ENR Reviews Priorities for U.S. Territories

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, yesterday chaired a hearing to examine the priorities of the U.S. territories and how Congress can help to achieve them. The hearing featured four territorial governors: Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló; Guam Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero; U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Albert Bryan; and Northern Mariana Islands Gov. Ralph Deleon Guerrero Torres.

“I have had the privilege of visiting four of the territories as chairman of this committee,” Murkowski said. “Congress doesn’t always acknowledge the contributions that the territories make to our nation. But they are an integral part of the United States with high participation rates in our Armed Forces, the distinct culture of the islands, and their geographical importance.”

In her opening remarks, Murkowski noted the recent natural disasters that have significantly impacted the territories, specifically Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Cyclone Gita, Typhoon Mangkhut, and Super Typhoon Yutu. She asked the governors about workforce issues hindering their rebuilding efforts that may need to be addressed.

“Nearly four out of every 10 homes on the island were impacted by this disaster [Super Typhoon Yutu] at a time where available housing stocks were already at capacity,” Torres said. “These homes will require rebuilding and new construction to maintain the safety and security of their families, yet the availability of construction labor to do this necessary and critical work has been limited by federal actions preventing construction companies’ access to the necessary foreign labor through the H-2B program.”

Murkowski also raised another critical issue, a recent First Circuit Court of Appeals decision that determined the manner in which Puerto Rico appointed members to its Financial Oversight and Management Board is unconstitutional. 

“While narrow in its ruling, the panel’s finding on congressional authority under the Territorial Clause could have broader consequences down the road if left to stand,” Murkowski said. “We are still reviewing this decision and could take it up in the future.”

Murkowski is chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. An archived video of yesterday’s hearing can be found on the committee’s website. Click here and here to view Murkowski’s questions for the witnesses.

Related Issues: Energy