Murkowski Expresses Frustration with New ECA Regulations

“The EPA’s one-size-fits-all approach to environmental regulation just doesn’t work in Alaska, and it doesn’t work across the country either.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today spoke on the Senate floor about the Environment Protection Agency’s lack of understanding of Alaska with their new Emission Control Area (ECA) requirements. The EPA was a major proponent of including waters off southern and southeastern Alaska in an international ECA, which requires ships to use fuel that meets 1-percent sulfur limits starting Aug. 1. The new requirements tighten to 0.1 percent sulfur content beginning in 2015.

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“When I travel to Alaska and when I meet with people from around our nation, I hear more complaints about EPA than about any other federal agency. Today’s EPA too often seems eager to impose requirements that are dubious in their health or environmental benefits, but whose main effect is to stop or penalize commerce or development.

“Applying the new fuel standards will mean that vessels plying the waters of Southeast and Southcentral Alaska, whether freight ships that deliver nearly all of our goods or cruise ships that are the life-blood of our active tourist economy, will now be required to burn expensive low-sulfur fuel.

“The problem is that while the ECA will not have a measurable positive effect on human health in Alaska, it will have a material impact on our cost of living. Unlike the ships on their way in and out of ports such as Los Angeles and Long Beach that only travel in the ECA for a short time, the ships traveling along Alaska’s coast make their entire voyage within the ECA, substantially increasing fuel costs.

“If this were just an increase in costs to the cruise lines and freight companies, it would be one thing. The economic reality, however, is that every dime added to the cost of doing business in Alaska is a dime ultimately paid by consumers. Alaska is already one of the most expensive places to live in America, and rural Alaska is more expensive still. An increase in shipping costs will push these costs even higher. And people in Alaska, like too many other Americans, are barely getting by in these difficult economic times as it is. 

“The EPA’s one-size-fits-all approach to environmental regulation just doesn’t work in Alaska, and it doesn’t work across the country either. We have here a clear example of how wrong-headed environmental rules can threaten the health and livelihood of the very people they are meant to protect.

“EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson recently acknowledged that applying the ECA to Alaska posed a problem. But these were apparently no more than words as we are still no closer to a solution. The new requirements are set to take effect in less than two weeks. I have been raising this issue with EPA since 2009, but so far to no positive effect. That is why today I am calling on the President himself to marshal the State Department to see if the ECA can be amended or some other relief found to eliminate this burden.”