The Sunday DELEGATION
Big money for ports, fighting the fentanyl crisis, energy talks in Tokyo
Hello, and Happy Sunday from our nation's capital! Always happy to hear you chime in with your Alaska Daily hot takes, keep them coming! Are you following THE DELEGATION on Twitter? If not, follow us here.
Spooky season is almost over; sad for some, but an exciting chance to buy discounted Halloween candy on November 1st for others. As you probably know, both chambers of Congress are still in recess until after the election. So, while I have nothing for you in terms of roll call votes, there is still a flurry of congressional action worth throwing together in this very newsletter. Let's jump in.
Welcome to THE SUNDAY DELEGATION!
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Big $$$ for Alaska's Ports and Ferry Terminals
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, was a pretty big deal when Senators Murkowski and Sullivan, and the late Congressman Young, voted for it last year. The latest investment in Alaskan infrastructure underscores just how critical IIJA's funding streams are for the State of Alaska.
This week, the Alaska Congressional Delegation announced that four coastal communities in Alaska would receive a total of $112 million from the IIJA for improvements to port-related infrastructure and ferry terminals. Notably, these funding announcements are the first of their kind in Alaska directly attributable to the passage and enactment of the IIJA.
The Alaska Delegation was effusive in its praise for these IIJA port grants. Senator Lisa Murkowski, a key negotiator of the IIJA, was especially excited. In a statement from her news release, Murkowski made the case for her legislative prowess and its benefit for Alaska.
"In my work as an appropriator and as a key architect of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, I've secured funding to help build, expand, and improve ports and harbors across our state to ensure that key ports such as the Port of Alaska and the Alaska Marine Highway System has the necessary support. "These new Port Infrastructure Development Program grants will be the first of many additional opportunities to deliver vital port related infrastructure funding to our state that will bring benefits to Alaska for decades to come," Senator Murkowski said.
Senator Dan Sullivan also noted his work on infrastructure, touting previous successful pushes for infrastructure funding.
"Serving as Alaska's principal transportation hub for the vast majority of goods the U.S. military and Alaskans rely on, the port needs significant reconstruction to combat corrosion, something I've pressed repeatedly as a member of both the Senate EPW and Commerce Committees,” remarked Sullivan. “Working together with Senator Murkowski and Congressman Young, we've been able to secure roughly $120 million in federal grants for the Port of Alaska in the last three years.”
Congresswoman Mary Peltola, who on the campaign trail has praised the IIJA and the late Congressman Young's work on the bill, got a heads up from U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg himself.
"I was thrilled to receive the call from Secretary Buttigieg this afternoon and learn about these major investments headed for Alaska," said Congresswoman Peltola. "Alaska's ports play a vital role in both our nation's national security and supply chain. These investments will ensure that long overdue repairs are made which in turn will benefit not only Alaskans but all Americans."
Curious about the specifics of this funding? Here's a breakdown, courtesy of the Office of Senator Lisa Murkowski.
Port of Alaska: $68.7 million to reconfigure and realign the shoreline within the "North Extension" (the area north of the existing general cargo terminals) at the Port of Alaska, one of the nation's commercial strategic seaports. The Project includes the demolition of a sheet pile wall, removal of approximately 1.3 million cubic yards of material, and construction of a shoreline revetment of armor rock.
Port of Adak: $10.1 million for repairs and updates to Pier Five, the primary supply pier for this remote Alaskan village. The grant will fund planning and permitting work, removal of the deteriorated timber pile fender system, repairs to damaged concrete piles and caps, installation of a high-energy absorbing fender system, and installation of new sewer, firefighting water, potable water, electrical and communications utilities, and LED lighting.
Sand Point Floating Dock Project: $5.3 million for installing more than 1,000 feet of new floating dock and supporting access, utility, and safety infrastructure within the existing harbor. The Project will complete the Aleutians East Borough's long-term efforts to fully build out the community's harbor.
Prince William Sound ferry terminals: $28.2 million for upgrades and modifications at three Prince William Sound ferry terminals— Cordova, Tatitlek, and Chenega—to accommodate Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) ferries. The Cordova improvements include removal of floating fenders and construction of fixed-fender mooring dolphins and catwalks and modifications to the stern berth to accommodate the ferries. The Tatitlek improvements include the provision of new end-loading ferry terminal structures, including a vehicle transfer bridge and bridge support float. The Chenega improvements include the construction of a new ferry terminal facility, including a pile-supported approach dock structure, vehicle transfer bridge, bridge support float, and two mooring dolphins.
Peltola's fight against fentanyl
Alaska Congresswoman Mary Peltola, who has already introduced and passed a bill despite only being a Member of Congress for a few weeks, has focused on consensus-building and bipartisanship on the campaign trail. This week, she introduced bipartisan legislation to combat the fentanyl crisis, reinforcing her reputation as a pragmatic lawmaker.
On Tuesday, Peltola, alongside Congressmen David Trone (D-MD), Hal Rogers (R-KY), and Doug Lamborn (R-CO), introduced "Bruce's Law," new legislation authorizing Community-Based Coalition Enhancement Grants to expand and support federal agencies working to raise awareness about fentanyl.
The Senate companion is being led by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH).
According to the representatives' joint press release, 2021 saw a record-high 108,000 drug overdose deaths across the country, and adolescent fentanyl deaths jumped 350% between 2019 and 2021. In a statement, Peltola conveyed the seriousness of the fentanyl crisis.
"Alaska saw a 71% increase in fentanyl-related deaths from 2020 to 2021. This epidemic is not only an issue in my state but a serious issue nationwide” said Congresswoman Peltola. “There are very few families across our nation that have not had a loved one experience opioid addiction or death. This legislation is critical to ensuring our communities have the resources they need to educate the public on the dangers of fentanyl. I'm proud to join my colleagues in advocating for its passage."
Bruce's Law is named for Robert "Bruce" Snodgrass, a 22-year-old Alaskan who was among the 72,000 Americans who died from a synthetic opioid-related overdose in 2021. Read more about Bruce’s Law here, courtesy of the Office of Congressman David Tone.
Senator Dan Sullivan and Ambassador Rahm Emanuel collaborate on energy policy in Tokyo
In Tokyo this week, U.S. Ambassador to Japan and former chief of Staff to President Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel, hosted Senator Dan Sullivan, members of the Biden Administration, Governor Mike Dunleavy, and various government and industry partners from the U.S. and Japan for a summit on Alaska Liquified Natural Gas (LNG). The summit was an opportunity for advocates to continue building support for the proposed Alaska LNG Project, which would build an 800-mile pipeline from the North Slope to the Cook Inlet. The summit comes amid Russia's continued illegal war on Ukraine, which has rattled global energy infrastructure and increased the price of energy virtually everywhere. Skeptics of the Alaska LNG project have been adamant that the Gulf Coast is a more appropriate location for LNG exports. Alaska, however, has better proximity to Asia, and Japanese officials are interested in Alaska LNG as an alternative to Russian energy.
Senator Sullivan has levied frequent criticism against the Biden Administration for its energy policies. One would be forgiven, then, for being surprised at the sight of Senator Sullivan with President Biden's Ambassador to Japan. However, this summit has a mutually beneficial political upside for both Sullivan and the Biden Administration. Sullivan, a long-time advocate for the project, bolsters his authority and public profile on the issue. The Biden Administration benefits as well. With nine days left until the midterms and rising energy costs top-of-mind for many voters, the Administration can point to the Tokyo summit as proof that they're taking action on the energy economy.
“Over the last several months, my team and I have worked relentlessly on meeting with key stakeholders—investors, producers, engineering firms, Biden Administration and Japanese government officials—to educate them on this project. This action-oriented Alaska LNG Summit is an outgrowth of these meetings that we believe will advance the prospects of the Alaska LNG project. In particular, I want to thank Ambassador Emanuel for hosting this summit and for his tireless advocacy of Alaska LNG,” added Sullivan.
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