H.Res.152 and S.Res.12 - Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that clean water is a national priority
H.Res.152 and S.Res.12 - Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that clean water is a national priority, and that the June 29, 2015, Waters of the United States Rule should be withdrawn or vacated – Express that clean water is a national priority, applauding past improvements, but requesting the “Waters of the U.S.A.” ruled adopted in 2015 be withdrawn or vacated. On February 28, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order directing the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to review, rescind, or revise the rule adopted in 2015 defining the scope of “waters of the United States” for purposes of regulating the discharge of pollutants under the Clean Water Act into navigable waters. On March 6, 2017, both agencies announced their intention to review and rescind or revise the Clean Water Rule. Instead of reducing regulatory uncertainty, Trump’s order and the agency’s follow-up action will accentuate regulatory uncertainty and impede the government’s fulfillment of responsibility under the Clean Water Act “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.”
H.J.Res.44 – Disapproving the rule submitted by the Department of the Interior relating to Bureau of Land Management regulations that establish the procedures used to prepare, revise, or amend land use plans pursuant to the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 - In the latest effort by the 115th Congress to scuttle rules adopted during the Obama Administration, by legislative fiat, the Senate repealed a new rule intended to modernize federal land management on BLM lands. Both Alaska Senators voted in favor of the repeal although BLM manages more lands in Alaska than any other state. Instead of assuring that Alaskans are guaranteed public access, transparency, and sunshine in planning on federal public lands, Alaska Senators concluded they knew best and stuck agency planning processes back in the 20th Century.
This is the fourth Congressional Review Act resolution this Congress has sent President Trump. Previously, Alaska’s Delegation has voted in favor of H.J.Res.38, which repealed the Department of Interior’s Stream Protection Rule, which prohibited the destructive and wasteful coal mining practice that removes the tops of mountains and dumps the overburden into downstream watersheds, smothering all aquatic life and destroying surface and groundwater quality. On Valentine’s Day, President Trump signed into law H.J.Res.41, a joint resolution nullifying a rule, mandated under the Dodd-Frank Walls Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, that required drilling and mining firms to disclose all payments made to governments for commercial development of oil, natural gas, or minerals.
H.R. 230 – Sale Act - also known as the “Shee Atika Land Entitlement Act” - permits Shee Atika Corporation to receive payment in cash or bid credits for acquiring federal surplus property from federal agencies, in exchange for the roughly 23,000 acres of land it clearcut on Admiralty Island.
Twenty-five years ago, Congress encouraged the Forest Service to engage in negotiations aimed at the completion of a voluntary exchange agreement between Shee Atika, Inc. and Sealaska Corporation for lands in the Lake Florence, Lake Kathleen, and Wards Creek drainages of Admiralty Island National Monument (the so-called “Cube Cove” lands). Those efforts proved unsuccessful and these spectacular lands were clearcut. There are unquestionable benefits from returning these lands to Admiralty Island National Monument and letting this devastation heal. We hope that Congress recognizes the substantial cultural loss that resulted from the unsustainable wreckage of productive fish and wildlife habitat at Cube Cove and does not repeat the mistake by mandating for-profit development by corporations of lands historically, culturally, and traditionally important to the five communities identified by Congressman Young in H.R. 229.
We saw similar legislation introduced last July by Alaska Senators Murkowski and Sullivan in section 5 of S. 3273. To date, neither Alaska Senator has reintroduced companion legislation in the Senate.
Unlike last year’s version, H.R. 230 does not authorize the USFS to obtain Sealaska's subsurface estate at Cube Cove as well, in exchange for the surface and subsurface lands on nearly 8,900-acres and the surface estate of 5,145 more acres of Tongass lands on Prince of Wales Island. Last year, we opposed this exchange because it was of unequal value. Typically, the rule of thumb for the exchange of subsurface property, without other evidence, is 10% of the value of the surface estate. In this case, the surface estate at Cube Cove should result in Alaska getting less than 500 acres of old-growth forest in exchange for its 23,000 acres of subsurface estate at Cube Cove.
S. 56- The RED Tape Act of 2017– Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan introduced this bill to make it more difficult for a federal agency to update existing regulations. It is the Congressional equivalent of President Trump’s “Two-for-One” Executive Order. Rather than removing “Red Tape,” it will make it harder for federal agencies to implement laws with real-world solutions, including protecting American citizens and managing public lands. This is a blatant attempt by Senator Sullivan to appeal to his corporate donor base, a complete overreach by Congress, and is fueled by a desire to circumvent public good for the benefit of private corporate profits. In a ruse to give the illusion of efficiency, any new rule must cost less than the two being thrown out. Making these cost-benefit estimates is inherently difficult because of uncertainty and the challenge of validating previous estimates.
H.R. 513 and S. 131 - Alaska Mental Health Trust Land Exchange Act of 2017 – Alaska’s Congressman Young and Senator Lisa Murkowski sponsored these identical bills to fast-track an exchange of Alaska Mental Health Trust lands with substantial public safety concerns and high community use values for productive timberlands on the Tongass National Forest. This approach ignores the need for informed public engagement from affected communities. These bills were introduced before the exchange between the Forest Service and the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority was finalized and seek to fast-track the land swap. The bill does not address the fundamental problem that clearcutting Southeast Alaska’s old-growth forests to generate revenue for Alaska’s mental health beneficiaries is an outdated model for revenue generation.
H.R. 211 – Chugach Region Lands Study Act - Introduced by Congressman Young in early January 2017, the bill directs the Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture to identify at least 500,000 acres of economically viable federal land “in or outside the State of Alaska” for exchange with the Chugach Alaska Corporation for any of its lands identified as available for selection. Any acre-for-acre exchange of Federal lands for Chugach Alaska lands “shall be conclusively deemed to be in the public interest.” Chugach Alaska Corporation lands available for selection include “the surface estate or conservation easement in the surface estate acquired as part of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council Habitat Protection and Acquisition Program.” The bill offers no explanation as to whether conservation easement continues in effect if the parties mutually agree to exchange lands subject to such an easement.