Legislature(2015 - 2016)BUTROVICH 205
03/18/2015 03:30 PM RESOURCES
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|Confirmation Hearing: Department of Natural Resources|
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
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HJR 6-FEDERAL CONTAMINATION OF ANCSA LANDS 3:31:00 PM CHAIR GIESSEL announced HJR 6 to be up for consideration. SENATOR STOLTZE joined the committee. JEFF TURNER, staff to Representative Charisse Millett, sponsor of HJR 6, said this is essentially the same resolution passed by the legislature last year. When the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) was passed in 1971, some lands were transferred to the newly formed Native corporations that were found to be contaminated, which prevent the traditional use of many of those lands, which goes against the intent and spirit of the law. In 1998, the Department of Interior prepared a report with six recommendations ranging from creating a forum made up of the entities involved in this issue to identifying all of the contaminated sites, to giving the landowners assurances that liability for the contamination would not be transferred to them. Seventeen years later none of those recommendations have been acted on. 3:32:14 PM He said that Representative Millett had spoken to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) officials, but made little progress. To keep up the pressure on the federal government, she sponsored this legislation again to hopefully get results similar to what was accomplished with the travesty wells. 3:33:01 PM At ease 3:33:29 PM SENATOR COSTELLO moved Amendment 1. 29-LS0269\A.1 Nauman 3/14/15 AMENDMENT 1 OFFERED IN THE SENATE Page 3, line 11: Delete "." Insert "; and be it" Page 3, following line 11: Insert new material to read: "FURTHER RESOLVED that the Alaska State Legislature urges the United States federal government to reimburse the medical expenses of residents who have health conditions and complications as a result of living on contaminated and polluted lands in the state conveyed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act." SENATOR STOLTZE objected for discussion purposes. SENATOR COSTELLO explained that this amendment adds a further resolve section on page 3, following line 11, urging the federal government to reimburse medical expenses to those who have health conditions as a result of living on contaminated lands the state conveyed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). SENATOR STOLTZE removed his objection. SENATOR MICCICHE objected for discussion purposes. He was concerned that the undetermined amount of liability might complicate the resolution as opposed to just a statement that we expect the lands to be cleaned up. MR. TURNER said the sponsor supported the amendment. Patrick Marshall, a constituent of Senator Stedman's, brought this amendment forward. SENATOR MICCICHE removed his objection. CHAIR GIESSEL, finding no further objections, announced that Amendment 1 was adopted. 3:36:03 PM NICHOLA RUEDY, Executive Director, Alaska Native Village Corporation Association (ANVCA), Anchorage, Alaska, supported HJR 6. She related some history of the contamination. When the federal government conveyed millions of acres of land to Alaska Native Corporations, it included lands with various types of hazardous waste and toxic materials that posed significant health risk to humans, animals, and environment, such as arsenic, asbestos, PCBs, mining waste, chemicals, petroleum and oil solvents, mercury, and toxic metals. During the 1990s, the Alaska Native community raised concerns about the contaminated lands the Department of Interior conveyed to them, and, in 1995, Congress directed the Secretary of Interior to prepare a report about the extent of their contamination. In December 1998, the department submitted a report entitled "Hazardous Substance Contamination of Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act Lands in Alaska." In it they acknowledged conveying approximately 650 contaminated sites and identified numerous hazardous wastes including known carcinogens. Recognizing the injustice, the department recommended fully identifying the sites along with clean up recommendations. But extensive research indicates that no efforts have been made to implement any of them. 3:38:18 PM JULIANNA SHANE, Director, Tanadgusix Corporation, St. Paul Island, Alaska, supported HJR 6. She said she grew up around so much petroleum contaminated soils that she didn't know any different. From 1986-2000, cleanup work was done by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for the Pribiloff Islands under the Fur Seal Act. Since the mid-90s the cleanup has cost $76 million of both islands. Now, they are in the final stages of trying to receive the property back from the federal government. She wanted them to know that this work can be done internally. Corporate shareholders have now been trained to do this cleanup work and one of the companies even does cleanup nationwide. MS. SHANE said she is from a family of 11 and her husband was from a family of 15. They watched as four of his sisters, one from brain cancer, one from stomach cancer, one from kidney cancer, passed and she recently lost her husband from small cell lung cancer. Their shareholders have one of the highest rates of cancer. All the other villages need to be cleaned, not just the Pribiloffs. 3:41:29 PM JIM ARNESEN, Corporate, Lands, and Regulatory Manager, Eklutna Inc., Eagle River, Alaska, supported HJR 6. He said Eklutna had received a number of contaminated lands through ANCSA; one of the more prominent areas is in the heart of the Native Village of Eklutna, itself. It is the former site for the U.S. Army Camp Mohawk, the BIA Eklutna Boarding School, and the Railroad quarry. Over the last few years they village received grant funds for investigation and remediation activities. Currently, the Corps of Engineers is out there working to attempt further remediation of petroleum product contamination. Presently, they are waiting for results of testing from the Corps. Other contaminated sites include the original Matanuska town site that had been used by a former polluter from Anchorage who is now deceased. He had placed a large number of contaminated materials of various kinds and quantities all around the properties and some have migrated. They also received an old homestead that they spent substantial funds of their own to cleanup. The operation consisted mostly of surface debris from Donnelly who operated an illegal junk yard on the property. This property is impaired and will probably require more remediation in the future. MR. ARNESEN said they have property near the Birchwood Recreation and Shooting Park where trespass shooters have contaminated property with lead and they are in the process of determining the levels of contamination which will guide the remediation effort. He said the municipality had a project to replace the old Eklutna Bridge that led to the discovery of lead paint contamination below the bridge that will require remediation. More recently, potential contamination was discovered and believed to be emanating from the old Peters Creek landfill. Eklutna has received other properties that have been used by various governmental units and as they go to develop these properties they run into contamination, buried pits, and all kinds of toxins. The cost of remediating these properties has been a financial burden and has at time prevented, stopped or delayed a project. MR. ARNESEN said Eklutna believes the contamination on Native lands caused by former governmental units or others has not been addressed satisfactorily and that those impacted lands are a burden and a hurdle for economic development opportunities. The federal government has the financial and moral obligation to remediate the contaminated sites and reimburse funds spent by Native corporations on cleaning them up. He also agreed with Amendment 1. 3:46:17 PM SENATOR STOLTZE said he appreciated what Eklutna is doing as a good steward of the resources. SENATOR COSTELLO asked if the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has a list of the 650 contaminated sites and monitors them in some capacity. KRISTIN RYAN, Director, Division of Spill Prevention and Response (SPAR), Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), answered yes; they have a database of all contaminated sites in the state that were caused by the federal government. In fact, the Department of Interior (DOI) relies on it as the best source of information on contaminated sites in the state. SENATOR COSTELLO asked if there had ever been a conversation about taking the feds to court over this. MS. RYAN answered that the department has several MOUs with multiple federal agencies that are working on cleaning up contamination that they own or inherited and she prefers to make that kind of progress as opposed to taking legal action, and some sites are already under active remediation work. The department is continuing to work with the federal government on the ones they have cleanup standards disagreements with. SENATOR COSTELLO asked if she supported the amendment. MS. RYAN said the few claims of medical concern that she knows of were difficult to prove. It's very difficult to make the direction connection of old contamination to a potential health issue. SENATOR STOLTZE asked if the state is spending SPAR funds on some of these federally contaminated sites. MS. RYAN answered that the SOA spends some money to get the federal government to honor its obligations under federal and state law. The state gets reimbursed for the majority of those expenses through the MOUs, but at times it takes years to reach settlement. Approximately $8 million in federal money that comes into the contaminated site program is spent to cover oversight of cleanup of the sites. CHAIR GIESSEL, finding no further comments, closed public testimony. MR. TURNER thanked the committee for their attention on this issue and said the sponsor is convinced this resolution will have equally similar results as her resolution for cleanup of the travesty wells. SENATOR MICCICHE commented that at some point they will have to start putting teeth into these requests. SENATOR COSTELLO moved to report HJR 6, version 29-LS0269\A, as amended from committee with individual recommendations and attached zero fiscal note. There were no objections and SCS HJR 6(RES) moved from the Senate Resources Standing Committee.