Interior Heeds Murkowski’s Demand to Act on Contaminated Lands

Bureau of Land Management Releases Inventory of Contaminated Sites in Alaska

Washington, D.C. – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will today release a report, which was required to be completed by a provision of law authored by U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), that will help fulfill the agency’s duty to identify sites throughout Alaska that were contaminated before they were conveyed to Alaska Native Corporations under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). BLM’s report is a critical step in identifying a comprehensive list of contaminated sites and ensuring their prompt cleanup.

“It took a lot longer than promised, but BLM has finished the easy part,” Murkowski said. “It is now time for the agency to initiate the next phase of the program, which is to bring together all relevant parties and begin actual cleanup efforts.”

Murkowski, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, has for years sought to clean up Alaska’s contaminated lands. In August 2014, she included directive language in the draft Fiscal Year 2015 Interior Appropriations bill requiring BLM to complete an updated inventory of contaminated lands in Alaska.  She later added that language to the joint explanatory statement accompanying the omnibus appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2015 (PL 113-235), which became law in December 2014. In March 2016, Murkowski pressed Interior on its delay in the release of the report.

“While I am pleased to see that BLM’s recommendations align with my desire to have local stakeholders at the table as this process unfolds, I strongly urge both this administration and the next to go further by fulfilling all ANCSA aboriginal settlements and providing the resources needed to clean up these contaminated sites as soon as possible,” Murkowski said. “The federal government must finally live up to its obligations so that our lands are protected and truly valuable to Alaska Native Corporations.” 

BLM’s report concludes that:

  • As of September 2015, there were 920 contaminated sites conveyed to an ANCSA landowner.  Of those sites, 328 have been cleaned up, 338 require additional cleanup, 242 sites have “sufficient land use controls to prevent human exposure,” and 12 sites have no confirmed release of contaminants.
  • The primary owners or operators of sites contaminated prior to transfer that still require cleanup are the Department of Defense (162 sites), the State of Alaska and state political subdivisions (51 sites), and private landowners (42 sites).
  • An additional 94 sites do not appear to be in a clean-up program, and are considered “orphan sites,” while 104 sites still require further verification and may be added later to this list of orphan sites.
  • The agency lacks the authority to compel clean-up of the contaminated sites subsequent to transfer, but it offers recommendations – in addition to those provided in the 1998 report – for next steps agencies may take to remediate.
  • Additional recommendations for a clean-up plan include:
    • Finalization of the State of Alaska inventory database, which includes Potentially Responsible Parties;
    • Establishment of a formal contaminated lands working group, including ANCSA corporations and federal and state entities; and
    • Initiation of site clean-up process by the agency identified in the State database.

The full report is attached and available on the BLM’s website.

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