Murkowski Unveils Arctic Legislation to Reinvigorate America’s Arctic Role

Legislation Supports Responsible Research and Development in the U.S. Arctic

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) unveiled legislation aimed to raise the nation’s presence in the Arctic through two bills, the Arctic Policy Act (APA) and the Shipping and Environmental Arctic Leadership Act (SEAL Act). The APA takes steps to increase local and indigenous voices in federal science and policy in the Arctic while the SEAL Act establishes a congressionally charted seaway development corporation in the Arctic. As shipping and maritime traffic in the Arctic is expected to grow, the SEAL Act specifically establishes a corporation that will collect voluntary maritime shipping fees from vessels utilizing the region, which will fund resources and infrastructure necessary to ensure the safety, security, and management of the Arctic. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) is a co-sponsor of both the SEAL Act and APA.

“The Arctic is a region of global importance and should be treated as a national priority. The United States must invest in the infrastructure and assets needed to support a comprehensive Arctic strategy. The time for aspiration is over. It’s time that we get to work and move ahead with a plan that meets the challenge that the Arctic represents for America. It’s time for action,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski. “These two bills can provide the legislative direction needed to develop a comprehensive Arctic plan that our nation needs and also gives indigenous Alaskans a greater voice on policy and research. This legislation will also encourage those who use our Arctic waterways to contribute resources for the safety and management of the region. I look forward to working with my colleagues as we further develop Arctic policy for our nation.”

Arctic Floor Speech Snip 2

Click here to watch video of Senator Murkowski’s floor speech.

Click here for full text of Senator Murkowski’s floor speech.

Arctic Policy Act Highlights:

Click here for a one-pager on the bill.

  • Coordination: Permanently establishes the Arctic Executive Steering Committee within the Department of Homeland Security and provides the coordination necessary across agencies to advance an integrated plan for the Arctic.
  • Collaboration: Establishes an Arctic Advisory Committee to ensure that residents of the Arctic and Alaska Native people have a seat at the table for the development of policy. Additionally, the legislation calls for the establishment of Regional Tribal Advisory Groups, starting with the Bering Sea Regional Tribal Advisory Group, to advise the federal government as it shapes national priorities in the region. These tribal advisory groups will be empowered to provide advice on specific challenges or regionally-important issues. 
  • Indigenous Representation: Updates the Arctic Research and Policy Act of 1984 to add two additional indigenous representatives on the Arctic Research Commission, thereby providing greater opportunities to include traditional knowledge and community coordination in our nation’s scientific efforts in the Arctic, including efforts to study and understand climate change.

Shipping and Environmental Arctic Leadership Act Highlights:

Click here for a one-pager on the bill.

  • Collaboration: Establishes a congressionally chartered seaway development corporation in the Arctic. This Arctic-focused Corporation will work with representatives from NOAA, the State Department, the Coast Guard, and DOT—as well as representatives from the State of Alaska, the Alaskan business community, Alaskan coastal and subsistence communities and the Alaskan maritime labor organizations—to develop an Arctic shipping union who’s leadership will advocate for safe, secure, and reliable Arctic seaway development, and further ensure that the Arctic becomes a place of international cooperation rather than competition or conflict.
  • Fee-Based System: Tasks the new seaway development corporation to establish a system in the Arctic that will collect voluntary maritime shipping fees. The funds will be used to help cover necessary costs to build out Arctic infrastructure, such as ports and maritime shipping services, in order to ensure the safety and management of the region.
  • Ties with Arctic Residents: Requires the Corporation to work in partnership with Arctic residents and Arctic shippers to build an appropriate system that will support shipping in the Arctic, in such a way that will protect the environment and biodiversity of the ocean Alaskans depend on for food.

Background: Senator Murkowski is considered the leading expert among her Congressional colleagues on Arctic issues – and has worked continuously on Capitol Hill to raise awareness of the Arctic region. At the beginning of the 114th Congress, Senator Murkowski and Senator Angus King (I-ME) formed the Senate Arctic Caucus, to advance issues important to the Arctic and to the people who live there. Murkowski is the U.S. Representative to the Standing Committee of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region.

Related Issues: Arctic