Senators postpone Alaska environment tour for Kennedy funeral

WASHINGTON — A U.S. Senate tour of Alaska's climate change hot spots has been postponed so that senators may attend the funeral of their Democratic colleague, Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts.

Kennedy, who died of brain cancer Tuesday night, will be buried at 5 p.m. Saturday at Arlington National Cemetery. The burial service will be closed to the public.

Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, was supposed to host four senators in Alaska this weekend, including the chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

The others scheduled to visit the state were Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.

Their itinerary included a trip to southcentral Alaska to see retreating glaciers, forests damaged by invasive species and drying wetlands. The senators also were scheduled to visit the North Slope to see the Prudhoe Bay oilfield and view the effects of climate change in the far North. They also planned to go to Newtok and Toksook Bay to visit villages threatened by shoreline erosion and rising sea levels, and tour renewable energy projects being utilized in some parts of rural Alaska.

Originally, many of the senators had been considering a trip to Iceland to see the effects of climate change, but Begich persuaded them to come to Alaska to see what was happening in the United States.

Begich spokeswoman Julie Hasquet said that the senator hoped the visit to Alaska could be rescheduled.

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