U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, voiced concerns April 13 that the Obama administration has failed to provide enough funding in its proposed fiscal 2011 budget for the Coast Guard to fulfill its missions in Alaska, particularly in the Arctic.
Murkowski raised the issue with Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad W. Allen, who was testifying before the Senate Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee, of which she is a member.
In an April 13 press release Murkowski reported on her questions and Allen’s testimony from the hearing.
“Our heavy icebreakers are reaching the end of their service lives. Is the Coast Guard currently positioned to address the safety and security concerns the nation faces in the Arctic as we see increased maritime activity due to the melting sea ice?” Murkowski asked Allen.
Allen said the U.S. needs three operational Polar class icebreakers in order to adequately ensure the safety and security of mariners in the Arctic region. The Coast Guard has three polar class icebreakers, the Polar Sea, the Polar Star and the Healy. But the icebreaker Healy is primarily used to support scientific research. And the Polar Star is undergoing extensive repairs and won’t be available for operations until 2013.
“We have some challenges after that including funding a crew for the Polar Star once it comes out of dry dock and that’ll have to be dealt with in the coming years,” Allen said.
He explained that what is misunderstood about icebreakers is the fact that the Arctic will not be ice free, but rather will be ice-diminished: “Even in the summer up there, there are very large pieces of ice that present a hazard to shipping and with wind from the proper direction that can come together and create ice flows that have actually trapped fishing vessels in the summer. We need icebreakers up there to provide us with command and control platforms to provide forward basing for any mission response we have to do up there.”
Allen said he’s raised these concerns with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
Another problem Allen identified was the lack of a deepwater port in the area.
“Right now the lack of infrastructure off the North Slope to respond to anything is really inhibiting our ability to be effective up there,” he said.
Alaska would gain $3.3B from offshore drillingIn the wake of the Obama administration’s decisions on oil and gas drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf, Americans for Tax Reform is re-circulating partial results from a February 2009 report by the American Energy Alliance, a pro-development group. Americans for Tax Reform, or ATR, indentifies itself as a non-partisan coalition of taxpayers and taxpayer groups who oppose all federal, state and local tax increases.
“With Alaska facing a predicted $1.3 billion shortfall and 8.5 percent unemployment, Americans for Tax Reform continues to urge President Obama, Congress, and state elected officials to look toward energy exploration and production to create jobs, decrease the cost of energy and increase our domestic supply,” ATR said in an e-mail sent to Alaska’s press corps, reminding recipients that per the Alliance’s 2009 OCS economic report “full development” of Alaska’s offshore resources would increase the state’s economic output by $3.3 billion annually, add 11,242 long-term, “well paying jobs” to the state of Alaska over the next seven years, and bring in $292 million in additional tax revenue annually, without raising taxes.
Check out the full report here: http://bit.ly/1Otbpv.
ATR’s release is not making the news splash that another, more recent, study by an international team of biologists is making. That study is about oil from the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill still being found in area ducks.
Check out CBC’s news report: http://bit.ly/aM82cQ.