Legislature(2015 - 2016)BARNES 124
02/27/2015 01:00 PM RESOURCES
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HJR 6-FEDERAL CONTAMINATION OF ANCSA LANDS 1:39:34 PM CO-CHAIR TALERICO announced that the next order of business is HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 6, Supporting the introduction and enactment of federal legislation acknowledging that the federal government is financially responsible under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act for the remediation of contaminated land subject to conveyance under the Act; urging the United States Department of the Interior to implement the six recommendations to identify and clean up the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act lands in its 1998 report to the United States Congress; and urging the President of the United States and the United States Congress to remediate and make free from pollutants lands in the state conveyed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. 1:39:47 PM REPRESENTATIVE CHARISSE MILLETT, Alaska State Legislature, sponsor, introduced HJR 6, noting it is not new and is something the legislature has passed every session. She said the resolution has to do with the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), which was to finish the land claims with the tribal communities in Alaska. However, the tribes did not anticipate that these transferred lands would be contaminated and the tribes would be unable to fulfill their agreement with the federal government on what those lands would be used for, which would be revenues for each one of the corporations. Contaminated land doesn't generate revenue, it costs revenue. This is being seen more and more. Places like Unalakleet and Tyonek have had severe problems with contaminated lands that were conveyed to them. Many corporations are currently in the process of having lands conveyed and have stopped conveyance due to finding out that the lands have all sorts of waste from every agency within the federal government. A 1998 Government Accountability Office report for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) talked about over 600 contaminated land sites. It offered six recommendations for the BLM, Department of Interior, and the ANCSA corporations to work together to find some solutions. Not one of those six recommendations has been acted upon. Representative Millett said she has been to Washington, DC, several times on this issue. It is a huge problem for the Native corporations; they have been unable to fulfill their promise to their shareholders because their lands are contaminated and it is costing millions of dollars. The resolution speaks to that, to the 1998 report, to where the lands are, to how many sites are contaminated, and encourages the BLM and the Department of Interior to take this seriously and move forward. While they have taken full ownership of the contamination, it is the remediation part that they need to fulfill their promise to. 1:42:38 PM REPRESENTATIVE HERRON asked whether Representative Millett has met with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on this issue. REPRESENTATIVE MILLETT replied she has not met with Secretary Jewell on this issue, but has met on this issue with her undersecretary, the Alaska BLM, and with Alaska's BLM representative in Washington, DC, but, it has not risen to that level with Secretary Jewell. She reported that the ANCSA corporations have also not met personally with Secretary Jewell on this issue, but have met with her undersecretary and a few other people. She believed this issue has come up in conversations with U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski on the record in one of the energy committees two weeks ago. Secretary Jewell knows this is an issue and that the federal government has taken responsibility for it. The problem being run into with the legacy wells is that both the State of Alaska and the federal government are in deficit spending, so it another opportunity for the federal government to plead poverty. The ANCSA corporations have offered to go back and renegotiate some of the conveyances and trade land for clean land, which has been met with some skepticism within the BLM. Solutions are being worked on, but it is an arduous process that is going to take a long time and she doesn't want to stop the pressure for Alaska's first people who should have the opportunity to prosper from the land that they were promised. 1:44:41 PM REPRESENTATIVE HERRON related that both he and Representative Millett had the opportunity to meet with Secretary Jewell and the Northwest [Arctic] Leadership Team (NWALT). He requested Representative Millett to share what Secretary Jewell said about travesty wells. REPRESENTATIVE MILLETT replied she and Secretary Jewell had a lengthy discussion about travesty wells, the federal government's response to travesty wells, and the opportunity for working together on travesty wells. Secretary Jewell seemed under the impression that the $50 million received by Alaska in the "Helium bill" was enough to clean up approximately 87 travesty wells, some of which are buried under lakes or under landslides. There was a spirited discussion that $50 million was a good start, she said, but is not anywhere near the cost of the remediation of the wells. Secretary Jewell also pointed out that as part of mitigation efforts in leases for oil and gas companies on federal lands on the North Slope, the producers will now have incorporated into their lease agreement and their plan of production that the mitigation cost will be absorbed by the producers. Representative Millett said she found this to be very hypocritical because it will add an incredible cost to the production of oil and gas from federal lands. It is known that the oil producers partnering with the State of Alaska did not create the problem on the land. She further reported that Secretary Jewell seemed to think there was some value with the legacy wells that were drilled from 1941-1988. Representative Millett said she is unsure what type of well data is had on those wells. When the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (AOGCC) looked at a list of the most dangerous wells to the least dangerous wells, it had a very difficult time getting information from the BLM on those wells and there are still some wells on which AOGCC has no data. She said she therefore found it unusual that Secretary Jewell would say that there was a benefit cost savings for the oil producers to have the information on legacy wells when a lot of that well data is missing and is from 1941. Some of those wells are uncased surfaced wells that went down 100 feet and some went down 1,000 feet. Some were very lightly drilled permafrost testing wells. Secretary Jewell has a different view than Alaskans who think that someone making a mess should take the responsibility of cleaning up that mess. 1:48:39 PM REPRESENTATIVE HERRON asked Representative Millett to relate why Secretary Jewell is so rigid on legacy wells. REPRESENTATIVE MILLETT responded she pointed out to Secretary Jewell the hypocrisy of the federal government and the mission of the Department of Interior, which is to be the caretaker of the land. However, Secretary Jewell wouldn't take the opportunity to be the advocate for cleaning up the legacy wells. REPRESENTATIVE HERRON stated he and his colleagues did not hear an apology from Secretary Jewell. 1:50:38 PM REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON asked how many of the 650 sites were contaminated before about 1965. REPRESENTATIVE MILLETT answered she is unsure as it has been difficult to inventory the actual contamination dates and the agency that did the contamination. Alaska has been a test site for nuclear tests, oil and gas drilling, permafrost, pipeline stabilization, and for every scientist who wanted to try something detrimental to the environment. While there is some inventory, it was long before 1971 and the ANCSA settlement. REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON inquired whether Ms. Kristin Ryan of DEC knows the chronology of these sites and whether they predate approximately 1965. KRISTIN RYAN, Director, Division of Spill Prevention & Response, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), replied she doesn't know; the information on a lot of these sites is patchy. Of the over 2,000 contaminated sites that the division is aware of, over half are on federal land. Monitoring the cleanup of contamination of federal lands is a huge portion of DEC's work. Many of those sites are not in active remediation, DEC is aware that they are there and is working with the appropriate federal agency to start remediation. REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON asked whether the other 1,350 contaminated sites predate the mid-1960s. MS. RYAN responded she does not know. 1:53:47 PM CO-CHAIR TALERICO opened public testimony on HJR 6. 1:54:20 PM NICHOLA RUEDY, Acting Executive Director, Alaska Native Village CEO Association (ANVCA), stated ANVCA is a nonprofit organization with the mission to advocate for policies which will benefit and protect the interests of Alaska Native village corporations with local, state, and federal government. Of the more than 200 Alaska village corporations, more than 80 belong to ANVCA. The millions of acres conveyed by the federal government to Native corporations included land with various types of hazardous waste and toxic materials that pose significant health risks to humans, animals, and the environment, such as arsenic, asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), mining waste chemicals, and petroleum. During the 1990s the Alaska Native community raised concerns that the department was conveying contaminated lands to Alaska Native corporations. In 1995 Congress directed the Secretary of Interior to prepare a report of the extent of the contamination on lands conveyed pursuant to ANCSA. In December 1998 the department submitted a report to Congress entitled "Hazardous Substance Contamination of Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act Lands in Alaska." In that report the department acknowledged conveying more than 650 contaminated sites to Alaska Native corporations. The report identified numerous types of hazardous wastes, including known carcinogens, on conveyed lands. Recognizing the unjustness of conveying the contaminated lands, the department recommended an approach to identify contaminated sites and the cleanup needs on ANCSA lands, including six recommendations. Research indicates the department has made no effort to implement any of those six recommendations. Through correspondence on July 31, 2013, the department's office in Alaska acknowledged that "the department has had no further involvement after the report was submitted." In a September 18, 2013, letter to Secretary Jewell the Alaska Delegation stated that after 15 years the department has had sufficient time to act on its six recommendations and said it is imperative that progress be made now to clean these lands so they can fulfill the goal of the aboriginal lands claims settlement. On July 10, 2014, Secretary Jewell responded to the Alaska Delegation that the department is committed to determining which sites are identified in the 1998 report conveyed under ANCSA in order to continue follow-up on the six recommendations. There has yet to be any major cleanup. The ANVCA stands behind HJR 6, which supports enactment of federal legislation acknowledging that the federal government is financially responsible under ANCSA for the remediation of contaminated land. 1:58:14 PM JULIANNA SHANE, Director, Tanadgusix (TDX) Corporation, related that in the 1870s the federal government started commercial seal harvest. In 1984 the federal government finally phased out of the Pribilof Islands. The TDX Corporation then went after cleaning the contaminated sites that were located on the island. It took $76 million and 11 years to clean up the property before the corporation allowed conveyance to it. But it is possible and TDX trained its people to do it. The property conveyance will hopefully be finished within the year. She said she is here to say that it can be done by the local corporations, the village corporations, to train their own people. This is something the elders fought for and the rest of the people have continued the fight. The cleaning funds were received through a special act, so it can be done. To hear it is being said that certain areas cannot be cleaned or different lands should be selected does bring an issue to those leaders who are charged for the health and welfare of their people. If it is within the vicinity of a village these items and areas need to be cleaned and not buried. 2:00:50 PM JIM ARNESEN, Corporate Lands & Regulatory Manager, Eklutna Incorporated, shared that Eklutna Incorporated has received a number of contaminated properties through the ANCSA provisions. One of the more prominent contaminated areas is in the heart of the Native village of Eklutna. This was the former U.S. Army site of Camp Mohawk and the BIA Eklutna boarding school. Over the last few years the Native village of Eklutna has obtained Native American Lands Environmental Mitigation (NALEM) program funds, which are available for tribes. Some investigation and remediation has been done with those funds, but more remediation is needed. Eklutna Incorporated worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers through the Formerly Used Defense Sites (FUDS) program to investigate and attempt petroleum product remediation in the former Camp Mohawk area within the existing gravel pit at Eklutna. Contaminated gravel that smells like diesel is not saleable. That effort is continuing and Eklutna is awaiting further results from testing done this last year and further remediation activity in that area is expected. 2:02:29 PM MR. ARNESEN said another contaminated site inherited by Eklutna Incorporated is the original Matanuska town site. The area was used by a former polluter from Anchorage who is now deceased. The polluter had placed a large number of contaminated materials of various kinds and quantities all around the properties and migration of the liquids is believed to have occurred. The old Donnelly Homestead was also inherited through ANCSA and Eklutna Incorporated spent substantial funds about 15 years ago to clean up the surface. The cleanup operation consisted mostly of surface debris from Donnelly who operated an illegal junkyard on the property; the property is impaired and may require more remediation in the future. Eklutna Incorporated has property next to the Birchwood Recreation and Shooting Park where over the years trespass shooters have polluted the property with lead. Eklutna Incorporated is in the process of determining the levels of contamination which will guide the remediation effort. More recently Eklutna Incorporated discovered potential contamination believed to be emanating from the old Peters Creek landfill, which has been closed for some time. Eklutna Incorporated is in the process of determining the extent of potential contamination and type of remediation needed there under testing protocol. Eklutna Incorporated has received other properties that have been used by various governmental units and as the corporation goes to develop its properties it has run into contamination and/or bury pits where debris of one kind or another have been disposed of. The cost of remediating these impaired properties has been a financial burden upon Eklutna Incorporated and has at times prevented, stopped, or delayed a project. Eklutna Incorporated believes that contamination issues on its lands due to past use by former governmental units have not been addressed fully or satisfactorily. Impacted lands are a burden and a big hurdle for many economic development opportunities upon Native lands. Eklutna Incorporated supports HJR 6, which asks the U.S. Congress to pass legislation to hold the federal government responsible for remediation of contaminated lands received under ANCSA. Eklutna Incorporated believes the federal government has a financial and moral obligation to remediate the contaminated sites and reimburse funds spent by Native corporations on the contaminated sites. 2:05:12 PM CO-CHAIR TALERICO closed public testimony on HJR 6. 2:05:21 PM REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON related that in a subcommittee meeting with the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), there was some recognition by DEC officials that many of these sites date to World War II and the Cold War when everyone was in a hurry to win what they were striving for. It is interesting that a lot of the national environmental laws came into effect in the mid-1960s. The one that some people find most troublesome is the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) where federal agencies cannot start any project without doing at least an environmental assessment and perhaps an environmental impact statement (EIS). Many of these acts were signed by President Richard Nixon. He said he only notes this because he commends Representative Millett for her actions, but it is an interesting thought that these statutes have made things better. What hasn't gotten better, and he shares Representative Millett's concern, is the delay in all of this. It is unconscionable, he said, and something needs to be done. 2:06:55 PM REPRESENTATIVE SEATON appreciated the sponsor bringing forth this resolution, saying this needs to be looked at throughout the lands of Alaska and the responsible party should be the one in charge of ensuring that remediation takes place. CO-CHAIR TALERICO concurred. 2:07:31 PM REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER moved to report HJR 6 out of committee with individual recommendations [and the accompanying zero fiscal note]. There being no objection, HJR 6 was reported from the House Resources Standing Committee.