09/2009

Sen. Murkowski welcomes Mark Begich to the United States Senate

Sen. Murkowski looks on as Mark Begich is sworn in as Alaska's new Senator.

This was a busy week in the nation’s capital with the opening of the 111th Congress and the swearing-in of Alaska’s new United States Senator, Mark Begich, who becomes only the seventh senator to represent the state. In keeping with Senate tradition, I had the privilege of escorting Mark down the center aisle of the Senate chamber for his swearing in by Vice President Cheney. Alaskans know that the strength of our three-member delegation in Washington comes from strong working relationships and our intense desire to do good for the State of Alaska. I welcome Mark and his family to Washington and look forward to working with him in furthering Alaska’s agenda in the 111th Congress.

Sen. Murkowski reaffirms Alaska values

Senator Murkowski signs the Unity Pledge.

It’s also been a busy and exciting time in Alaska as our state celebrated its 50th anniversary of statehood. I was home over the holidays and was able to take part in several statehood events.  On January 2nd, I participated in the signing of the Unity Pledge.  Alaskans from across the state were on hand to reaffirm the values that the framers of the Alaska Constitution laid out 53 years ago.  Together we pledged to take care of the resources that draw people from far and wide to our great state every year. We pledged to protect the culture and the languages of Alaska’s first peoples. These are living cultures that enrich our lives.  We acknowledge that there is strength in the diversity of Alaska’s people.  Alaska is not a place where power is imposed upon the people by institutions controlled by just a few of us.  Alaska is powered by the energy of our people, our sense of community and our willingness to give to Alaska more than we take.

Sen. Murkowski attended the statehood gala

Sen. Murkowski and husband Verne at the Alaska Statehood Gala.

Later that evening I joined nearly 2,000 revelers at the Dena’ina Center for the Alaska Statehood Gala.  The evening featured performances by the Anchorage Symphony, the Anchorage Opera and several Alaska Native dance groups.  It was an honor to join with so many Alaskans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of statehood.

U.S. Postal Service releases Alaska Statehood stamp

Sen. Murkowski and Gov. Palin with a future Iditarod sled-dog at the unveiling of the Alaska Statehood Stamp.

On January 3rd, I attended the U.S. Postal Service’s official release of the Alaska Statehood commemorative stamp.  Hundreds of Alaskans were on hand to be the first to receive the stamp that features a photograph by Jeff Schultz of Anchorage of a dogsledder taken in 2000 near Rainy Pass in the Alaska Range.  The stamp is a wonderful depiction of the beauty and independent spirit found throughout the state.

Sen. Murkowski attends Conference of Young Alaskans

I also attended the Conference of Young Alaskans.  A group of 55 delegates between the ages of 16 and 25, from across the state, met to tackle some of the challenges facing Alaska. The conference has its origins in a resolution passed by the Alaska Constitutional Convention on February 5, 1956, that specifically lays out the role that youth will play in the future of our state.  It reads, “We bequeath to you a state that will be glorious in her achievements, a homeland filled with opportunities for living, a land where you can worship and pray, a country where ambitions will be bright and real, an Alaska that will grow with you as you grow. We trust you; you are our future. We ask you to take tomorrow and dream; we know that you will see visions we do not see. We are certain that in capturing today for you, you can plan and build.”  I know of no other State in the union whose founding principles speak explicitly to the role of youth in the future of the State.  I am excited that today’s youth have accepted the challenge to look to the future and make our state even greater than it is today.

Sen. Murkowski meets with Department of Energy Secretary-designate Chu

As incoming ranking member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I sat down with Secretary of Energy-designate Dr. Stephen Chu in my office this week to discuss the new administration’s energy agenda.

Dr. Chu, as energy secretary, would be responsible for a number of policies vital to our nation’s energy security, so I wanted to hear his ideas for tackling the challenges presented by climate change and our need for affordable energy before his confirmation hearing Jan. 13.

Dr. Chu, a Nobel-winning scientist, said he would direct the Department of Energy to take the lead on developing the new technologies we’ll need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions without harming the economy. Chu said he plans to start by increasing energy efficiency and conservation efforts to reduce demand for fossil fuels.

We spoke about the need to streamline the department’s loan guarantee program for renewable energy and the need to develop a workable solution for handling nuclear waste so that nuclear power can be a safe and carbon-free part of our energy mix. I also brought Dr. Chu up to speed on the North Slope natural gas pipeline project and how urgently both Alaska and the country need our gas.

I invited Dr. Chu to visit Alaska as soon as possible after his confirmation to see firsthand the opportunities our state holds for developing its renewable natural resources, such as wind, geothermal and ocean energy. I also want to show him the incredible technological advances the oil and gas industry has made with directional drilling techniques and other efforts to protect the environment while producing the energy our nation depends on.

I look forward to hearing more from Dr. Chu at his upcoming confirmation hearing before the full energy committee.

Inauguration Day Information

On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. I look forward not only to this historic event, but also to visiting with some of the many Alaskans who will be traveling here to witness and take part in the inauguration.  Below I’ve compiled some tips and events that will help make your trip safe and enjoyable.

-  The Alaska State Society will host a reception on Sunday, January 18, an afternoon tea to celebrate Martin Luther King Day on Monday, January 19 and a Champagne Brunch on Tuesday, January 20 in honor of the inauguration.  Click here for more details and locations.

-  Senator Begich and I will host an open house for visiting Alaskans at 902 Hart Senate Office Building on Wednesday, January 21 from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

-  Visitors are strongly encouraged to use public transportation when traveling within the D.C. metro area.  Most of the streets in the downtown area and around the Capitol will be closed, making driving in the city very difficult.  Parking spaces are limited even on regular days in D.C., so public transportation will be the way to go.  

-  I strongly recommend purchasing transit tickets online to avoid delays on Inauguration day.  Visitors using the Washington Area Metro can buy day passes in advance, plan their trips and routes and get more information on Inauguration Day transit here.  Those traveling to D.C. on Amtrak can purchase tickets and receive Amtrak’s recommendations for Inauguration Day here.  For those wishing to ride the MARC train into Union Station tickets can be purchased here.

-  Expect to be outside for long periods of time.  Wear comfortable shoes and warm clothing since you will likely have to walk and stand for a long time in security lines.

Additional information on Inauguration Day 2009 can be found at the District of Columbia’s Inauguration website, the U.S. Senate’s Inaugural website and the Presidential Inaugural Committee’s website. I look forward to seeing those of you who are traveling to D.C. soon.