Murkowski’s Work Bans Burdensome Federal Regulations, Fights Wasteful Spending, and Protects Lives in Remote Alaska

Interior Appropriations Bill Blocks EPA’s WOTUS Rule and Facilitates Life-Saving King Cove Road

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Through her chairmanship of the Senate Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) announced multiple provisions within the subcommittee’s appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2017 to ensure federal agencies, specifically the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), respect and understand Alaska’s unique needs and priorities.

“This bill strikes a critical balance – directing federal resources where they are needed, while blocking excessive regulations that are causing harm and burying us in red tape,” Senator Murkowski said. “This bill reverses Secretary Jewell’s heartless rejection of a life-saving 11-mile, non-commercial use, gravel road that would give residents of the isolated community of King Cove access to emergency medical care. It blocks an EPA water rule that is one of the most burdensome, overreaching rules the federal government has ever proposed – one that could impact and delay virtually any development project in our state. And it reconstitutes the Alaska Land Use Council, to ensure that Alaskans have a stronger voice in decisions made about our lands.”

Life-Saving Road for King Cove

Senator Murkowski’s legislation would facilitate a land transfer between the State of Alaska and the federal government needed to allow the construction of an 11-mile, non-commercial use, gravel, life-saving road through a small sliver of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. The road would provide emergency medical transportation out of King Cove during frequently extreme weather conditions by linking the village to the all-weather runway in nearby Cold Bay. This is the latest step in Senator Murkowski’s efforts to help the people of King Cove following Secretary Jewell’s rejection of the life-saving road and a nearly 300:1 land exchange on December 23, 2013. Since Secretary Jewell rejected the road, the community has now endured 44 medevacs, including 16 carried out by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Waters of the United States

Senator Murkowski’s legislation imposes a one-year delay on the implementation of the controversial Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which if finalized, would significantly expand the EPA’s ability to regulate Alaska’s land and water. Almost everything in Alaska is near water, wetlands, or permafrost. In fact, Alaska has more wetlands than the rest of the United States. Under WOTUS, almost every project in Alaska could suddenly become subject to the burdensome EPA permitting process. This would increase project costs and cause delays or even cancellations.

Alaska Land Use Council

The Interior bill re-establishes the Alaska Land Use Council (ALUC), which was established by Title 12 of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) but allowed to sunset in 1990. The current relationship between the State of Alaska, residents of Alaska, and federal land management agencies makes clear that a constructive venue is needed to facilitate enhanced coordination on federal land and resource management issues. The purpose of the new ALUC is to improve efficiency and cooperation among federal, state, and Alaska Native Corporation and Tribal land managers in addressing those issues.

Stream Buffer Zone Rule

The bill prohibits the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) from implementing a regulation known as the Stream Buffer Zone Rule. The rule has been heavily criticized by states and the mining industry as duplicative and confusing. As proposed, it has the potential to shut down coal mining in Alaska and across the nation, and OSM failed to fully analyze Alaska impacts when developing the rule. At a field hearing that Senator Murkowski held in Fairbanks in March 2016, Ms. Lorali Simon of the Usibelli Coal Mine testified that, “If this proposed rule becomes final, it will likely kill all coal development in Alaska.”   

Kagalaska Caribou Hunt and Chirikof Island Cattle

In this bill, Murkowski fights wasteful government spending by banning the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) from using funds to conduct a caribou hunt on Kagalaska Island in the Aleutian Chain. The FWS estimated that it would cost $71,000 in taxpayer money to send four employees to the island to hunt and process the caribou. The legislation also prohibits costly and impractical efforts to remove cattle from the remote Chirikof Island.

The Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee controls funding levels for federal agencies and departments such as 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). Murkowski, as Chairman, is able to write the Senate’s annual appropriations bill for the Subcommittee

Related Issues: Alaska Natives & Rural Alaska