Murkowski Welcomes Initial Grants to Assess and Clean Up Legacy Contamination on ANCSA Conveyed Lands

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) welcomed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) announcement that three Alaska Native Corporations have been selected to receive $2.5 million in federal funding to assess and clean up legacy contamination on lands conveyed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971.

“It is a stain on the federal government that contaminated lands were transferred to Alaska Natives under ANCSA,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski. “The contaminants that remain on these lands are a threat to Alaskans, which is why I have prioritized a federal response to this longstanding environmental injustice. As a senior appropriator, I created this new program to direct funds to assess and clean up contaminated lands after years of inaction and finger-pointing from federal agencies. Now, the Ounalashka, Tyonek Native, and Ukpea?vik Iñupiat Corporations have received the first grants from this new program to begin the cleanup process. This announcement is just the start of promising news for tribal entities around the state, who are rightfully owed lands that are safe to use. I look forward to additional announcements from EPA in the near future that will support further efforts to improve the health and safety of Alaska communities.”

“One of the most important components of our Journey to Justice tour is the work to match federal resources to the community solutions we’ve seen on the ground. That’s why we’re excited to deploy these funds and help Alaska Native communities clean up the legacy contamination left behind on conveyed lands,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan.“Thanks to Senator Murkowski’s leadership, we will work together with our federal, state, tribal and local partners, to invest in America and help many more Alaska Native communities address the long-standing health and economic burdens on their communities from this contamination.”

Murkowski created EPA’s Contaminated ANCSA Lands Assistance Program via the Fiscal Year 2023 omnibus appropriations bill, adding $20 million to it for EPA to establish and implement a grant program to help Alaska tribal entities address contamination on ANCSA-conveyed lands. These grants can be used for assessment and remediation of the contaminated sites, and to support related community outreach. Murkowski has added $30 million for the program to her FY 2024 Interior-Environment Appropriations bill, which is now pending before the full Senate.

Eligible tribal entities include Alaska Native Regional corporations, Alaska Native Village corporations, federally recognized tribes in Alaska, Alaska Native nonprofit organizations and associations, and inter-tribal consortia comprised of Alaskan tribal entities.

The funding selections were formally announced by Regan and Murkowski in Fairbanks, Alaska last week. The three Alaska Native Corporations selected for this initial round of funding were:

  • Ukpea?vik Iñupiat Corporation has been selected to receive $582,345. Grant funds will be used to assess lands impacted by a fuel spill and to conduct lead and asbestos testing and abatement at the former Naval Arctic Research Laboratory in Utqia?vik.
  • Tyonek Native Corporation has been selected to receive $1 million. Grant funds will be used to conduct an inventory, for characterization and decommissioning of abandoned drums, and cleanup of any remaining petroleum and other surface contaminants on the Iniskin Peninsula.
  • Ounalashka Corporation has been selected to receive $1 million. Grant funds will be used to remove soils contaminated with PCBs and to conduct an initial round of soil and groundwater sampling at a World War II-era warehouse in Dutch Harbor.

“Ukpea?vik Iñupiat Corporation is thrilled and honored to be one of the first organizations to be selected for the EPA's project funding aimed at addressing contaminated ANCSA lands,” said Ukpea?vik Iñupiat Corporation President/CEO Dr. Pearl Brower. “The important work that is to come from the EPA Contaminated ANCSA Land Assistance Agreements resonates deeply with our core commitment to protecting our lands for future generations. It's our heritage and legacy that we strive to preserve, and in this endeavor, every step forward signifies a victory for us all.”

“We are pleased to be among the first grant recipients through this program enabling the cleanup of these conveyed contaminated sites,” said Tyonek Native Corporation CEO Stephen Peskosky.“The Iniskin area is important to the Tyonek community and many adjacent ecosystems. We look forward to completion of this project and seeing our lands returned to their natural splendor.”

“The Ounalashka Corporation is pleased to be one of EPA’s first selections for contaminated ANCSA lands project funding,” said Ounalashka Corporation President Denise Rankin. “OC recently celebrated its 50th Anniversary and was entitled to 115,000 acres of land on Unalaska, Amaknak, and Sedanka Islands when we were established under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. As with many other ANCSA lands, several sections of the land deeded to OC were contaminated lands from the actions of the WWII Aleutian Islands campaign. OC had struggled with the means to clean-up its lands and the costs only continue to increase. We are especially thankful to Senator Murkowski for holding the congressional field hearing in Unalaska bringing the issue to the forefront. We are also thankful to EPA for taking the lead on these clean-up efforts. Thanks to the ANCSA Contaminated lands grant, we will finally be able to clean the land around Building 551 of PCB contamination making for a healthier environment for our shareholders, tribal members, and the community. Thank you again EPA for your selection of OC and assistance with the award.”