- We are the state that makes the United States an Arctic nation, Senator Lesil McGuire said in her speech after the Alaska Senate on Tuesday passed a bill establishing an official state Arctic policy.
- It is fitting that Alaska is the first state to create an official Arctic policy, Senator McGuire, one of the main proponents of the legislation, said in a speech on the Senate floor, Alaska Dispatch News reports
The bill passed last month in the state House, and a relatively minor change made in the Senate State Affairs Committee must be reconciled before the bill wins final passage.
Fossil fuels and infrastructure
The bill bases a state Arctic policy on recommendations made by the 26-member Alaska Arctic Policy Commission.
When the commission released their final report in February they recommended the state to take several steps to enchance Alaska’s Arctic communities.
The recommandations include everything from protection of “economically vibrant” communities, to collaboration across all levels of government, and recognition of indigenous cultures.
To accomplish those goals, the bill advises the state to carry out the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission’s 32-point implementation plan issued along with its policy report. The plan recommends extraction of more fossil fuels, including coal; buildup of Arctic infrastructure, including port facilities;, among other actions.
With all of the international focus on the Arctic, we can’t let the perceptions of others, particularly the federal government, drive new development possibilities, McGuire said during her speech.
She cited the Obama administration for seeking to preclude oil development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and for removing parts of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, including the biologically important Hanna Shoal area, from future lease plans.
The Alaska Arctic Policy Commission is made up of 10 legislators and 16 community and business representatives, and is co-chaired by McGuire and Bob Herron, a Democratic member of the Alaska House of Representatives.