Big Wins for Alaska in Interior Funding Bill
Murkowski Secures Robust Funding for Protecting People, Water, and Lands
The Senate Appropriations Committee today advanced the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2020. The Interior Subcommittee is responsible for funding agencies that are charged with managing our public lands, ensuring clean water and clean air, meeting federal trust responsibilities for Native peoples, and funding cultural agencies and museums. As chairman of the Interior Subcommittee, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) crafted a bill with funding to strengthen the economy, improve water and wastewater infrastructure, and create safer and healthier communities. The bill passed the Committee unanimously and now heads to the full Senate for consideration.
“This year I’ve heard from Alaskans who have been unsettled and anxious over our state’s budget uncertainty. I’ve continued to work hard at the federal level towards stabilizing Alaska’s economy and empowering Alaskans to provide for vital services. Following the significant wildfires this summer in Alaska, we further invest in fire suppression, state and volunteer fire assistance, and provide increases for hazardous fuels reduction. We continue to invest in the maintenance backlog on our public lands and provide increases for cleanup and remediation efforts of PFAS contaminated water sources, water systems, and lands. We also focus on addressing the issue of missing, trafficked, and murdered indigenous women,” said Senator Murkowski. “This is a complex bill that can often present contentious issues. This year was no different. But by working with my Vice Chairman, Senator Udall, we were able to advance a bill to the full Senate that not only gained unanimous support, but moved forward without the need for amendments.”
Click here for audio of Senator Murkowski’s opening statement.
Click here for a full list of Alaska-related provisions and funding levels in the Interior-Environment bill.
SAFER and HEALTHIER COMMUNITIES
New this year, the bill provides funding to address the crisis of missing, trafficked, and murdered indigenous women by providing support for cold case investigations, equipment, training, and background checks. The bill also encourages the Indian Health Service to look at programs which can help educate community health aides on trauma informed care (and collecting medical evidence). Significant funding is provided to improve access to Native health care, support rural health care facilities, and improve health care delivery.
The bill also provides funding for important programs that help emergency responders respond to natural hazards, disasters, as well as inform the public. Support for the earthquake hazards program will help states like Alaska develop and enhance earthquake monitoring capabilities. The bill also maintains funding for Alaska mapping initiatives that will help gather data to improve maps, enhancing the safety of activities such as aviation.
IMPROVING WATER INFRASTRUCTURE and PROTECTING WATERSHEDS
The bill provides robust funding to improve wastewater and drinking water systems through the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds and numerous grant programs which help bring basic water and sewer infrastructure to communities. The bill also includes support for the improvement of existing water systems and sanitation facilities in rural Alaskan communities and Native Villages. The bill addresses PFAS contamination by providing increases to EPA grant programs which support state-led cleanup and remediation efforts of PFAS contaminated water sources, water systems, and lands.
The bill also recognizes the importance of the Bristol Bay ecosystem and the concerns the EPA, Department of the Interior, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the State of Alaska and independent experts have raised with regard to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Pebble Mine. The bill reaffirms that sound science must drive the permitting process and that if the concerns raised by the agencies cannot be answered within the process, then the agencies should exercise their authority to protect the region’s world-class salmon fisheries.
STRENGTHENING the ECONOMY
The Interior bill also fully funds the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program. The PILT program provides monetary compensation to local governments throughout Alaska that contain federal lands. 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. The bill prioritizes infrastructure improvements on our nation’s public lands, which is key to both local visitors and the tourism sector. The bill also includes funding for Forest Service recreation activities – including cabins, trails, and recreation – and provides resources for special use permitting programs that allow certain businesses to operate in Alaska’s national forests.
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), as well as NEH, NEA, and the Smithsonian Institution (SI).