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Alaska Congressional Delegation Wary of Funding for Climate Change-impact Proposals

Federal funding for Arctic climate-change impacts … 

President Obama took a step last week toward delivering on some of the promiseshe made in September during his historic trip to Alaska.

“I want you to know (that) as your president, I’m here to give you the support that you need,” the president told a crowd at a stopover in Kotzebue.

Credit Joaqlin Estus/KNBA
Kivalina, located at the end of a spit in northwestern Alaska, is one of several villages threatened by climate-change accelerated coastal erosion and seal-level rise.

Obama asked Congress to fund several projects to help the state cope with climate-change impacts, including $400 million to help relocate a handful of villages along Alaska’s western coast threatened by erosion.

The state’s congressional delegation welcomed the requestsincluded in the president’s $4 trillion federal budget plan. But they disagreed on some of the particulars, such as how to pay for the village relocations.

“His idea is he’s going to take the revenue sharing from Louisiana, Texas and the other Gulf (of Mexico) states and transfer it to Alaska,” Congressman Don Young said. “You know that’s not going to happen.”

Young says it’s politically unfeasible to take money from revenue those states generate through oil produced offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Instead, he proposes funding the projects through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Or by using money Alaska would earn from its own offshore oil production, a source of revenue he’s long argued for – and which the president disagrees with.

“He’s been adamantly opposed to that,” Young said.

Credit KUAC file photos
Rep. Don Young and Sen. Lisa Murkowski

Sen. Lisa Murkowski prefers to pay for the projects through a “resiliency” fund paid-for by ramped-up oil and gas production – a measure approved last year by the Energy Committee, which she chairs.

“They would be able to access a resilience fund that came about by increasing domestic energy production,” she said.

Murkowski and Young both applauded Obama’s $150 million requestfor initial work on a polar-class icebreaker to augment the nation’s tiny fleet of three vessels, all of which are old and one of which is drydocked in Seattle and likely headed for the scrap heap.

“That’s something that we’ve been pushing on for a long time, and he’s clearly agreed with that,” Murkowski said.

Young says the $150 million is barely a down payment on a heavy icebreaker, which is estimated to cost at least a billion dollars. But he says it gives a boost to efforts by him and others to grow the nation’s icebreaker fleet.  

Editor's note: This story has been revised for posting online.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.