U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today warned against a move to eliminate the nation's Essential Air Service (EAS), a program that brings vital air service to 44 rural Alaskan communities across the state.
In a Senate floor speech, Murkowski spoke against U.S. Sen. John McCain's amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration authorization bill that would terminate the $212 million EAS program.
"I can say without any reservation that this amendment would create an economic and a transportation disaster for Alaska, including the loss of jobs, livelihoods and would potentially impact health and medical situations," Murkowski said. "The complete elimination of the EAS program could destabilize many of our rural communities, could negatively impact the integrity of Alaska's interconnected aviation system and severely reduce air services to essential parts of the state."
One hundred and fifty three communities across the nation, including 44 in Alaska, receive EAS subsidies. Murkowski said that Alaska was unique because, unlike the rest of the nation, the majority of the state's EAS communities are not connected to a road system.
"Given what we face with the limited road system, weather and terrain issues, we in the state treat an airplane or helicopters like most Americans would treat their minivans. Aircraft in Alaska are not just a nice thing to have. They are a lifeline for survival, for subsistence, for travel, for recreation. They're truly an essential part of our everyday life," Murkowski said.