US Senate candidates debate Arctic issues in Barrow

Barrow file photo by Steven Kazlowsk
Barrow file photo by Steven Kazlowsk

Sen. Lisa Murkowski and three challengers debated today in Barrow, in what is said to be the first U.S. Senate debate to take place above the Arctic Circle.

Independent Margaret Stock repeatedly came out against Republican candidates and policies. Stock says under Republican leadership, the country won’t be able to pay for icebreakers, ports and other Arctic infrastructure.

“If you have a political party that is dedicated to austerity and cutting taxes for the wealthy, then we’re not going to have the resources to do the things that I expect we will all agree here that we need to get done,” she said.

Stock, who has significant Democratic support, says she’s voting for Democrat Hillary Clinton for president.

The Democratic nominee, Ray Metcalfe, says he’s supporting Clinton, as does independent Breck Craig. Craig says Republican Donald Trump wouldn’t be a good president for the Arctic.

“And unless he can put a hotel here, he’ll probably will have no interest in in knowing anything about it,” said Craig.

Murkowski wouldn’t say how she’ll vote at the top of the ticket.

“I do not favor Mrs. Clinton, and I do not favor Mr. Trump,” she said.

The debate was sponsored by the Inuit Arctic Business Alliance and broadcast on KBRW. Moderator Rhonda McBride asked the candidates how they’d pay the high costs Arctic communities face due to climate change.

Metcalfe says oil companies should pay.

“I think the people who got rich bringing about all this global warming are the people that need to pay for moving the villages,” he said, though he did not specify how he thinks the tax or fee should be levied.

Murkowski says she’s trying to get a bill passed to create revenue-sharing, from federal oil and gas production, onshore and off.

“And from those revenues we create a tribal resilience fund,” Murkowski said. “That tribal resilience fund is available for everything from relocation of villages to making sure that communities’ needs are met.”

Stock says she wants revenue-sharing, too, with an even bigger share going to Alaska than Murkowski proposes.

“But to be direct the federal government is not going to have enough money to fully mitigate the huge costs of climate change in Alaska, Stock said. “We’re talking about $1 million per person in Kivalina to relocate, and Kivalina is going to be underwater in the next 10 years.”

Stock says the country should slow the rate of climate change, by supporting international agreements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and proceed with the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.

Craig also said the cost of moving villages is immense and will require funds from international organizations as well as the federal and state governments.

Libertarian candidate Joe Miller, who polls show is running second to Murkowski, did not attend the debate.


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Liz Ruskin covers Alaska issues in Washington as the network's D.C. correspondent. She was born in Anchorage and is a West High grad. She has degrees from the University of Washington and the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia. She previously worked at the Homer News, the Anchorage Daily News and the Washington bureau of McClatchy Newspapers. She also freelanced for several years from the U.K. and Japan, in print and radio. Liz has been APRN’s Washington, D.C. correspondent since October 2013. She's @lruskin on Twitter. She welcomes your news tips at lruskin (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  | About Liz

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