Senator Murkowski Questions Administrator Wheeler over EPA Budget

Addresses Regulatory Relief for Unique Alaska Situations and Challenges

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) chaired an Interior Appropriations Subcommittee hearing yesterday, examining the Fiscal Year 2020 budget request for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). During the hearing, Senator Murkowski reviewed programs within the EPA to ensure the agency is focusing on its core mission to protect the health of our communities as well as addressing unique situations and challenges Alaskan communities face with EPA regulations.

“When I go home to Alaska, I see firsthand how the EPA impacts the lives of Alaskans by improving the health of our communities. From restoring contaminated sites to ensuring clean drinking water, the EPA touches the lives of Americans across our country every day. This is why supporting EPA’s core responsibilities of clean air, clean water, and clean land is so important.” said Senator Murkowski. “Administrator Wheeler, I appreciate the work you’ve done on returning the EPA to a back-to-basics management approach. Instead of pushing a one-size-fits-all regulatory agenda that exceeds the statutory authority of the EPA, we’ve seen this Administration shift focus back to prioritizing programs with actual on-the-ground cleanup and real environmental benefits. You’re on the right track.”

Click here to watch Senator Murkowski’s full opening statement.

Murkowski explained her continued efforts in securing funding for programs that lead to real results for Alaskans and expressed her concerns over proposed reductions to grant programs that deliver tangible environmental and human health benefits, such as funding for drinking water and sanitation infrastructure.

Senator Murkowski asked specific questions regarding concerns for Alaskans: (Click headlines to watch videos)

  • PFAS: Murkowski raised the issue communities like Utgiagvik, Fairbanks, Dillingham, and Gustavus are facing with groundwater being contaminated with PFAS and asked Administrator Wheeler about the EPA’s timeline for listing PFAS or other compounds as hazardous substances.
  • Diesel Generators: As many remote Alaskan communities still use diesel generators to produce power, Murkowski asked Administrator Wheeler for a commitment to help find a workable solution to a diesel generator regulation that carries too high a cost of compliance for remote Alaska microgrids and communities. Administrator Wheeler told Senator Murkowski the agency plans to issue a rule in June relaxing the regulation for diesel generators in remote areas of Alaska.
  • Tongass National Forest Drought: Southeast Alaska communities that rely on hydro-electric power such as Ketchikan, Wrangell, and Petersburg experienced a drought this winter and have turned to diesel generation use as a backup to hydro. Murkowski asked Administrator Wheeler to work with these islanded communities to address the hour limitation on diesel generation.
  • Air Quality: Murkowski questioned Administrator Wheeler how the EPA is working with the Fairbanks North Star Borough to address air quality requirements, including taking into account the unique situation Fairbanks faces with its geography, extremely low winter temperatures, and lack of access to cleaner fuels like natural gas.
  • Small Remote Incinerators: Acknowledging that small remote incinerators are critical for solid waste disposal in rural communities inaccessible by road, Murkowski asked the Administrator to commit to resolving the issue of EPA regulations that threaten to prevent the use of these necessary incinerators.
  • Fish Grinding: Murkowski thanked Administrator Wheeler for progress made on addressing unworkable offshore standards for grinding of fish waste and asked for a commitment to ensure onshore fish processors actually have the best available technology before being faced with fines for noncompliance.

Related Issues: Budget, Spending, and the National Debt, Energy