Sullivan Chairs EPW Subcommittee Hearing on WOTUS

ANCHORAGE, AK – On the same day that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent their proposed Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule to the White House, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fish, Water, and Wildlife, chaired his first field hearing in Anchorage on the impacts of the proposed WOTUS rule on state and local governments and stakeholders.

Senator Sullivan, who has been outspoken against the EPA’s over-reaching jurisdictional expansion, explained that “Alaska is no stranger to overreaching federal agencies. However, it should be stressed that the proposed Waters of the U.S. rule may be the most massive expansion of federal jurisdiction we have seen to date.”

In his opening statement, Sen. Sullivan detailed what could happen if the WOTUS rule is finalized.  “If the rule is finalized, it would mean that many Alaskans might be subject to having to get a permit from the EPA in order to dig ditches in their backyards. It could mean that a farmer might have to get a permit to plow new land. It could mean that harbors, roads, and certainly natural resource development, could fall under a more rigorous federal permitting process, effectively granting the EPA the power to dictate energy, and infrastructure policy in most all of Alaska.”

During the hearing, Senator Sullivan examined the views of a diverse group of stakeholders, including representatives from state and local government, an Alaska Native regional corporation, resource development associations and oil, gas and mining industry representatives.

“In Washington D.C., we have held hearings with the EPA Administrator, Assistant Secretary of the Army, State government representatives, and stakeholders. This hearing is a continuation of those efforts. It will also give voice to a cross section of Alaskans on this rule and its possible impacts,” said Sen. Sullivan. 

The hearings will continue on Wednesday at 9 a.m. in Fairbanks at the Fairbanks North Star Borough assembly chambers.

Below are excerpts from today’s testimony:

Michelle Hale, Director of the Division of Water in the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, testified:

“The State of Alaska believes that the Waters of the U.S. rule will lead to a significantly larger number of waters and wetlands that are ‘jurisdictional’ and that will require permits for development, further driving up already high costs of permitting and compensatory mitigation.. Alaska has long protected its water resources under state statutory and regulatory authority. There is simply no need to expand the Army Corps of Engineers’ and EPA’s regulatory reach by increasing the numbers of waters they regulate.”

Tara M. Sweeney, Executive Vice President of External Affairs, Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, testified:

“ASRC believes that if the Proposed Rule regarding “Definition of ‘Waters of the United States’ Under the Clean Water Act” is adopted, not only will it hamper ASRC’s use of its lands for the benefit of Alaska Natives, but it will also constrain the development of natural resources on Alaska’s North Slope.”

Rod Hanson, Vice President, System Integrity, Engineering & Projects, Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, testified:

“Under our reading of the proposal, it would significantly expand Clean Water Act jurisdiction to cover many more waterbodies and features than currently are covered under the law. As a result, we believe this proposed rule will subject many more TAPS activities and operations to regulation under the Clean Water Act than currently are covered by the statute and regulations…This could significantly delay our ability to get critical work done, in the short season we have to do that work in Alaska, by causing delays in screening, permitting and other approvals for critical inspection, repair and maintenance projects.”

Lorali Simon, Vice President, External Affairs, Usibelli Coal Mine, Inc, testified:

“Usibelli is deeply concerned about a proposed rule by the Environmental Protection Agency which would significantly increase the jurisdictional waters of the United States under the Clean Water Act. Should this proposed rule be finalized, it will likely stop all development in Alaska – small, private developments, as well as large resource development projects.”

Rick Rogers, Executive Director, Resource Development Council for Alaska testified:

“(R)ather than reducing confusion, the proposed rule as written takes the most aggressive and broad interpretation of federal jurisdiction, rendering adjacent waters, floodplains, ephemeral streams, tributaries, and ditches with limited exceptions as jurisdictional.”

Kathie Wasserman, Executive Director, Alaska Municipal League, testified:

“Throughout the entire rule-making process, state and local governments were not adequately consulted through the Regulatory Flexibility Act…Alaska’s geography will see Alaska’s municipalities most likely impacted more than any other state. Given time, it would not be surprising to find EPA simply deem Alaska as a “water of the U.S.”

Kara Moriarty, President/CEO, Alaska Oil and Gas Association, testified:

“Despite EPA’s statements to the contrary, I hope that each and every member of the regulated community appreciates that the rule represents a statement by the EPA that it intends to exercise authority under the Clean Water Act on virtually any water feature with any tentative or hypothetical connection, directly or indirectly, to a traditionally navigable or interstate water…It is impossible to understate how significantly the proposed rule will effect operations in Alaska, through both delays and increased costs.”