Search Form
First, enter a politician or zip code
Now, choose a category

Public Statements

Cybersecurity Act of 2012--Motion to Proceed--Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Ms. MURKOWSKI. Mr. President, I have had an opportunity to listen to a few moments of the comments from my colleague from Rhode Island. I clearly share his passion and concern for the oceans. We have been working together as the cochairmen of the Oceans Caucus in the Senate and have had the opportunity to learn from one another on both ends of the country about the significant responsibilities we have, also the great challenges we have, whether it is ocean acidification, whether it is the opportunities we have to ensure that we are good stewards of our water, our land, our air.

It is a challenge I think we face on a daily basis. But I think as we rise to meet these challenges, we recognize that oftentimes within the laws that we have put in place to provide for that level of protection, for that level of oversight and that stewardship, that we may encounter conflict, conflict with the obligation we also have to ensure that the people we represent have an opportunity for good jobs, for a livelihood in a region they call home, that there is a level of balance that we find between our obligation to care for the land, the air, the water, as well as caring for one another.

It is in that vein that I would like to address my comments this afternoon. I would like to speak about certain aspects of what we see within the Environmental Protection Agency and speak specifically to an issue that is unfolding in my State of Alaska. Clearly, the EPA has important responsibilities to set and also enforce environmental standards. I think we would all agree with that. In the 40 years since EPA was established, our Nation has made dramatic progress in restoring and preserving our environmental resources. I am grateful. I am proud to live in a nation with high environmental standards for the benefit of the land and for the people.

But the process for setting Federal environmental standards, I would suggest, is broken. We are seeing things present themselves not only in my State but around the country. We see in Alaska, day in and day out, that things are not working perhaps as they were designed. So many Alaskans feel the EPA does not ``get'' Alaska.

But the challenges I think we see up North are just examples of many of the problems we see repeated all over the Nation. I would suggest that what we need to see is balance, balance restored at the EPA. There has always been a recognition that the EPA must go about its work in a balanced way.

Back in 1970, there was a memo called the Ash memo, and it listed the origin of the EPA. They stated it this way:

Sound environmental administration must reconcile divergent interests and serve the total public constituency. It must appreciate and take fully into account competing social and economic claims.

In recent years, EPA has not adequately, let alone fully, taken into account these so-called competing claims such as the genuine welfare of our people and their economic needs. EPA says--and I have had many a conversation with Administrator Jackson in person and before committee, where the statements are made that there is a concern about environmental justice for communities that are historically underrepresented in EPA decisionmaking. The fact is, many of these communities are very frequently the ones that bear the brunt of regressive increases in, for instance in my State, energy and in living costs that are caused by some of these rules we are facing.

When I go home, when I meet with people from around the country, I hear more complaints, more concerns expressed about the EPA than any other Federal agency, bar none. Again and again, I am told the benefits of many of the EPA requirements are uncertain at best but that the cost of the regulations are very real, and they are detrimental to the human welfare.

Today, EPA often seems too eager to impose requirements that are dubious in their health or their environmental benefits but whose main effect may be to penalize or to perhaps even stop commerce or development. So restoring an appropriate equilibrium is vital if we want to have a healthy people, if we want to have a healthy economy.

Today, I would like to speak to one example from my State. There is as it relates to ECA. ECA is a reference to the Emissions Control Area.

The EPA was a major proponent of including the ocean off southern and southeastern Alaska in an international emissions control area. This was an effort to reduce emissions from marine vessels through lowering sulfur standards within the fuel.

The purpose of the emissions control areas is to require ships--which, to be very fair, certainly have significant emissions--to do their part to curb pollution. This is absolutely reasonable. The problem we are seeing up north is that EPA never gathered any air modeling data to support the claim that we have a problem from ships that travel up to Alaska. There has been no air modeling data whatsoever. We have requested. There has been none. Moreover, one of the proposals advanced to work with the EPA--and we need to be working with our agencies, as we need our agencies to be working with us--was an offer for an equivalent method to comply with the ECA requirements in North America. We are the only State in the country that is not accessible by road. Folks come and visit us by air and they come in by ship in the summertime. Tourism is big business in Alaska. In Juneau, the ships that are tied up at the docks are utilizing shoreside services so there are no emissions when they are in the community. So one of the proposals that was out there--this equivalency method--would essentially ask for a tradeoff. If we have cruise ships emitting nothing when they are in dock or at shore, offset that against those that would be emitted from vessels out at sea, essentially an averaging. That was rejected by the EPA.

What has made this particularly disconcerting for many Alaskans is that in the EPA's justification they cite a U.S. Forest Service study that purportedly found some evidence that emissions from cruise ships in southeast Alaska could impact the lichen in the mountains above Juneau. We can see the mountains up here in this chart. They are pretty high. There is lichen up on the top. It is kind of a short, mossy, green plant. The report went on to worry that if we have impacted lichen growth in Juneau, it could somehow or other harm the caribou.

Never mind the link that lichen and cruise ship emissions may be very tenuous, there is a bigger problem with EPA's reasoning, and anybody from Alaska would know the problem, which is there are no caribou in Juneau, AK. There are no caribou anywhere in southeastern Alaska. Everyone has seen my pictures before. Alaska is a pretty big State. If we are sitting in Juneau, AK, the caribou herd this report was apparently concerned about is over 1,000 miles away. There are about 1,000 miles between Juneau and where the southern Alaska Peninsula caribou herd cited in the EPA study live--1,000 miles. It would be as if we would make the assertion a cruise ship sitting in Miami might somehow affect the food supply for bears up in the Pocono Mountains north of Philadelphia, PA.

I think we need to look at this and recognize we have a pretty flawed study to begin with, if the suggestion is we need to ensure there are no emissions coming from a cruise ship in Juneau because that is going to impact the lichen which will impact the caribou that don't happen to live anywhere near Juneau--no closer than 1,000 miles away. So applying these new fuel standards to save the lichen in Juneau to feed caribou 1,000 miles from here will mean vessels plying the waters of southeast and south central Alaska--whether they are freight vessels that move just about all our goods or cruise ships that are the lifeblood of our tourist economy--will have to meet the requirement they now burn low-sulfur diesel at levels suggested that are, perhaps, not attainable.

The question I think is fair to ask is: What is the problem with requiring these cruise ships and these vessels bringing goods north to Alaska to meet these standards? What is the problem with this requirement?

The problem is while these ECA requirements may not have a measurable positive effect on human health--or caribou food, for that matter--they will have a material impact on our cost of living. Look at the State of Alaska and the way we get our materials in, the way we get our foodstuffs, our hardware, our lumber. It comes to us over the water. There is some, yes, that comes in by airplane, but guaranteed that is going to cost much more. There are some that can come up from the lower 48 across through Canada and into Alaska that way. But if we want to talk about increased emissions, that is surely one way to do it, to put it on a truck and haul it all the way up here.

So much of our goods come to the State by water. About 85 percent of the goods that come to the State of Alaska come into the Port of Anchorage, which is sitting right there.

What we see with these ECA regs is that ships coming out of a port such as Los Angeles or Long Beach--where my colleague from California hails from, and she is here on the floor now--have hundreds of ships coming in and out every day, but they are not subject to this same emissions control area. They only need to burn this expensive low-sulfur fuel for a very short time until they are out of the ECA. The problem is, when traveling along Alaska's coast to bring those goods up to our State, you are in an area where our air is pretty clean--our air is very pristine--but the entire voyage is within this ECA region. It is all within this emissions control area. So throughout that entire journey they are required to burn the lower sulfur, more expensive fuel.

If this were just going to result in an increase in cost to the cruise lines or to the freight haulers that come up to the State, that might be one thing, but I think we recognize the economic reality that every dime that is added to the cost of doing business in Alaska is ultimately going to be a dime passed on and shared by consumers.

The State of Alaska recently cited an estimate that these new requirements will increase the shipping costs to the State of Alaska by 8 percent. One might say: Eight percent, that is not that bad. We can live with that. But the problem we face is that in 2015, just around the corner, we will see an even higher standard these vessels will be held to. At that point in time, the suggestion is that costs could be increased by as much as 25 percent. That may be on the high margin, but let's say somewhere between 8 and 25 percent. Again, almost every commodity consumed in our State is transported either by ship or by ship and plane, with the cost of freight adding a significant increase to every item out there.

We are already one of the most expensive places to live in America, and rural Alaska is even more expensive. I

check on a weekly basis to find out what Alaskans are paying for their fuel, whether it is in the city of Anchorage or up in Fairbanks or out in Kwethluk or in the villages. I monitor that regularly to see how our villages are faring. In Kotzebue, for instance, this week they are paying about $7.15 for a gallon of gas. I asked that we put a link on our Web site to get some pricing on what we are seeing in our communities as it relates to foodstuffs, things you and I would use in our home here. Here is a package most of us recognize. A 10-pound bag of sugar in Kwethluk is going for $17.25. There is no other store in Kwethluk, other than the Native store, so it is not as if they can go to the Safeway and comparison shop. It is not as if they can get in their car and drive to the city or go to Costco. It just doesn't happen. There are no roads in and out of Kwethluk. You might be able to take an airplane.

A gallon of whole milk costs $30 in Ambler, that is if you can find whole milk or any kind of fresh milk. As a mom who has boys who go through laundry, I am always looking to see what people are paying for laundry detergent. In Venetie, a 100-ounce bottle of Tide goes for $43.50. I had my interns do a little price comparison on Tide. Powdered Tide, 56 ounces, in Anchorage we are paying $9.98. That is a little higher than here in Washington. Washington is about nine bucks. But in Angoon that same box of Tide is $18.33. In Barrow it is $22. In McGrath it is $21. In Bethel it is $21.

So when we talk about increasing the prices in Alaska by 8 percent, 10 percent, 12 percent, possibly 25 percent and you are a mom buying a box of Tide and you are already paying $43, believe me, 8 percent starts to add up real quick. When you are trying to buy a bag of sugar so you can make the food, put up the jam for the winter, and you are paying $17.25 in Kwethluk, I think it is fair to say we are paying attention to what happens when there are cost increases.

EPA mandated low-sulfur fuel is estimated to add $100 million in additional cost to the summer cruise traffic in Alaska. So one might say, if you can afford the price of a cruise, that is not that big of a deal. You increase the price of the ticket and people will live. But what happens is that puts Alaska at a competitive disadvantage when we are talking about where these businesses are going to operate. Fourteen percent of all employment in the State is directly tied to the tourism industry. So if the cruise lines can't fully pass on these increased costs, what they are going to do is move their ships. They will take them to other parts of the world where air quality standards are different, and we will have the loss of seasonal visitors. The money they bring to southeastern Alaska is a huge part of the local economy and also to year-round institutions. In Juneau, our regional hospital is actually able to provide for a higher standard of care, in part, because of the high influx of patients it serves during the summertime.

I would suggest the EPA's one-size-fits-all approach to environmental regulation doesn't always work. We can't quite shoehorn that into in all situations, and we need to be aware of that. Again, when we talk about the concept of environmental justice, we need to make sure when regulations and rules are imposed, we are not hurting the most vulnerable. I would suggest the people in Kwethluk, who are looking at the impact of these regulations and what it is going to mean to them and their village, they are asking: How do we survive? How do we live? The answer isn't for them to move to Washington, DC. That is not the answer. We need to get back to balance.

What is happening now is the State of Alaska has sued the EPA Administrator in Federal Court to stop the new requirements from taking effect. Given the immediacy of the threat these requirements pose to my State, I think the State's move to advance the litigation was the right one. But we shouldn't have to sue our own government in order to get balanced regulation.

Administrator Lisa Jackson has recently acknowledged that applying ECA to Alaska has posed a problem. She recognized that. Unfortunately, we haven't seen anything more beyond those words, and we are still no closer to a solution. These new requirements are set to take effect next week, the initial threshold. I have been raising this issue with EPA for several years, but again we are still working and we have not yet resolved it. I have called on the President himself to marshal the State Department to see if ECA can be amended or some other relief can be found to eliminate at least this one burden.

This is something that is touching Alaskans in a very immediate and a very direct way. Again, we want to ensure our air is clean, that our water is clean. We want to be the good custodians and stewards of our land, and we are. But we need to be able to work with our Federal regulators. I have asked the Administrator and I have asked the President to work with us on this.

TED STEVENS DAY

Mr. President, I know my colleague from California is here to speak, but I would like the indulgence of the body for just 2 more minutes to speak on a little bit of a happy occasion.

TED STEVENS DAY

Mr. President, the day after tomorrow, on Saturday, Alaskans are going to be celebrating Ted Stevens Day. As I travel around the State, whether I am in Fairbanks or down on the Kenai River or up in Bethel, down in Ketchikan, everywhere I go, I am reminded of my good friend and a friend to so many in this body, Senator Ted Stevens.

It was nearly 2 years ago now that we lost Uncle Ted to the tragic plane crash in southwest Alaska. But as tragic as that was, I always stop to remember that that tragedy struck while Ted was doing what he loved to do most, which was enjoying Alaska's great outdoors and going fishing, just being outdoors. His passion for Alaska's unique wilderness, his love for fishing, and his immense affection for the outdoors really embodies the spirit we are now advancing in Ted Stevens Day, and the motto of this day is ``Get Out and Play.''

On the fourth Saturday of July, we join together to celebrate the life and the legacy of a man who was really dedicated to public service, whether it was his days as a pilot in World War II, to the four decades he served with us here in the Senate.

He began working in Alaska long before statehood. When he came here to Washington, DC, to represent us in the Senate, he began a battle for our State that lasted for 40 years. He fought for roads, for buildings, and for infrastructure that new, young States need, as well as many of the programs that are in place today that continue on. He worked to transform not only Alaska but really the rest of the country as well.

It is somewhat coincidental that this Ted Stevens Day coincides with the beginning of the 2012 summer Olympic games in London. So as Alaskans get together to get out and play this weekend under the midnight sun, there are going to be 530 American athletes who will begin to embark on a 17-day Olympic journey Senator Stevens helped to pioneer. It is because of legislation he championed that the Olympic movement in the United States exists as it does today.

Back in 1978, he fought for the passage of the Olympic and Amateur Sports Act. This was later renamed the ``Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act'' in his honor and declared the U.S. Olympic Committee the centralized body of all Olympic activities in the country and ultimately led to the creation of national governing bodies responsible for the oversight of each individual Olympic sport--a structure that is still in place now. He really was so much an inspiration to the progress and to the development of the Olympic movement here in the United States. Earlier this month, the U.S. Olympic Committee honored Senator Stevens as a special contributor in the Class of 2012 U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.
We all know Senator Stevens was also a huge proponent of title IX. I think he would be very proud that for the first time in American history, Team USA is comprised of more women than men. I think that would give him a smile. But this feat was made possible by the landmark legislation passed 40 years ago that opened gymnasium doors and leveled the playing field for women and girls across the country.

In Alaska, we very often say that Ted Stevens was larger than life. Today, in discussing this and bringing this up, we recognize that on Saturday we are going to continue a tradition of remembering a man who loved Alaska with a passion. As we go out and bike and hike and fish, I think many will share good memories of an amazing Alaskan, an amazing man, and truly an amazing American.

I thank the Presiding Officer for the opportunity to speak a few minutes about a subject which should, hopefully, bring a smile to many of us.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


Source:
Skip to top
Back to top