Murkowski to EPA: Alaskans Concerned by “Regulatory Onslaught”

Senator Says EPA Needs to Better Understand Alaska, Secures Commitments on New Waters Rule

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Lisa Murkowski today questioned Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy about the potential economic impact of several proposed rules, including a recent rulemaking to “clarify” a statutory definition that appears to significantly expand the agency’s control over lands and waters in Alaska.

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“I am concerned that EPA continues to regulate without appropriate coordination with other agencies and impacted industries. I think that the EPA, above others, could jeopardize the affordability and reliability of our energy supply,” Murkowski said at Wednesday’s Senate Appropriations Interior and Environment Subcommittee hearing on the EPA budget. “If we’re not careful, I think its rules could cost jobs and force us to forego opportunities to create new ones. It is not an overstatement to say that recent actions taken by EPA would fundamentally change our economy and the lives of the people we are here to represent. For this reason, it is all the more critical that we here in Congress diligently exercise our oversight role.”

Murkowski described EPA’s recent proposal to re-interpret the definition of the term “waters of the United States” as a potential “show-stopper” for responsible development plans across Alaska.  EPA’s proposed rule specifies that most seasonal and rain-dependent streams are protected under the Clean Water Act, as are wetlands near rivers and streams. Other types of waterways with more uncertain connections with downstream waters would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. 

“I’ve described this as a potential “show-stopper” for new development in my home state,” Murkowski said. “Roughly two-thirds of Alaska is already considered wetlands, and this rule could dramatically expand the lands subject to regulation. It’s hard not to see it as a continuation of this administration’s unofficial policy of ‘protecting Alaska from Alaskans’ – except that this rule promises to have serious impacts across the rest of the nation, as well.”

Murkowski requested that EPA schedule public meetings to discuss the waters rule with state officials, property owners, sportsmen, and resource producers in Alaska, which stands to be disproportionately impacted due to the prevalence of wetlands in the state.  McCarthy agreed EPA would do so, and also agreed to help determine how many acres of land in Alaska could be impacted by the rule.  Murkowski also asked why Alaska data was not present on the maps (map 1, map 2) EPA released in support of it, and raised concern that could cause greater regulatory uncertainty.

In her opening remarks, Murkowski told McCarthy that she wanted to see better follow-through from the agency – adding that Alaskans worry the government doesn’t follow through on its public commitments. “We have hearings like this, and the agencies say ‘we get it; we understand it’ but when it comes to opportunities to make good on your word, we don’t see evidence of that.  We get rules and regulations … and we feel like we’re either disrespected or ignored.”

Murkowski is the senior senator for Alaska and the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Appropriation Interior and Environment Subcommittee.