Murkowski’s Chairmanship Yields Results for Alaska
Government Funding Bill Directs Resources for Unique Alaskan Needs
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) announced a series of provisions within her Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, contained in the full government funding measure, which provide resources to boost economic opportunities, invest in Alaskan communities, and protect and care for our land. The bill passed in the Senate Friday, March 23 and was later signed by the President. As Chairman of this subcommittee, Murkowski was able to give Alaskans a strong voice as she crafted the bill.
“I am proud of the work we have done in this bill to empower Alaskans to build our economy and create safe and healthy communities,” Senator Murkowski said. “This bill provides Alaskans with much needed fiscal certainty, stability, and opportunities for communities across our state. It directs federal resources where they are needed, while blocking unreasonable regulations. By funding clean water and wastewater infrastructure, and mapping initiatives, we also take key steps in working towards improving the safety, health and well-being of Alaskans.”
(Note: Numbers are nationwide program funding levels.)
Protecting Our Land
- Legacy Wells: Provides $10 million for the BLM to complete cleanup of the next cluster of exploration wells drilled at the direction of the federal government in NPR-A between 1944 and 1982. While Senator Murkowski secured significant funding to clean up these abandoned wells through the Helium Stewardship Act of 2013, 26 wells still require remediation. Murkowski’s bill provides enough funding to complete remediation of 9 of the remaining wells, and compels BLM to craft a long-term strategy to finally complete this effort.
Honoring and Caring for our Veterans
- Healing Arts Program: Supports the efforts of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to expand the Healing Arts Program, developed by the NEA and the Department of Defense (DoD) to help our nation’s wounded and injured service members and their families in their transition into civilian life.
Investing in Communities
- Payment in Lieu of Taxes: Provides funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program at the estimated $530 million level. The PILT program provides monetary compensation to local governments throughout Alaska that contain federal lands that are not subject to state or local taxation. The revenue helps local governments provide vital services, such as firefighting and police protection, construction of public schools and roads, and search-and-rescue operations.
- State Water Revolving Funds: Provides a $600 million increase to the Clean and Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, a total of $2.86 billion, to help facilitate clean, safe drinking water in local communities. Funds can be used to address drinking water and wastewater infrastructure challenges, including addressing problems like lead content in water.
- EPA Targeted Airshed Grants: Increases funding to $40 million to ensure that cities like Fairbanks are eligible for grants to support wood stove change-outs in order to help reduce air pollution.
- Secure Rural Schools: Funds the Secure Rural Schools program for two years to help schools and local budgets across Alaska. In 2016, Alaska received $11.5 million from this program, which helps communities near federal forests.
- National Park Service Construction: Prioritizes infrastructure improvements on our nation’s public lands, including $185 million for National Park Service construction and deferred maintenance.
Boosting Economic Opportunities
- Arctic Priorities: Supports the Arctic Council and directs federal agencies to focus on economic opportunities in the region, as well as science and subsistence issues.
- Forest Service Recreation: Provides an additional $2 million to increase the Forest Service’s capacity to issue additional special use permits, helping to expand recreation-based businesses in the Chugach and Tongass National Forests in Alaska. Also funds Forest Service recreation assets like cabins, trails, and campgrounds.
- Forest Inventory Analysis: Provides funding to partner with states to inventory forests across the nation. Includes funds to sustain significant expansion for interior Alaska.
Fighting Wasteful Government Spending and Overreach
- Lead Bullets and Fishing Tackle: Continues to prohibit the EPA from regulating lead content of ammunition and fishing tackle.
- Kagalaska and Chirikof: Prohibits the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) from using funds to conduct a costly caribou hunt on Kagalaska Island in the Aleutian Chain. The legislation also prohibits costly and impractical efforts to remove cattle from the remote Chirikof Island.
- Small Remote Incinerators: The bill prohibits the EPA from shutting down small, remote incinerators in Alaska that are important for waste management for energy producers on the North Slope.
- 3D Alaska Mapping: Maintains funding for Alaska mapping initiatives at $7.7 million, which will continue to help gather data to improve maps, enhancing safety for activities such as aviation. Currently much of the terrain data in Alaska is more than 50 years old and hand-sketched from photos shot from World War II reconnaissance craft.
- USGS Earthquake and Volcano Hazards: Includes $2.4 million, with $1.4 million for the purchase of seismic monitors that are part of the USArray, for the earthquake hazards program. Also includes $13 million to convert monitors on high-threat Alaskan volcanoes to digital systems.
The Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee controls funding levels for federal agencies and departments including the Department of the Interior (DOI), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Forest Service (FS), National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and Indian Health Service (IHS). Murkowski, as Chairman, is able to write the Senate’s annual appropriations bill for the Subcommittee.