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Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, says declining Arctic sea ice, which has increased incentives for shipping through the Bering Strait and the Arctic Ocean, poses a greater risk to the marine environment than from oil and gas drilling in the Arctic.

The senator’s comments came during a Senate Oceans subcommittee hearing on Arctic marine activity chaired by Begich March 27 at the University of Alaska Anchorage consortium library.

“I’ve always said we face greater risks from the increasing traffic we’re seeing along Russia’s Northern Sea Route and later through Canada’s Northwest Passage, than we do from oil and gas drilling in the Arctic,” Begich said.

On Wednesday, several representatives from around the state and nation met to discuss what challenges lay ahead in the Arctic in light of increased traffic there, as well as the economic benefits.

Sen. Mark Begich, chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, held a field hearing on increased Arctic marine activity at the University of Alaska Anchorage. The hearing was also attended by representatives of the Interior Department, the Coast Guard and Shell Oil.

With the emotionally charged issue of same-sex marriage in the national spotlight this week during U.S. Supreme Court arguments, where does Alaska’s congressional delegation stand?

They are split. The lone Democrat, Sen. Mark Begich, is the only one to step forward as a supporter of gay marriage, what supporters often call a civil rights issue of marriage equality.

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) late Monday night added his voice to the growing chorus of Democratic senators announcing support for gay marriage ahead of Tuesday’s hearing at the Supreme Court.

“I believe that same-sex couples should be able to marry and should have the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as any other married couple,” the Alaskan senator said in a statement obtained by Buzzfeed.

“Government should keep out of individuals’ personal lives—if someone wants to marry someone they love, they should be able to. Alaskans are fed up with government intrusion into our private lives, our daily business, and in the way we manage our resources and economy,” he continued.

Begich says that Alaska is home to more than a third of the nation’s untapped hydropower. He adds that the proposed legislation would help develop fish-friendly hydro sites.

The act would allow the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to extend preliminary permit terms, and explore a faster process for hydropower development. The act also would direct the Department of Energy to further study hydroelectric power generation.

A voter ID bill that drew sharp criticism from U.S. Sen. Mark Begich on his recent visit to the Alaska Legislature is moving forward, with its sponsor denying the senator’s claims about the bill.

Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, said his House Bill 3 was the victim of “misinformation” spread by Begich, D-Alaska.

“Nothing whatsoever in House Bill 3 prevents anyone from voting if they are registered and motivated to vote,” he said Thursday, while chairing the House State Affairs Committee hearing his bill. Those who don’t have photo ID can present other forms of identification or cast questioned ballots, he said.

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich on Monday called on the Parnell administration and state lawmakers to make strong commitments to education, give greater support for children’s health insurance and eliminate any obstacles to voting.

He said he’s also worried about what he sees as trends to make voting more difficult in Alaska, particularly for Alaska Natives and other minority groups. The state last year sued over provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act, arguing, in part, that the requirement that the Justice Department approve redistricting plans or proposed election changes is unwarranted. That case is on hold pending the outcome of a U.S. Supreme Court case.

This week Alaska Senator Mark Begich introduced a bill that seeks to stem the tide of mislabeled seafood in the American marketplace. He says such actions hurts Alaska fishermen and cheats consumers.

He said his bill gives government agencies, such as NOAA Fisheries and the FDA better tools to deal with the huge pirate fishing industry.

Begich says Alaska has the right procedures in place to assure consumers that they are getting what they paid for, but he wants to shut down pirates passing off farmed salmon and Russian crab as being from Alaska.

KMXT: Begich Introduces Seafood Protection Bill