Liz Ruskin, APRN
lruskin (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | About Liz
The new Congressional session is barely underway, but Senate Democrats managed to derail Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s plan for Wednesday morning. She’d hoped to hold a hearing on the Keystone XL Pipeline in the Senate Energy Committee.
U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan was sworn in today, in the U.S. Senate Chamber, by Vice President Joe Biden. Sullivan is celebrating the milestone in a series of receptions and dinners in Washington this week, attended by scores of Alaskan supporters and family members.
A new Congress begins tomorrow and former DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan will be sworn in as Alaska’s eighth U.S. senator since statehood. Sullivan spokesman Mike Anderson says guests for the event include Sullivan’s family, Gov. Bill Walker and several state legislators.
On the other side of the U.S. Capitol, the entire House of Representatives is to be sworn in tomorrow, but Alaska Congressman Don Young won’t be present, says spokesman Matt Shuckerow. His older brother died a few days ago and Young is in California with family members.
The year 2014 has proved to be a slow one for Arctic shipping. Just 31 ships sailed between Europe and Asia across the Northern Sea Route, and 22 did part of the route. That’s down from a total of more than 70 in 2013. Malte Humpert, executive director of the Arctic Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, says this year has served as a reality check on some of the over-heated Arctic predictions of recent years.
The company trying to re-open the controversial Tulsequah Chief mine in British Columbia announced a setback this week. It says a big investor is pulling out of the project. Chieftain Metals Company says it will use a bridge loan to repay a $10 million advance from Denver-based Royal Gold. Chieftain had been counting on another $45 million from Royal Gold to develop the mine.
Gov. Bill Walker on Tuesday announced an agreement that could help sell Alaska liquefied natural gas in Japan, but the effort to build a trans-Alaska gas pipeline is meeting some resistance in Washington, D.C. Lack of political support there is forcing the federal coordinator for the Alaska gas pipeline to close up shop. Also, opponents of gas exports are raising their voice, and their targets include the pipeline Walker and many Alaskans pin their economic hopes on.
The campaign for U.S. Senate is over, but the accounting is not. The latest batch of campaign finance reports show Democrat Mark Begich spent nearly $10 million, and Sen.-elect Dan Sullivan spent$7.6 million, pushing the total spent on the race above $60 million. For some of the big contributors, the giving doesn’t end with Election Day.
Like governors before him, Bill Walker says the item at the top of his federal wish-list is opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil development. Alaska’s congressional delegation has been trying for decades, but Walker believes opening ANWR is politically possible.
President Obama today extended an executive action that puts Bristol Bay off-limits to oil and gas development.
Senator-Elect Dan Sullivan will come in with the lowest seniority of the 100 senators, primarily because he’s never held elected office before. But it doesn’t seem to have hurt him on the committee score. He’ll serve on Armed Services, Veterans Affairs, Commerce, and Environment & Public Works,
Mark Begich said goodbye on the floor of the U.S. Senate on Thursday. His six years in office end with this Congress.
The U.S. Senate and House on Wednesday passed a Coast Guard bill that includes a three-year moratorium on vessel discharge regulations for boats 79 feet and smaller. Both Alaska Senators spoke in favor of it. Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, argued from the Senate floor for a permanent fix but she says other lawmakers insisted on a temporary moratorium.
The Senate is expected to pass a major public lands package this week as a rider to the annual defense bill. Sen. Lisa Murkowski was one of the key negotiators on this controversial compromise, which has split advocacy groups on the right and left. Murkowski is planning more of the same when she becomes a committee chairman in the new year. What did it take to free these bills from the Congressional quagmire?
A bill to remove Sec. 910 from the Violence Against Women Act cleared the Senate today. But it’s unclear whether the bill can pass the House before Congress adjourns this week.
Sealaska Corporation would get land within the Tongass National Forest in a bill that’s moving quickly in the final days of Congress. It would turn over about 70,000 acres of the Tongass National Forest to Sealaska, mostly for logging and development. It’s part of a large package of public lands bills that’s been tacked on to a must-pass defense bill.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is holding hearings around the state on lease sale 193, in the Chukchi Sea. In its latest Environmental Impact Statement, BOEM says there’s likely more oil there, but also more risk of a large oil spill.
Alaska’s fishing industry is watching a deadline approach: Dec. 18. That’s the date tough new EPA regulations apply to commercial fishing boats, unless Congress intervenes.