Murkowski’s Interior-Environment Funding Bill Heads to President’s Desk

Alaska to Benefit from Investments to Protect People, Land & Water

U.S. Senator Murkowski (R-AK) applauded Senate passage of an Appropriations Package for Fiscal Year 2020–expected to be signed into law tonight— which included the Interior-Environment Appropriations bill with funding to strengthen the economy, improve water and wastewater systems, and create safer and healthier communities. As chairman of the Interior Subcommittee, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) crafted a bill with funding to provide for basic necessities like water and wastewater infrastructure, prioritize health and safety through investments in fire suppression and prevention efforts. New funding is included for cleanup and remediation efforts of PFAS contaminated water sources, water systems, and lands as well as new funding to address the crisis of missing, trafficked, and murdered indigenous women.

The Interior Subcommittee is responsible for funding the following agencies: Department of the Interior (DOI), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Forest Service (FS), National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and Indian Health Service (IHS), as well as NEH, NEA, and the Smithsonian Institution (SI). These agencies are tasked with managing our public lands, ensuring clean water and clean air, meeting federal trust responsibilities for Native peoples, and funding cultural agencies and museums.

[Click here for a full list of Alaska-related provisions and funding levels in the Interior-Environment bill.]

“I’m proud of all we’ve done to invest in important programs that will empower communities to thrive,” said Senator Murkowski. “This Interior appropriations bill is critical to Alaska as it funds agencies that have a large presence in our state, such as the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and Forest Service. This bill provides much-needed stability by directing resources where they are needed most—from basic water and sewer projects for rural communities, to ensuring communities like Fairbanks are eligible for grants to support wood stove change-outs in order to help reduce air pollution, and support for local governments to provide vital services including firefighting and police protection. This bill is the product of good, bipartisan work, directing significant resources towards protecting our people, land, and water.”


New this year, the bill provides funding to address the crisis of missing, trafficked, and murdered indigenous women by providing support for cold case investigations, equipment, training, and background checks. Increased funding is provided for implementation of Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) programs to improve training and address specific tribal court needs. The bill increases funding for to Public Law 280 states, such as Alaska, in order to help develop tribal court systems for communities. The bill also encourages the Indian Health Service to look at programs which can help educate community health aides on trauma informed care and collecting medical evidence.

The bill also provides funding for important programs that help emergency responders inform the public as well as respond to natural hazards and disasters. Support for the earthquake hazards program will help states like Alaska develop and enhance earthquake monitoring capabilities. The bill also maintains funding for Alaska mapping initiatives that will help gather data to improve maps, enhancing the safety of activities such as aviation. This bill invests in fire suppression as well as making investments in state and volunteer fire assistance and provides increases for hazardous fuels reduction, a priority after Alaska’s record breaking heat and fire season.

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The Interior bill fully funds the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program. The PILT program provides monetary compensation to local governments throughout Alaska that contain federal lands. The revenue helps local governments provide vital services, such as firefighting and police protection, construction of public schools and roads, and search-and-rescue operations. The bill prioritizes infrastructure improvements on our nation’s public lands, which is key to both local visitors and the tourism sector, as well as funding for the National Park Service to address backlog maintenance. Increased funding is included for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), including for the National Park Service stateside program, which helps state and local governments to improve public outdoor recreation opportunities.

This bill also provides funding for legacy well cleanup, and further directs the Bureau of Land Management to craft a long-term funding plan to complete the clean-up of the wells within ten years. The bill also includes funding for Forest Service recreation activities – including cabins, trails, and recreation – and provides resources for special use permitting programs that allow certain businesses to operate in Alaska’s national forests.

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Significant funding is provided to improve access to Native healthcare, support rural healthcare facilities, and improve healthcare delivery. The bill provides funding for Village Built Clinics, a program unique to Alaska which supports approximately 150 healthcare clinics in rural areas—many of which require significant maintenance and often serve as the only health facility and source of medical care in the respective region.

Through the Small Ambulatory Clinics program, the bill increases funding to make infrastructure improvements to support healthcare delivery to Alaska Natives. The bill also fully funds contract support costs, the operational and overhead costs in the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Indian Health Service (IHS), to ensure tribes have the necessary resources they need to deliver programs and services. This is especially important to Alaska because all healthcare for Alaska Natives is directly provided by tribal organizations.

The bill increases funding for the Commission on Native Children, created to identify the complex challenges facing Native children in Alaska and across the country by conducting an intensive study on issues such as high rates of poverty, unemployment, child abuse, domestic violence, crime, substance abuse, and dire economic opportunities.

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The bill provides robust funding to improve wastewater and drinking water systems through the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds and numerous grant programs which help bring basic water and sewer infrastructure to communities. The bill also supports the improvement of existing water systems and sanitation facilities in rural Alaskan communities and Native Villages.

The pressing issue of PFAS contamination is addressed in the bill through new funding for research and EPA grant programs which support state-led cleanup and remediation efforts of PFAS contaminated water sources, water systems, and lands. Increased funding is allocated for addressing transboundary water river quality, specifically for stream gauges and a water quality baseline strategy, including directing the U.S. Geological Survey to work cooperatively with local tribes, stakeholders, and other federal agencies necessary to help develop a water quality strategy for transboundary rivers.

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The bill also recognizes the importance of the Bristol Bay ecosystem and the concerns the EPA, Department of the Interior, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the State of Alaska and independent experts have raised with regard to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Pebble Mine. The bill reaffirms that sound science must drive the permitting process and that if the concerns raised by the agencies cannot be answered within the process, then the agencies should exercise their authority to protect the region’s world-class salmon fisheries.

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The Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee controls funding levels for federal agencies and departments including the Department of the Interior (DOI), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Forest Service (FS), National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and Indian Health Service (IHS), as well as NEH, NEA, and the Smithsonian Institution (SI).

Related Issues: Health, Budget, Spending, and the National Debt, Alaska Natives & Rural Alaska