“We need someone with ambassadorial rank to show that the U.S. is serious about being an Arctic nation,” Sensenbrenner said in a statement. “As Russia continues to act aggressively, including making claims in the Arctic, and as China states its own interest, the U.S. must coordinate its Arctic policy and protect its domestic energy supply at the highest level.”
Currently, 20 different federal agencies, including the State Department, the Pentagon and the National Science Foundation, are charged with handling Arctic policy. The legislation would streamline that work under one ambassador, who would serve as Arctic Council chair until 2017.
No country has yet laid full claim to the Arctic region, which includes the North Pole and is home to 15 percent of the world’s oil and a third of its undiscovered natural gas. But several nations have tried to extend their sovereignty there, which requires proving that their continental shelves extend more than 230 miles into the Arctic Ocean. Last year, China and several other Asian nations applied for a seat at the Arctic Council.