Sullivan Holds Second EPW Field Hearing on EPA’s WOTUS Rule

FAIRBANKS, AK – Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK), chairman of the Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife subcommittee for the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, today chaired his second field hearing in Alaska on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Waters of the United States rule.

Held in Fairbanks, AK, the hearing examined the impacts of the EPA’s Waters of the United States rule on state and local governments and stakeholders.

Senator Sullivan opened the hearing by expressing his concerns for the rule.  “Alaska has some of the cleanest waterways in the world leading to our vibrant, world class fisheries, and award-winning drinking water,” Sen. Sullivan said.  “Concerns over this rulemaking are not at all aimed at jeopardizing those characteristics that are fundamental to the identity of Alaska.  Instead, my efforts are about clarifying jurisdiction and pushing back on federal agencies that are asserting authority over even more features—such as roadside ditches, culverts, storm water systems, isolated ponds—and activities on adjacent lands,  bypassing Congress and ducking Supreme Court rulings.”

During the hearing, Senator Sullivan examined the views of a diverse group of stakeholders. 

Below are excerpts from their testimony:

Senator Click Bishop, of Fairbanks, testified:

“It is clear to me that the EPA, in lock-step with the Corps of Engineers, view it as their mission to control every human activity within the water column, from the moment the raindrop hits the earth until it diffuses into the ocean…This attempted rule-making..(is) a flagrant assault on the intent and plain language of the Clean Water Act… It represents a power grab by those two Agencies, at a high cost to the freedoms of the people of the U.S.”

North Slope Borough Mayor Charlotte Brower, testified:

“The Borough believes that if the Proposed Rule is adopted in its current form, it will hamper the Borough’s ability to provide essential services to Alaska Natives and other residents of the region, putting the recipients of those services at risk because the Proposed Rule will deleteriously impact the development of resources on Alaska’s North Slope.”

Sara Taylor, Executive Director, Citizens' Advisory Commission on Federal Areas, testified:

“One recurring theme throughout Alaskan history is a well-meaning paternalism which stifles our opportunity for social and economic autonomy and prosperity… In many ways, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) proposed rulemaking on the extent of federal jurisdiction over waters in Alaska is emblematic of this patronizing and often oblivious approach to Alaska…. This is our home, our being, and water is the intravenous network that feeds us, both physically and spiritually. The Clean Water Act recognizes that there is no more reliable steward of clean water than the people who fish in it, swim in it and drink it…The proposed rule will not only serve to deprive Alaska of its traditional and sovereign powers, in spite of its superior capacity and expertise to manage and protect its waters, it will also disproportionately impact its ability to grow and prosper.”

Deantha Crockett, Executive Director, Alaska Miners Association, testified:

“Our major concern is the lack of clarity throughout the document. Definitions of numerous key terms and concepts, like waters, floodplain, wetlands, subsurface connection, etc. are ambiguous and unclear. There is no room for confusion when it comes to permitting and regulating mining projects in Alaska. We depend on, and believe the public does too, a rigorous, science-based permitting system. Without explicit definition of all technical and enforceable terms, we are left with an unpredictable and confusing proposed rule. We can only assume that we will also be left with undefined terms that will be subject to interpretation by the agencies. To be perfectly frank, we fear this provides an avenue for our federal agencies to take a large leap into overreach, and place unreasonable regulations on mining projects simply because they can.” 

Bryce Wrigley, President, Alaska Farm Bureau, testified:

“EPA hastens to assure farmers and ranchers that they will be exempt, however this does not prevent environmental organizations from filing suit and the recent EPA actions against farming operations have destroyed any trust that EPA or Army Corps would defend those exemptions in court. Remember that EPA has worked for many years and spent millions of dollars to assert jurisdiction over waters that both Congress and the Supreme Court have repeatedly said they did not have.  This Rule shows clearly the attitude of the vast bureaucracy we have created and that now governs every aspect of our lives. It is time for Congress to impose some restrictions on the agencies that are running roughshod over the farmers and ranchers who are growing our food.”

John MacKinnon, Executive Director, Associated General Contractors of Alaska, testified:

“The average time for a major highway project that requires an EIS, from beginning the EIS to completion of construction is 13 years…In Alaska, lack of adequate transportation is one of the biggest impediments to our economy. Forty years ago, the biggest obstacle we had to getting a transportation project was scraping money together. Today, the biggest obstacle was have is getting permission.. The proposed changes will have a significant negative effect on the construction industry and the economy.”