Murkowski’s Chairmanship Yields Results for Alaska
Interior Appropriations Bill Invests in Infrastructure, People, and Land
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) announced a series of provisions within the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2019, which will invest in Alaskan communities, boost economic opportunities, and protect Alaska’s lands. As Chairman of this subcommittee, Murkowski crafted a bill to ensure that federal resources are directed where Alaska needs them most. The full Appropriations Committee approved the bill through a historic, unanimous vote and will now head to the Senate floor for final consideration.
“In a time of fiscal uncertainty, this bill provides much needed stability and assurance for our state. It allocates federal resources in a way that will support our economy and develop healthier and safer communities while blocking unreasonable regulations that would hinder opportunities for Alaskans,” said Senator Murkowski. “From funding initiatives to boost Alaska’s tourism and recreation to providing resources for mapping initiatives to keep Alaskans safe, I’m proud of the investments this bill makes in the livelihood of all Alaskans.”
(Note: Numbers are nationwide program funding levels.)
Protecting People, Land and Wildlife
- Fighting Opioids: The bill establishes a new grant program through IHS which provides $10 million to help tribes fight back against opioid abuse, $7.5 million is continued through BIA to fight opioid addiction. To help address the problem of opioid over-prescription, language is included requiring a report on both federal and tribal pharmacy compliance with state Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs.
- Legacy Wells: Provides $9.5 million for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to complete cleanup of the next group of the dozens of exploration wells drilled by the federal government, now abandoned in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. The bill also directs the BLM to craft a long-term funding plan to complete the clean-up of the wells within ten years.
- National Parks: Addresses the National Park Service’s maintenance backlog by increasing its construction and deferred maintenance budgets.
- Forest Inventory Analysis: Maintains $77 million in funding to partner with states to inventory forests across the nation, including interior Alaska, providing the State with important information about the condition of Alaska’s forested lands, and dovetails into funding made available for education and management of Spruce bark beetle infestations that threaten Alaska communities with greater risk of devastating wildfires.
- The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF): Funded at $425 million, including $124 million for the National Park Service stateside program, which helps state and local governments to improve public outdoor recreation opportunities.
- North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA): The bill includes $43 million for the NAWCA, an increase of $3 million, to help increase bird populations and wetlands habitat. NAWCA is a popular program among sportsmen and bird watchers.
- Eider Research: Includes language directing the Fish and Wildlife Service to continue its Eider Research Program, which occurs at the Alaska Sea Life Center.
Investing in Communities
- Payment in Lieu of Taxes: Provides $500 million, full funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program. 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: Slightly increases funding for the Clean and Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund to $2.85 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 $50 million to ensure that cities like Fairbanks are eligible for grants to support wood stove change-outs in order to help reduce air pollution.
- National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH): Increased funding is provided to support the arts through NEA and NEH, including support for NEA’s 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.
Boosting Economic Opportunities
- Arctic Priorities: Supports the Arctic Council and directs $550,000 to federal agencies to focus on economic opportunities in the region, as well as science and subsistence issues.
- Increasing Public Access: Forests Service recreation access programs are funded at a combined total of $336 million. The bill provides more than $4 million of additional funding to improve the Forest Service’s capacity to issue additional special use permits, helping to expand recreation-based businesses in the Chugach and Tongass National Forests. These funds will also be used to maintain Forest Service recreation assets like cabins, trails, and campgrounds.
- Wildfire Prevention and Suppression: Fully funds the 10-year average cost of our nation’s wildfire suppression needs, and provides additional resources to the Forest Service and Department of the Interior in the event of a catastrophic wildfire season. The bill also provides increases for the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service to $623 million for preventative measures that can be made in advance of wildfire season, such as hazardous fuels reduction and fuel breaks.
- 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.
- USGS Earthquake and Volcano Hazards: Allows Alaska to develop and enhance earthquake monitoring capabilities by providing increased funding of $3 million. Includes $31 million for the USGS volcano hazards program, including operation and maintenance funding for the acquisition of new equipment.
- Mineral Resources and Critical Minerals Programs: Includes $7 million for a new critical minerals initiative that will improve topographic, geological, and geophysical mapping.
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.
- Fish Grinding: Directs the EPA to address a longstanding issue of unworkable standards for grinding of fish waste by exempting offshore processing vessels and develop a policy to treat onshore seafood processors in compliance, who use the best available technology.
- 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.
- Diesel Particulate Filters in Rural Alaska: Includes language directing EPA to re-examine its rule requiring diesel particulate filters on Tier III engines in rural Alaska and encourages them to exempt those filters from the requirement.
- 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.
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.