Senator Murkowski E-Newsletter for the week of April 8, 2014
March was a whirlwind of a month. Spring back in Alaska allowed many of you to make the long trek back to D.C. so I had the chance to meet a lot of Alaskans on Capitol Hill to discuss issues. I also spoke with many of you while I was up in Alaska for a week traveling through the Railbelt.
I will be back in Alaska soon for a Senate State Work Period and look forward to connecting with many more of you across the state.
Like thousands of Alaskans, I continue to be appalled by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell’s rejection of a 300-1 land exchange through the Izembeck National Wildlife Refuge for a lifesaving road and for the people of King Cove. The Secretary rejected the road two days before Christmas with the promise to work on an alternative solution. In fairness, the only affordable, safe and reliable option is a road.
When the Secretary appeared before me at the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the Interior Department’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget request at the end of March, she suggested that the U.S. Coast Guard could build a permanent air station on the Alaska Peninsula to satisfy King Cove’s emergency medical needs. This idea is not feasible or acceptable. We all appreciate the brave work of the men and women of the Coast Guard, but it is not realistic, appropriate, or fair to expect them to solve this problem.
I checked with the Coast Guard command in Alaska and was told that establishing a permanent station at Cold Bay would cost an estimated $165.8 million in today’s dollars. In addition, the Coast Guard estimates it would cost another $11.4 million per year to crew, operate, and maintain the remote base.
While I appreciate the Coast Guard’s willingness to assist whenever possible, the fact remains that non-maritime medical evacuations are not part of its core mission. It is also deeply irresponsible to force the members of the Coast Guard to repeatedly put their lives at risk with those emergency medevacs when a road – as stipulated in the law Congress passed and President Obama signed in 2009 – would provide safe, year-round access, and be used for emergency purposes only.
Since the Secretary’s rejection of the road there have already been five Coast Guard medevacs out of King Cove. Fortunately no lives have been lost this year, unlike previous years. The ability of the people of King Cove to cross the refuge to reach emergency medical treatment is an issue of environmental and social justice. I will continue this fight so long as the lives of Alaskans are unnecessarily put at risk.
(ABC World News and Yahoo filmed “Fine Print on the King Cove "Road to Somewhere
(Click to watch me speak to the Secretary on her heartless decision.)
Justice for Ted Stevens
The Justice Department’s investigation of Ted Stevens was a miscarriage of justice with huge ramifications – among them, a loss of Alaska’s faith in the idea of ‘Justice for All.’ The fact that investigators played fast and loose with the evidence gives us all chills; if they could do this to one of the most influential Americans in Congress – and the Alaskan of the 20th Century – what would keep them from doing the same to any of us?
It’s tough to believe that it’s been five years since the Attorney General tossed out the entire case against Senator Stevens because of the unethical conduct by the Department of Justice’s prosecution team. It’s just as tough to believe the Department of Justice and FBI have yet to come forward and detail how they punished those involved in this high level misconduct.
Recently, the new FBI Director testified before the Senate Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Committee and I took the opportunity to see where things stand, asking whether anyone had been punished, what the Department of Justice is doing to reassure Americans that there is justice inside the walls of the Justice Department. FBI Director Comey informed me that the agent in question was “severely reprimanded,” but it remains to be seen whether the punishment fits the crime and the information from the investigation hasn’t been shared. I will continue to press the FBI and the DOJ for answers. It is reprehensible to think that a good man’s reputation and career was ruined by others without consequences.
(Click on the photo above to watch a snippet from the hearing)
I am pleased to introduce the most recent edition to my Veteran Spotlight featuring Kenai resident Gary Turner. Gary is a decorated retired U.S. Air Force Captain. Now Director and CEO of The University of Alaska Kenai Peninsula College, Turner is continuing his life of service by helping to educate the next generation of Alaskans and veterans.
(Click on image for excerpt of Gary talking about the duty to serve. Click HERE for the entire interview.)
During his Veteran Spotlight interview, Turner shared that as a young person, service to his country was one of the furthest things from his mind. That is, until his brother-in-law lost limbs in Vietnam just weeks before he was set to come home. After that traumatic event, Gary decided to enlist in the Air Force and began his career.
Over the next fifteen years, Turner served all over the world, including as Director of Public Affairs for Eielson Air Force base in Fairbanks. He was named as one of the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year in 1982, the only public affairs specialist to ever receive the honor. Upon retirement, Turner worked at NASA before returning to Alaska with his family and settling on the Kenai Peninsula. Turner’s continues to serve our nation, his community and veterans statewide.
If you have a family member or friend in the community you think has a story to share about their military service, email me at Spotlight@Murkowski.Senate.Gov.
Coast Guard Vice Admiral Zukunft
I had the chance to meet with Vice Admiral Paul F. Zukunft, the Pacific Area Commander for the United States Coast Guard to discuss America’s Arctic future, icebreakers and his pending nomination to be the 25th Commandant of the Coast Guard. I took the opportunity to continue pushing for the Administration to give Arctic issues a higher priority and express my strong support for the Coast Guard and all it does for Alaska and the nation.
(It was great to meet with Vice Admiral Zukunft.)
NOAA Administrator Dr. Sullivan
The Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Dr. Kathy Sullivan, stopped by my office for the first time since she was confirmed by the Senate last month. I took this chance to discuss with Dr. Sullivan Alaskan concerns including the Chinese shellfish ban, electronic monitoring on small fishing boats, and the potential for radiation from the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami to enter Alaska waters and what NOAA and other agencies may do to help our state monitor and respond to any issues that may arise.
(Dr. Sullivan, former astronaut, gave me a picture she took of the Arctic while in space 22 years ago!)
Celebrating Seward's Day Remembering the 1964 Earthquake
(Click on the Image above to watch me speak on Seward's Day.)
(Reminiscing on the Senate Floor about the 1964 Earthquake. Click on the image above to watch the speech.)
(This year, in support of Governor Parnell’s Choose Respect March, staff from my office and Senator Begich’s office, the Governor’s D.C. office and a group of Alaskans in D.C. marched in front of the Capitol in solidarity.)
Olympians on the Hill
(U.S. Winter Olympic athletes stopped by for a meeting while they were in Washington, D.C. Greg Shaw, Sled Hockey, (Won Gold); Jocelyn and Monique Lamoureux, Ice Hockey (Won Silver); Erik and Sadie Bjornsen, Cross Country Skiing, Holly Brooks, Cross Country Skiing.)