Senator Murkowski E-Newsletter for the week of February 7, 2014
I spent an unseasonably warm week in Alaska around Martin Luther King Jr. day – it was unlike anything I had ever experienced in Alaska in January. I drove out to Alyeska, hoping to get a day of skiing in but when the temperature was 55 degrees in Indian and Bird Creek I opted for a hike instead. Even with the odd weather pattern, I had a great time visiting with many of you across the state and appreciate each and every one of you for sharing a piece of your daily lives with me.
State of the Union:
When I got back to Capitol Hill, it was time for the President’s ‘State of the Union’ speech. I have to say that I was underwhelmed by his overall message. While millions of Americans watched and hoped to hear the President express a willingness to work with Congress in a bipartisan fashion to really help move this nation forward, we heard him declare to Congress that he intends to use executive actions to get his way.
“Go it alone” is not governing, I think we all can agree. President Obama said he wants 2014 to be a ‘Year of Action.’ If he wants to follow-through on that claim, we all need to be part of the conversation – and the President should not be making decisions important to our country unilaterally.
We need to work together to expand opportunities that create good paying jobs. Let’s work on some of the bipartisan initiatives in the energy sector – which is truly the bright spot in our nation’s economy. We all want a ‘Year of Action’ but it’s going to take more than the President’s “pen and phone”. It will take true engagement with Congress.
I’m here ready to work for Alaska.
(Click on the image above to listen to my take on the State of the Union)
Mining is one of the most important industries in Alaska, and many products, particularly electronics rely on an increasingly diverse mix of minerals. Despite this, America’s foreign mineral dependence has risen significantly, threatening our economy and security. America is ranked worst in the world in permitting delays, which often halts the development of new and needed mines. This past week the Energy Committee held a hearing about the importance of critical mineral legislation.
(Click on the image above to listen to the opening statement at the hearing)
Good news recently came from Wal-Mart in their decision to continue buying and selling Alaskan seafood. I was pleased that Wal-Mart decision makers took me up on my invitation and traveled to the state before making a final decision on whether to continue to carry Alaskan seafood. Alaska’s sustainable wild seafood continues to be its own best advocate. We know that our fisheries and our commitment to sustainability should never be in doubt. I know Alaska looks forward to a long, healthy, and delicious relationship with Wal-Mart’s customers nationwide.
Right between Christmas and New Year’s – when most of us were focused on spending time with our friends and family – NOAA released a draft guidance addressing the potential impacts of man-made sounds on marine mammals and opened it up for comments. The problem was, they only gave 30 days for input on this technical and incredibly significant issue for Alaska. By the time most of us got back to work in January, we only had a few weeks left, and many in Alaska weren’t even aware of the draft guidance or comment period. Determining what noise levels are allowed in our waters potentially means limiting our military, shipping, fishing, and development activities. I support a responsible balance between human activity and nature, but we can’t rush this process without the opportunity for a review.
The story ends with good news. After I wrote to NOAA and requested that they extend the comment period to allow for better public participation, they agreed and extended the draft comment period until March 13, 2014.
You can read and comment on the draft here: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/acoustics/guidelines.htm
Alaska Air National Guard:
This past week, I met with Combat Search and Rescue personnel from the 176th Wing of the Air National Guard: Lt. Col. Michael Griesbaum, Deputy Operations Group Commander, Major Matthew Calabro, Chief of Tactics and Capt. Brock Roden, Combat Rescue Officer. They were in D.C. to provide an update of their operations to Lt. General Joseph Lengyel, Vice Chief of the National Guard Bureau. They also gave presentations to House and Senate Congressional Defense Committee staffs. I am impressed with and very thankful for all they do for Alaska and our country.
(Lt. Col Michael Griesbaum, Major Matthew Calabro, Capt. Brock Roden in my D.C. office.)
(Toured the Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center while in Alaska. This is a state of the Art radiology machine. Very impressive technology and a great staff.)
(Met with students at Wasilla Lake Christian School. It is always great to talk to students across the state.)
(This was a first! My House concocted a special coffee for my visit. My House is a non-profit organization that provides training and services for homeless youth in the valley. Kaladi Brothers works with the homeless and trains future baristas, providing them with marketable skills. My thanks to all those who work to support these young people in need.)
(I met Robbie Martin, a brewer at Last Frontier Brewing Company in Wasilla. He gave me a tour of the brewery and of course some samples! As a co-chair of the Brewers Caucus, I’ve introduced legislation to help small brewers across the state.)