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Liz Ruskin, APRN

lruskin (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  | About Liz

Secretary of Defense Affirms Need For Arctic Emphasis

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter affirmed on Tuesday the need for a U.S. military strategy for the Arctic as Russia builds its military in the north.

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March 3, 2015

Alaska Senators Split On Homeland Security Funding Bill

The U.S. Congress tonight approved a one-week continuing resolution to avoid a partial shut down of the Department of Homeland Security. Earlier today, Alaska’s two Republican senators split over a bill that would fund the department for the rest of the fiscal year.

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February 27, 2015
Beached logs pile up in Shoal Cove on Revilla Island in the Tongass National Forest. A new report challenges old-growth logging spending in the forest. (Jim Baichtal/USFS)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski Skeptical Of Forest Service’s Tongass Plan

Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell defended his management of the Tongass National Forest today to the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who chairs the panel, says the service isn’t allowing enough timber sales to keep what remains of the logging industry in Southeast Alaska in business.

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February 26, 2015
The Department of Defense's first U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter (JSF) aircraft soars over Destin, Fla., before landing at its new home at Eglin Air Force Base, July 14, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joely Santiago)

Air Force Officials Say F-35 Program Back On Track, Eielson Remains Preferred Location

The F-35 aircraft, the new fighter the Air Force wants to keep at Eielson Air Force base, has been plagued by cost overruns and equipment failures, but Air Force brass told a U.S. Senate Committee this morning those problems are in the past.

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February 25, 2015

Sec. Jewell on the Hot Seat in Murkowski’s Committee

Sen. Lisa Murkowski confronted Interior Secretary Sally Jewell today at a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The subject was the president’s proposed budget for the Interior Department. But Murkowski used the occasion to bash Jewell for recent department decisions blocking oil development on the North Slope.

February 24, 2015

Murkowski, Jewell Spar Over North Slope Oil And Gas Development

Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell faced off in a Senate hearing Tuesday morning in Washington.

February 24, 2015

Arctic Drilling Regs Require Relief Rig; Shell Sees ‘Critical’ Flexibility

The Department of Interior today released proposed new Arctic-specific drilling standards for offshore oil exploration. They would require an Arctic operator to have a well cap at hand, but more controversially, a rig on standby that can drill a relief well within 45 days if there’s a blowout.

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February 20, 2015

Alaska Tops Gallup’s Index of Well-Being

Gallup today released its annual Index of Well-Being, and for the first time, Alaska tops the list. The researchers who produce the Gallup-Healthways report say Alaska residents had the highest well-being in the nation in 2014.
The Gallup report doesn’t attempt to reconcile its findings with all those other lists that have Alaska at or near the top: Suicide rate, sexual assaults per capita and domestic abuse.

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February 19, 2015

Murkowski Concludes Obama Aims to Kill Alaska’s Pipeline

President Barack Obama has stopped in Alaska to refuel, but he plans to make his first real trip to the state in August, in the company of Secretary of State John Kerry. Or so says U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski. She let it slip during her annual address to the Alaska Legislature today, a speech aimed primarily at fighting the administration’s moves to shield parts of the Arctic from oil development.

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February 18, 2015
Murkowski Turns Sec. Kerry’s Gaze North

Murkowski Turns Sec. Kerry’s Gaze North

Sec. of State John Kerry’s agenda these days is dominated by the world’s hot spots: Iran, Syria, Ukraine, Yemen. U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski met with him this week to move his focus to a cold spot: the Arctic. “The secretary is very focused on issues as they relate to climate, so that aspect of the Arctic, I think it’s fair to say, he is engaged, ” she said after the meeting. “I don’t think that he has the bigger Arctic picture, the other Arctic pictures.”

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February 13, 2015
Sullivan Stands With House on DHS Funding

Sullivan Stands With House on DHS Funding

Funding for the Department of Homeland Security will run out February 27, unless Congress can resolve an impasse over immigration policy riders the House included in its funding bill. Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan today stood with conservative lawmakers, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, calling on the Senate to pass the House bill.

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February 12, 2015

Senators Grill EPA Clean Air Chief over CO2 Rule

In the U.S. Senate today, the Environment and Public Works Committee took up a plan by President Obama to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The proposed EPA regulation would require a 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide by 2030. Republicans call it federal overreach, and Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan had more objections than time allowed.

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February 11, 2015

U.S. Senators Try Again to Kill Vessel Discharge Regs

Alaska fishermen have three years before the EPA is supposed to begin regulating deck wash, bilge water and other liquids discharged from small vessels. U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski this week introduced a bill to permanently block the regulation for commercial vessels under 79 feet. Senate co-sponsors include Alaska’s Dan Sullivan, and California Democrat Barbara Boxer.

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February 5, 2015

EPA Administrator Insists Water Rule isn’t a Power Grab

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy today defended a proposed Clean Water Act rule to a joint committee of Congress. Republican critics charge is an egregious case of federal overreach, and the rule is of special concern in Alaska.

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February 4, 2015

Another Congress, Another Bill to Rename it Mount Denali

Sen. Lisa Murkowski has filed a bill to forever change the name of Mount McKinley to Denali. As in past years, it will no doubt be blocked by lawmakers from Ohio, the birth state of President McKinley. Murkowski says it’s still an important cause.

“It’s something that Alaskans look at in the state and are just reminded that there are decisions that are done for us, outside the state, without consultation,” she said.

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February 4, 2015

Vet Suicide Prevention Bill Passes Congress

The Senate today unanimously passed a bill aimed at preventing suicide among veterans. U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan said it’s an important bill for Alaska, which has the highest number of vets per capita and also the highest rate of suicide.

“As an officer in the Marine Corps both on active duty and in the Reserves, I’ve personally witnessed the struggles, at times tragic, that some of our servicemen and women undergo,” he said in a speech on the Senate floor.

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February 3, 2015

Pipeline Coordinator Still Shuttering Shop While Obama Calls for Funding

The budget President Obama sent Congress this week includes $1 million for the office of the federal coordinator for the Alaska natural gas pipeline. But the current coordinator, Larry Persily, says he’s still shutting down his offices in Anchorage and Washington, D.C.

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February 3, 2015

Arctic Standards Won’t Be Ready For Shell’s Return

After Shell’s troubled 2012 drilling season in the far north, the Interior Department began working on Arctic-specific standards for offshore drilling. But those new standards aren’t done yet. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell says they won’t be in place to guide Shell’s planned return to the Chukchi Sea this year.

“We’ll be holding them to the standards that we’ve held them to before, with upgrades and proof that they can do what they say they do before they’re allowed to go up there,” Jewell told reporters in a press call today, primarily talking about the president’s budget for her department.

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February 2, 2015

Shell Says It Plans Offshore Arctic Drilling This Year

The CEO of Royal Dutch Shell says the company intends to return to the Chukchi Sea this summer to drill exploratory wells. But CEO Ben van Beurden says Shell still needs permits, among other challenges. “So, will we go ahead? Yes, if we can,” he said at a press conference in London.

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January 29, 2015

Conoco Dials Back Investment in NPR-A

ConocoPhillips Alaska says it is “slowing the pace of investment” in its Greater Moose’s Tooth 1 project, in the northeast corner of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. Company president Trond-Erik Johansen says they are “deferring the final investment decision.”

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January 29, 2015