Murkowski, King Form New Senate Caucus To Focus on Issues Related to the Arctic

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By Andrea Vittorio

March 4 — Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Angus King (I-Maine) are forming a new Senate caucus focused on Arctic issues.

Its aim is to demonstrate why the Arctic matters to all 50 states, not just Alaska, and it will focus on a range of topics, including national security, the environment, trade and maritime affairs.

“We really want to try to educate,” Murkowski said on the Senate floor March 4, adding that “awareness of what is happening in the Arctic has captivated the imagination and the attention of people around the world.”

“It should captivate the imagination and the attention of every member of this body,” she said.

The Arctic is receiving more attention as rapidly melting ice due to climate change makes the region more accessible for oil and gas development, shipping and fishing.

The caucus's formation also comes one month before the U.S. assumes the chairmanship of the Arctic Council, which serves as a venue for coordination among the U.S., Canada, Russia and other nations that border the Arctic or are interested in it.

Focus on Legislation, Treaty 

Murkowski said she soon plans to introduce legislation that would help to develop what she called “building blocks” in the Arctic, such as better mapping of the region and better ice forecasting.

King indicated the caucus may also take a fresh look at the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), an international treaty that governs commercial, navigational and environmental aspects of the world's oceans.

The U.S. has not joined the treaty, although President Barack Obama and past administrations have supported it. Doing so would require Senate approval.

“It's certainly going to be one of the topics we discuss,” King said March 4 at a scientific forum on the Arctic held by the Consortium for Ocean Leadership.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which Murkowski chairs, is holding a hearing March 5 focused on the Arctic—the first of its kind for the committee, Murkowski said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Vittorio in Washington at avittorio@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com