Parnell meets with president of Iceland on Arctic issues

June 21, 2011 

JUNEAU -- Alaska's governor met with the president of Iceland on Tuesday to discuss the state's emergence as an Arctic player and the role natural resources play in helping people and economies.

Gov. Sean Parnell had what his spokeswoman described as a working lunch with Iceland's president, Olafur Grimsson, in Anchorage. Sharon Leighow said this isn't the first time the two have met though she said it is the first meeting since Parnell took office in 2009. Leighow said the leaders discussed renewable resources, with Grimsson telling Parnell about a major hydroelectric project in his country that could be a model for the Susitna project being pursued in Alaska. She said he also invited Parnell to visit Iceland later this year.

Lawmakers approved Parnell's request to provide about $66 million to pursue a massive, multibillion-dollar dam on the Susitna River, seen as capable of helping Alaska to meet energy demands along the more populous Railbelt. The hydro project, among a suite of options being weighed as the state seeks to provide many of its residents with a reliable source of energy, is a priority of Parnell's. It remains unclear, though -- as it does with other projects being pursued, like a major natural gas pipeline -- just how it would be financed or whether it would ever get built.

Leighow said Parnell and Grimsson also discussed Alaska's role in the Arctic.

"Because we are the only Arctic state, we have a close, personal interest in commerce and trade with our Arctic neighbors," she said in an email. She added that Parnell said the two discussed sharing technology and resources that will benefit both regions.

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