Murkowski Statement on “Seriously Flawed” Eielson Draft EIS

Senator Critical of Findings, “Beat the Clock” Timing for Interior Residents Joins Congressman Young in Pushing for More Time

Senator Lisa Murkowski today took issue with the United States Air Force’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement, challenging its tone, timing and omissions:

“If this fact-finding Air Force Draft Environmental Impact Statement is supposed to represent a fair and balanced opening look at the pro’s and con’s of relocating the F-16 Aggressor Squadron, somebody has a finger on the scale. In its initial findings, the U.S. Air Force seems to be telegraphing its intent through this DEIS, and the Backdoor BRAC of Eielson AFB continues to be the signal we are reading.

“This DEIS is front-loaded with the case in favor of the F-16 move and Fairbanksans are left to wonder when and if the Air Force will confront some inconvenient truths.  Despite the fact that this relocation is being sold as a cost-cutting move, the cost-saving estimates have not been revalidated as the Air Force promised to do. Despite the fact that the Asia-Pacific region is the Pentagon’s new focus and we face a rising threat posed by North Korea, there is no consideration of Eielson’s national security value.

 “Beyond that, the DEIS also falls short by not considering any other cost reduction alternatives, either within Pacific Air Forces or the Air Force as a whole that would achieve Air Force objectives while allowing Eielson to grow and flourish.

“The only accurate spot in the DEIS is the Air Force acknowledging the devastating effect that the Air Force’s proposal for Eielson will have on the Interior Alaska economy. They envision a nose dive in property values, school closures in the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District and a dramatic spike in unemployment to 8.9% -- higher than the Borough has seen in a decade.  As for the Anchorage region, the Air Force acknowledges that noise levels in Mountain View, outside of JBER, will rise to the detriment of school children, that there could be an adverse impact on the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale and that at least 150 relocating families won’t be able to find housing near JBER, but chooses to gloss over all these issues.

“On top of all this, the Air Force has made this announcement on a Friday with public comment hearings scheduled to occur in only ten working days.  This ‘beat the clock’ tactic is unacceptable, and I join the Fairbanks and Interior community in calling for more time – a few more weeks, possibly – for Alaskans to digest this information and put together the strongest argument possible against this seriously flawed and deeply troubling DEIS.”

Building on this timing constraint and the unanimous concerns of Fairbanks community leaders of their ability to “formulate meaningful comments,” Senator Murkowski and Congressman Don Young wrote a letter (attached) to the United States Air Force this afternoon to request that the hearings be rescheduled for the week of July 8th.