Sen. Stevens addresses joint session of Alaska Legislature

Posted: Thursday, April 12, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- Wearing a tie decorated with pigs, Sen. Ted Stevens addressed a joint session of the Alaska Legislature Wednesday, speaking on everything from oil and gas development to the national missile defense system and prevention of alcohol abuse.

''Someone once said there's no substitute for a genuine lack of preparation. You're going to experience that this morning,'' said Stevens as he launched into a nearly hour-long, wide-ranging, off-the-cuff talk. Afterward, he took questions from lawmakers and met with reporters.

Stevens blasted what he called extreme environmentalists who he said stand in the way of development of Alaska's resources. He cited challenges to logging in the Tongass National Forest, commercial fishing in the Bering Sea and oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

''We don't have a rural-urban divide. We have an extreme environmental-Alaska divide,'' Stevens said, prompting applause from the Republican-dominated Legislature.

Stevens said there currently are not enough votes in Congress to win support for ANWR drilling. But he said he expects higher gas prices this summer will force many Americans to re-think their opposition to drilling. Stevens also said he hoped energy companies would become more aggressive in searching for natural gas in Alaska.

Stevens said he has asked the Bush administration for $15 million to help Alaska villages enforce alcohol restrictions. He also noted that only 30 of the 170 runways in Alaska have lights and said he would be working in coming months to get money for runway lighting. And he called on the Legislature to support efforts to expand Alaska's Pioneers' Homes for the benefit of military veterans, noting that one out of 10 Alaskans is a veteran.

Stevens said he will be talking next week to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld about basing a National Missile Defense System in Alaska. Such a system would create 500 jobs for Alaskans and would be managed by the Alaska National Guard, he said.

Stevens said the Reserve Officer Training Corps should be expanded in schools so Alaska's young people can eventually be prepared for missile defense system jobs.

''This will be a substantial thing for our state, but it means we have to get our young people trained,'' Stevens said.

Stevens said he expects Congress will consider more military base closures in about two years and said he expects a tough review of Alaska bases. ''A lot depends on what happens to national missile defense,'' he said.

Stevens had praise for the two Selawik teens who survived for six days after getting lost in storms on a snowmachine trip from Noorvik to Selawik. Louise Clark, 19, and Martha Foster, 16, were found by rescuers Sunday. Stevens met with the two during a weekend swing through Northwest Alaska. He said the two learned important lessons in survival from their elders.

''I would urge all Alaskans to learn from these girls,'' Stevens said.

Alaska's senior senator is known for wearing eye-catching ties with a message and for bringing home federal largesse, sometimes labeled pork.

''This is one of my 'in your face' ties,'' Stevens said of his navy blue tie, decorated with pink pigs.

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