Senator Murkowski's eNewsletter for May 28, 2010

Friday may 28, 2010

Update on the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

LAM in the Gulf

Sen. Murkowski this week visited the Gulf of Mexico as part of a bipartisan Senate delegation to examine the damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Pictured with Sen. Murkowski are, from left, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Sens. Dick Durbin, Mary Landrieu, Jeff Bingaman and Sheldon Whitehouse as they view response efforts first hand during a flyover of areas affected by the spill. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Cmdr. Rob Wyman).

On Monday, I traveled to Louisiana with five other Senators and two Cabinet Secretaries to observe the economic and environmental impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Our delegation flew over oil-slicked waters, received briefings from response coordinators, and spoke with local residents about how this disaster is affecting their lives and livelihoods.

I was deeply saddened by what we saw and heard in the Gulf of Mexico and returned to Washington with an even stronger desire to hold BP accountable for the full costs of this disaster. That goes not only for environmental cleanup, but also the financial losses being suffered by an expanding number of individuals and businesses. I believe this tragedy will become even greater if it repeats the history of the Exxon Valdez, which left thousands of Alaskans hanging as litigation over damages persisted for 20 years.

The day after my visit to the Gulf Coast, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing that I had requested on liability and financial responsibility for offshore energy production. Administration officials and legal experts testified about the current system for oil spill liability, and offered recommendations for improvements. I am confident this hearing will allow the members of our committee to develop policies that reflect the need for stronger environmental safeguards and the important contribution that offshore production makes to our energy supply and economy.

In addition to increasing the current liability cap, it is important that we increase the size of the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which stands at $1.66 billion. I have introduced legislation to increase the fund and am working on a broader legislative plan as well. As part of the Fiscal Year 2010 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill, I introduced an amendment that would create an expedited process to pay the claims of those who are in desperate need of immediate help and establish multiple resource centers and assistance programs to facilitate the overall process. Gulf residents and local governments would have options for pursuing their claims in court or under the claims process - flexibility that will ensure they receive their due as quickly and as fairly as possible.

My colleague from New Mexico, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, has described the tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico as "America's problem." He's right - and this week, between the bipartisan tour to assess the impacts of the spill, our committee's third hearing on issues that have arisen from this disaster, and the legislative proposals that I am crafting, I am continuing to work on responsible solutions. As Alaskans, we know all too well how an environmental disaster can devastate life. We can share what we have learned from the Exxon Valdez disaster so that Gulf residents do not have to repeat history.

Finally, while the Gulf of Mexico spill is far from Alaska's shores, it is having a detrimental impact on our state. The Obama Administration yesterday imposed a one-year delay on exploration in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, which was set to begin this summer. While all of us are committed to protecting Alaska's waters, I'm also committed to protecting Alaska's economy. If the delay is for a season to ensure we have the highest levels of protection in place, in light of lessons we are learning from the Deepwater Horizon, that's one thing. But if it means that existing permits are allowed to lapse - effectively ending Shell's participation in Alaska - that's simply not acceptable.

Murkowski Expresses Condolences on Passing of Governor Hickel

With a very heavy heart, I attended Gov. Hickel's funeral in Anchorage last week. Like many Alaskans, I was deeply saddened when I learned of Gov. Hickel's passing. A man of deep vision, intense strength and strong backbone, Wally embodied the Alaskan spirit of liberty and independence.

In remembering Wally, we recall a man who had a truly remarkable career, spanning Alaska's history from territory to state. He not only served as Alaska's governor twice, he also served in the highest levels of the federal government as President Nixon's Secretary of the Interior.

Throughout his esteemed career, he always fought hard for what he thought was right, often bucking the establishment in both Alaska and in Washington. He stood up to President Nixon when he thought the Vietnam War was wrong and to the federal government when he thought it was denying Alaska the right to use its lands. He also stood up to the oil companies to ensure that Alaska realized the value for the exploitation of its resources.

Wally was also a fighter for statehood and a champion of the lands claims of Alaska's Native peoples, and through his work, he left a lasting legacy for generations to follow. I extend my deepest sympathies to Ermalee and his family.

Murkowski Secures Disaster Relief Funding to Help Ease Yukon River Chinook Salmon Fishery Failure

Recently, the Senate Appropriations Committee, at my request, included $5 million in a 2010 supplemental appropriations bill to help ease the Yukon River Chinook salmon fishery failure.

The economic disaster assistance would help fishermen and communities affected by the fishery failure for the Yukon River Chinook salmon fishery. In 2008, the commercial salmon harvest was 89 percent below the five-year average, and the fishery remained closed through 2009. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke declared a Yukon Chinook salmon fishery failure this past January due to a fishery resource disaster. The $5 million in funding is based on the estimated commercial fishing losses for the 2008 and 2009 fishing seasons.

Low returns in the Yukon River Chinook salmon fishery have taken a heavy toll on the communities that depend on this fishery for their livelihood, and I am pleased to be able to include $5 million in disaster assistance as part of the 2010 supplemental appropriations bill. The Senate passed the supplemental bill Thursday evening.

From D.C. to your P.C. - Sen. Murkowski Launches ‘Ask Lisa' Webcast

Ask Lisa 002

I recently launched a new video webcast called ‘Ask Lisa' where I will answer a few questions each week that have been submitted from Alaskans through my new media platforms Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and by email. I'll record my responses and post the video to YouTube.

This webcast is another way for me to be accessible and responsive to Alaskans. I see this as a great way to be in touch with more Alaskans on issues that they care about and want me to respond to.

If you'd like to see the past webcasts, you can visit the ‘Ask Lisa' page on my website. While there, take a moment and send me a question for an upcoming installment of ‘Ask Lisa.'

Murkowski Cosponsors Legislation to Extend Moratorium on Discharge Permits for Commercial Vessels

I recently cosponsored legislation with California Sen. Barbara Boxer that would provide a three-year moratorium on a requirement that certain commercial vessels under 79 feet long obtain permits for discharges under the Clean Water Act.

Two years ago, legislation I introduced was enacted placing a two-year moratorium on the permit requirement while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Coast Guard conducted a study to evaluate the affects of discharges related to the normal operation of such vessels. The results of that study will determine whether and how the discharges should be regulated by the EPA through National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits.

The two-year moratorium from my original legislation is set to expire on July 31, 2010; however, the results of the EPA and the Coast Guard studies have not been fully analyzed making it nearly impossible for the EPA to have a permit in place by July 31. Without the extension, these types of vessels - including Alaska's 9,700 commercial and charter fishing vessels - would immediately be in violation of the Clean Water Act for an incidental discharge of any kind without this extension. Our bill recently cleared the Environment and Public Works Committee by unanimous consent, and I will be working with my colleagues to pass it in the full Senate before the current moratorium expires in two months.

Senate Financial Reform Bill Is Bad for Community Banks, Credit Unions and Consumers

Last week, the Senate passed a financial regulatory reform bill that I was unable to support. Although I support Wall Street reform, I have serious concerns that it will be America's community banks, credit unions, and small businesses - not Wall Street - that will bear the brunt of the pain under this bill. In the name of consumer protection, this bill proposes to create a massive new Washington bureaucracy with the authority to engulf huge swaths of our economy in burdensome regulation. Alaska's small financial institutions, car dealers, and even potentially our orthodontists could all be subject to costly new regulations under this bill. And we should be clear that it will be the consumer who will pay for unnecessary regulations through higher prices, a more intrusive government and less access to credit.

In addition, the legislation does absolutely nothing to address the role Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac played in nearly bringing down our financial system. So far, the bill to the American taxpayer for the Fannie and Freddie bailout is roughly $145 billion, and the losses keep mounting. If Congress were serious about ending bailouts, it would start by ending the bailouts to Fannie and Freddie; without that action and additional improvements to the bill, I was unable to support the measure.

Reflecting on Memorial Day

This Memorial Day, we recognize the men and women of our military who have served our country. I call on all Alaskans to thank those who have served and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of freedom.

From the members of the Alaska Territorial Guard who served before Alaska was a state, to our veterans from conflicts past, to the men and women serving now, we thank you all for your service to our country. We also express our sincere thanks to our military families, as they too have borne the sacrifices of military service.

But most importantly, on Memorial Day, we remember those who went to war and did not return. We remember and honor our fallen heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country. We remember their spouses, their children and their families as they grieve. When called to serve, these brave men and women answered, only to give all of themselves so that others may be free.

Let us always be mindful that our freedom is not free. It is defended by the vigilance and service of men and women who selflessly volunteer for their country. Let us never forget the commitment and sacrifice these men and women have made so that others may know freedom on this Memorial Day and every other day of the year.

Murkowski and Begich Announce Mobile Office Locations

This week, Sen. Begich and I announced the first dates and locations for our mobile office visits. Staff members from both of our offices will visit communities in Alaska to meet with constituents and community leaders. During mobile office hours, our staffs are happy to accept casework requests and listen to constituent concerns. All information gathered during these visits will be directed to me and Sen. Begich for review.

Next week, June 1-4, members of our staffs will visit Whittier, Cooper Landing, Seward, Ninilchik and Homer. During the week of June 7-14, our staffs will visit Delta Junction, Tok, Glennallen, Copper Center and Valdez. During the week of June 14, our staffs will be in Southeast. The visits will be posted on our websites once the details are finalized.

The dates and locations of the mobile office are as follows:

Tuesday, June 01, 2010:
Whittier Council Chambers
P-12 Building
11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010:
Seward Post Office
507 Madison Avenue
10:00 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.

Cooper Landing Post Office
38741 Snug Harbor Road
3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Thursday, June 03, 2010:
Ninilchik Post Office
15700 Kingsley Road
Noon - 3:00 p.m.

Friday, June 04, 2010:
Homer Post Office
3658 Heath Street
10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Monday, June 07, 2010:
Delta Junction Post Office
266 Richardson Highway
10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Tok Post Office
1314 Alaska Highway
3:15 p.m. 6:15 p.m.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010:
Glennallen Post Office
9998 Aurora Drive
10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Copper Center Post Office
101 Old Richardson Highway
3:15 p.m. - 6:15 p.m.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010:
Valdez Consortium Library
212 Fairbanks Street
11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Photos from the Road

APD Officer

Sen. Murkowski recently attended the Alaska Police Memorial Day Ceremony in Anchorage. The keynote speaker of the event was Anchorage Police Department Officer Jason Allen (pictured here) who was shot multiple times during a drive-by shooting in January.

Matt Knoll

Sen. Murkowski visits with graduate Keegan Phillips and his family at Monroe Catholic High School in Fairbanks. Sen. Murkowski is an alumna of Monroe, class of 1975, and was this year's commencement speaker.

Make it Monday

Sen. Murkowski spoke recently at the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce's ‘Make it Monday' forum along with Sen. Begich and Rep. Young. In her remarks, Sen. Murkowski spoke about Washington's assault on Alaska. Click here to read more from Sen. Murkowski's remarks.

  • 05/29/2010
    Kodiak Crab Festival and Parade
    10:00 a.m.
    Kodiak, AK

  • 05/30/2010
    Byers Lake Memorial Day Ceremony
    2:00 p.m.
    Denali Park/Talkeetna, AK

  • 05/31/2010
    Korean War Veterans Association Memorial day Ceremony
    9:30 a.m.
    Anchorage, AK

  • 05/31/2010
    Wreath Laying Ceremony at Mat-Su Wall of Honor
    1:00 p.m.
    Wasilla , AK

  • 06/03/2010
    Address to the Big Lake Community Council and Chamber of Commerce
    10:30 a.m.
    Big Lake, AK

  • 06/03/2010
    Willow Community Meeting
    Meeting 1:30 p.m.
    Willow, AK

  • 06/03/2010 
    Talkeetna - Community Meeting
    7:00 p.m.
    Talkeetna, AK

  • 06/04/10
    Mobile Office: Homer Post Office 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
    Homer, AK

  • 06/04/10
    Anchorage - Midnight Sun Shootout Chairty Banquet
    5:30 p.m.
    Anchorage, AK

  • 06/07/10
    Mobile Office: Delta Junction Post Office
    10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
    Delta Junction, AK

  • 06/07/10
    Mobile Office: Tok Post Office | 3:15 p.m. - 6:15 p.m.
    Tok, AK

  • 06/08/10
    Mobile Office: Glennallen Post Office
    10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
    Glennallen, AK

  • 06/08/10
    Mobile Office: Copper Center Post Office
    3:15 p.m. - 6:15 p.m.
    CooperLanding, AK

  • 06/09/10
    Mobile Office: Valdez Consortium Library
    11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
    Valdez, AK

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