Wednesday, April 8, 2015

EPA Rulemaking Proposal Draws Mixed Reaction

Industry, the state of Alaska and the Alaska Municipal League lined up against the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Water Rule, aimed to protect critical streams and wetlands.

But EPA’s proposed action drew support April 6 from the nonprofit public interest environmental law firm Trustees for Alaska, the Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust, the Native Village of Nuiqsut, on Alaska’s North Slope, and the Alaska chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.

The testimony from both sides came at a field hearing in Anchorage called by Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, chairman of the fish, water and wildlife subcommittee of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Sullivan has been highly critical of what he describes as the EPA’s “over-reaching jurisdictional expansion, which could significantly increase the amount of land in Alaska regulated under the Clean Water Act.

His views drew support from the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, Resource Development Council for Alaska, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., Alaska Municipal League, Usibelli Coal Mine and Arctic Slope Regional Corp., all of who were invited to the field hearing by Sullivan.

Tim Troll, executive director of the Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust, spoke of concerns for protecting salmon habitat in the Bristol Bay watershed, specifically in the Nushagak River. Little creeks, mud holes, back waters, side sloughs and stream channels are all important, and the EPA’s Clean Water Act rulemaking provides protection for these headwaters and ephemeral streams, he said.

Brian Litmans, senior staff attorney for Trustees for Alaska, said that the proposed rule “is rooted in sound science” He told Sullivan “it is time to establish regulations that will eliminate uncertainty,” he said. “Clean water and a healthy environment are essential to all of us.”

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