Are you interested in Arctic Issues and how your candidate will handle these issues at the Congressional level? We can study the record in some cases.
The following is from the desk of Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell, now candidate for State Senate Treadwell. He is very knowledgeable on these important issues and I appreciate his sharing this information with me; this is a kind of long, but good, read. Please feel free to share with others. Enjoy, LeadDog
Juneau World Affairs Council
Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell Remarks
Wednesday, February 16, 2011, Juneau
I want to talk today about “Why the Arctic Matters.” To Alaska… To America… To the World.
I speak today as a state official, as Lieutenant Governor of a State that makes America an Arctic nation. Tasked — happily I might add — by our Governor, Sean Parnell, to be the state’s liaison to the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, and lead on Arctic Council and Northern Forum issues.
My tenure as a former chair of the US Arctic Research Commission saw the first national Arctic policy written in 15 years the completion of the largest coordinated international Arctic research program in human history (the International Polar Year, 2007-2009) the historic minimum coverage of Arctic sea ice (2007) and of course, the time that our nation and four others began work to carve up the seabed of the Arctic Ocean into new sovereign territory under the Law of the Sea.
America is an Arctic nation because of Alaska.
Remember the debate about buying Alaska? Seward’s Folly? Walrussia? A “sucked orange”? — Today, we have those same arguments about the value of the Arctic.
We often remind ourselves …and the nation and the world…that Arctic resources are valuable, that the value of the Arctic isn’t just what it is, and what it has, but where it is (location, location, location), and that our goals are to sustain our economy, our environment, our health and our culture.
Let me take you around our neighborhood for a moment.
– Eight Arctic nations.
– Oil and gas have tremendous potential in all of the Arctic and Alaska specifically
– Shipping of major significance, today and tomorrow
– Strategic area for global air transport, and strategic to the defense of the United States
– Rich in fisheries and biodiverse.
– A climate regulator for the world, and a storehouse of fresh water
– And historic in the settlement of North America, Eurasia, and South America.
To sum, and to repeat: Today, the Arctic helps feed the world, fuel the world, and defend our country. It is a key link in the global supply chain with aviation — and will be increasingly so with shipping. Our minerals are strategic. Our scenery inspires. Our history — and our people — have much to teach. That’s why the Arctic matters to the state, the nation, and the world.
With that introduction, let me speak to three themes the State of Alaska is following closely in national and Arctic policy this year – as we, the nation, and the world respond to the great changes happening in the Arctic.
First, I want to address the adequacy of our nation’s science program, and stress how important it is for ocean policy planning, decision-making in the OCS, for territorial claims, and for endangered species decisions.
Second, we are concerned that the U.S. is not yet prepared to make the investment decisions we need to make to protect our assets and interests in the Arctic. The Governor – in testimony to Congress over 18 months ago – spoke to the need for new icebreakers, Arctic ports, forward basing for Search and Rescue. Yesterday’s announcement that our only working Polar Class icebreaker, the Polar Sea, will be decommissioned in 2011 is disappointing. A decision to build one or two new polar class icebreakers to replace those built in the 1970’s has again been deferred for another study. Yet Alaska’s coastline deserves the same level of protection –– for border security, for fisheries enforcement, for environmental response, for law enforcement, for search and rescue — as other states.
This is not an “addition” issue — it is an allocation issue.
Third, I will address what’s happening in international cooperation and efforts to strengthen the Arctic Council and the Northern Forum, two groups the State works with closely.
1. Planning for the changing Arctic Ocean:
Arctic Ocean Action Plan: As part of President Obama’s ocean policies, an “action plan” for the Arctic Ocean is being prepared this year. “Ecosystem based management”… “marine spatial planning”… or any other new federal governance plans in the Arctic must include resident participation and be authorized through appropriate legal means. Arctic residents — the hardy folks who eke out an existence in the harshest of climates — will be valuable contributors to these conversations. Any such effort requires transparency, cooperation, and state and local acceptance.
The Federal government has recently made many decisions relating to Outer Continental Shelf development. Along with oil spill research, there is also a need for research on drilling technology and baseline data collection on habitat. The State of Alaska and local communities must continue to take an active role in the development process — and the federal government and its agencies should do significant outreach to get local input, and to share information with Alaskans.
Long-term policy decisions should also be informed by extensive ecosystem research. To date, the research gaps are enormous. For example, critical habitat determinations and new Endangered Species Act listings should be formed on science that is planned, funded and carried out in the transparent manner prescribed by the Arctic Research and Policy Act, and by the laws creating the North Pacific Research Board and the North Slope Science Initiative. While I will discuss the Arctic Council and the Northern Forum in a moment, I want to stress that these international bodies are working on plans as well.
International focus on ocean acidification must include the current and potential impacts on the ecosystems of the Bering Sea and the Arctic Ocean – contain waters already more corrosive to carbonate (lower carbonate ion concentration) than in the equivalent Arctic water masses in the Atlantic sector. What is the current impact of acidification on species that are particularly susceptible to dissolution.
Even though there is a moratorium on Arctic fisheries in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), fisheries research in this region must continue. For the last two years, there has been a fishing moratorium in the northern waters — but there is a lack of any significant research or data to support the moratorium. We’ve agreed — informally — to make sure our biologists know what is going on in the Arctic…and we’re hopeful that Arctic Council agreements on monitoring also give us a good baseline for future management decisions. There is a critical need for increased research to establish baseline data and to inform decision-making in the future. Additionally — the types of research needed must first be identified… and schedules should be established to carry out the research.
2. Do we need more rules, or resources?
Much of what I’m about to say reflects the position taken by our Governor, Sean Parnell, in his first Congressional testimony after becoming Governor in 2009.
An immediate increase in investment in Arctic infrastructure is foremost to Alaska and the United States for responsible resource development. Investment in Arctic infrastructure would do much more to improve the safety, security, and reliability of transportation in the region – a goal set in January of 2009, when President Bush issued an Arctic policy document for the United States that Alaskans had worked on extensively.
There are two significant pending events occurring this year: The Arctic Council’s Search & Rescue Agreement, and the Coast Guard’s Maritime Traffic Routing Study. These will demonstrate the need for follow-up infrastructure investment. Infrastructure needs to include new polar-class icebreakers, ports in the Bering Sea and the Arctic Ocean, aids-to-navigation, and forward basing for U.S. Coast Guard and Air National Guard aircraft.
For the United States, this changing ocean means we need a robust icebreaker fleet. A National Research Council study out five years ago now called for replacing the two Polar class ships now in port in Seattle – the Polar Star and the Polar Sea. Other studies and assessments of the Coast Guard’s “high latitude” needs have followed.
In Alaska, our governor and Congressional delegation have called for construction of new icebreakers. But instead —- the federal government says we need more studies.
3. How do we cooperate? Who owns what in the Arctic?
International cooperation in the Arctic must be strengthened — with the force of both international law and ratification of the Law of the Sea. I hope to lead a renewal of attention on the work of the Northern Forum, which brings northern regions together to share best practices and to speak on common issues that our national governments seldom care for — or even understand. In the Arctic Council, I have made it clear that Alaska’s position is to support international cooperation — but not to allow this mechanism — or others outside America — to determine what we do inside our boundaries.
Alaska must be involved in pending discussions to resolve international borders — and there are border differences we have with Canada and Russia. Completion of the Statewide Digital Mapping Initiative (SDMI) and offshore delineation of a U.S. extended continental shelf claim, will help carry these objectives forward. Governor Parnell is on record as supporting ratification of the Law of the Sea, and new territory that will be added to the United States under UNCLOS – approximately two Californias in size, outside our 200 mile limits – will primarily be in Alaska.
The Law of the Sea Treaty will allow the United States to legitimize its Extended Continental Shelf claims, and join other Arctic nations in formulating Arctic-specific rules for shipping, environmental protection, and resource development. To that end, the state should participate in and host Arctic policy conferences that stress pan-Arctic cooperation.
The ongoing cooperation between the United States, Canada and other Arctic nations to research seafloor mapping, vessel tracking and other issues must continue to probe the depths of the Arctic’s secrets.
The United States and Alaska must work together to reestablish leadership in Arctic and sub-Arctic oil spill research. This will require appropriate planning and funding. As offshore oil and gas exploration is in process now in Russia, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, and Norway – as well as Alaska – industry and government efforts to exchange best practices and establish sensible international standards is appropriate.
Other nations are actively pursuing oil resources in the Arctic. I believe those urging the United States not to go ahead are ignoring the fact that the Arctic is a neighborhood. Arctic and northern offshore oil is vital to Alaska’s economy, to Russia’s economy, and to Canada’s economy in several provinces, including the Yukon, Alberta, Newfoundland. Arctic oil is key to Greenland’s aspirations for independence. Arctic oil is key to Iceland’s attempts at energy independence. Arctic and North Sea oil is key to Norway’s economy — and oil funds virtually everyone’s retirement there.
Rather than refuse to drill here, the United States needs to be working more closely with its Arctic neighbors to make sure drilling – wherever it occurs in the North – happens responsibly. We need to push for great oil in ice spill research. We need to ensure safe shipping. There are a number of joint industry and government efforts toward this end. We all know that a mess in one part of the Arctic will hurt activity in all parts of the Arctic.
The only oil spill research program in the United States dedicated to Arctic/subarctic oil spills is based at the Prince William Sound Oil Spill Recovery Institute in Cordova. Other work is being done around the country… in Canada… and largely – with support of many doing work in Alaska – in Norway. I believe Alaska must work with the federal government to establish greater leadership in Arctic and sub-Arctic oil spill research.
Alaska should be actively involved in discussions with Russia, Canada, other nations in the International Maritime Organization toward developing safe, secure and reliable shipping regimes in the Arctic Ocean and through the Bering Strait.
The United States and Canada already manage and promote commerce on a joint waterway…and have done so for close to a century. We think there are lessons to be learned from the St. Lawrence for the Arctic. A master of a vessel passes through the US-Canadian border 23 times between the mouth of the St. Lawrence and Chicago…yet the two nations work hard to ensure that regulation and services are as seamless as possible. We even promote this seaway together to the world.
I close with this picture of an Inuit man in Greenland–he is related to residents in Canada, Alaska, Russia – the neighborhood.
Whatever we do in the Arctic, however things change in the Arctic, we need to make sure those changes happen with the people in mind. Arctic cultures are hardy …they have sustained life here for close to 10,000 years. And as this neighborhood works together, we must support the values, the history, the culture that have sustained us throughout.
I hope you will share any input you may have with my office. The Arctic is vitally important for our world and our economy, and I look forward to the benefits Alaska will reap from Arctic research and development, and from cooperation with our Arctic neighbors.
Thank you very much.