WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today won a commitment from Hillary Clinton, President-elect Barack Obama’s Secretary of State nominee, that Arctic issues would be a priority with the Obama administration. Murkowski, during Clinton’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, reinforced the role of the United States as an Arctic nation, a view readily agreed to by Clinton, who promised that Murkowski would find a very receptive ear in the State Department regarding Arctic matters.


 “Our role as an Arctic nation is vitally important to this country.  Though many do not realize it, we are by virtue of Alaska an Arctic nation,” said Murkowski, a member of the foreign relations panel.  “The loss of summer sea ice is having a truly dramatic effect on the Arctic.  We have leadership opportunities to collaborate on research, on environmental issues, on issues as they relate to commerce, and we’re seeing more of those issues present themselves as we see a world out there that is more and more free of sea ice.”


Clinton responded that Murkowski has “been a leader on this issue, and I hope your time has come, Senator, because I believe that the issues of the Arctic are one of those long-term matters that will dramatically affect our commercial, our environmental, our energy futures that we have got to start attending to now.” 


Murkowski also emphasized the necessity of ratifying the Law of the Sea Treaty in order to deal with Arctic issues.  Clinton confirmed that she would support ratification, and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., confirmed that ratification was a priority for the Senate. 


The Law of the Sea Treaty would allow the U.S. to extend its sovereignty over an increased area of the Outer Continental Shelf, establish mineral and natural resource rights in the Arctic and object to other countries infringement on our rights, among other things.


Clinton voiced support for the Law of the Sea Treaty, saying, “The Law of the Sea Treaty is supported by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, environmental, energy, and business interests.  I have spoken with some of our naval leaders, and they consider themselves to be somewhat disadvantaged by our not having become a party to the Law of the Sea.”


Kerry added: “We are now laying the groundwork for and expect to try to take up the Law of the Sea Treaty.  So that will be one of the priorities of the committee.”


The White House recently released a comprehensive Arctic Policy calling for enhanced security, ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty, increased environmental protection, sustainable energy development, international scientific cooperation and greater involvement of indigenous people.