Murkowski, Sullivan Examine Federal Requirements Hindering Alaska Energy Production

U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both R-Alaska, today hosted a joint Senate oversight hearing in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley to examine the effects of the federal government’s regulatory practices, including mitigation and land use requirements, that often delay or prevent the development of energy projects in Alaska.

"Here in Alaska and in the Lower 48, we have reached a point where federal agencies are unreasonably binding the hands of well-intentioned, environmentally principled, hard-working Alaskans, said Sen. Murkowski, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “Whether it’s the layering on of new regulations like the recent ‘Waters of the United States’ rule, unreasonable mitigation ratios, or something else, here in Alaska it often looks like the goal of the federal government is to stop new development in its tracks – rather than help it to responsibly advance.”

“Teaming up with Sen. Murkowski for this hearing provides an opportunity for a broader examination of multiple federal mitigation requirements that, when layered on top of one another, dramatically increase costs, paralyze projects from getting off the ground, and discourage investment in our state,” said Sen. Dan Sullivan, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife. “As Alaska works to develop its land and its economy, it’s imperative that accommodations are made to account for our state’s geographic distinctiveness. That’s what Sen. Murkowski and I will continue to fight for in D.C.”

Witnesses representing the state of Alaska, industry, and Alaska Native corporations (ANCs) testified at today’s hearing to share their accounts of the devastating effects of excessive federal regulation and to highlight the successes of state, local, and Alaska Native efforts to balance conservation and environmental issues with increased development.

Ed Fogels, deputy director of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, called on federal regulators like the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to “increase coordination and transparency in permitting” and “draw from the success of the state permitting coordination model to improve its own processes.” Fogels added that the state of Alaska should “be viewed as an equal partner by the federal government and have some acknowledgment and consideration of its expert perspective in implementation.”

Joseph Nukapigak, vice president of the Kuukpik Corporation, characterized the federal government’s excessive mitigation requirements as “byzantine” and with Theresa Clark, vice president of the Olgoonik Corporation, called for ANCs to be exempted from Clean Water Act requirements if the proposed projects are on ANC lands.

Deantha Crockett, executive director of the Alaska Miners Association, used one word to sum up federal policies – “uncertainty.” In discussing BLM – one of several agencies that cause uncertainty for Alaska’s miners – Crockett noted that, “We are seeing multiple policies coming from multiple field offices through multiple levels of management: land planning, regulatory enforcement, permitting and otherwise. These policies are introduced in draft form, to which the mining industry scrambles to digest the multiple volumes of thousands of pages of new policies governing our operations. Many times these policies do not come to fruition or are not finalized, yet are used by the agency as legitimate land management tools.”

Sen. Murkowski concluded today’s hearing by underscoring the importance of responsible natural resources development to Alaska’s economy and called on federal agencies to stop putting in place regulations and requirements that create uncertainty, suffocating investment.

More information on the hearing and additional witness testimony is available on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee website.