Congressional Report About Contaminated Lands Conveyed to Alaska Native Corporations; Effort Establishes Step Towards Cleanup
July 07, 2016
Over the years Alaska Native communities have expressed health, safety, and economic concerns related to the presence of hazardous materials or other forms of contamination on lands conveyed to them under ANCSA, which called for the transfer of about 44 million acres to Alaska Native corporations for economic development. The BLM’s comprehensive database is meant to help guide cleanup of contaminated sites across Alaska by identifying, on a preliminary basis, the parties responsible for the contamination, if known; describing whether cleanup has started; and determining what information is still needed to clean up currently unresolved sites.
“By working with Alaska Native corporations, the State of Alaska and other Federal agencies, the BLM has developed a powerful tool to effect change and move toward cleanup of these sites,” said BLM Alaska State Director Bud Cribley. “While the BLM’s role here has been limited to handling the government’s land transactions, we are proud to bring our expertise to this part of the project.”
To prepare the inventory, the BLM started with information found in the Contaminated Sites Program Database, a publicly available source of information developed and managed by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC). Additional database information was obtained from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), U.S. Air Force (USAF), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Formerly Used Defense Sites (FUDS) program.
In addition, the BLM facilitated nine meetings with Alaska Native corporations across the state to gather input and verification of sites, which was essential to updating and improving the inventory database for the report.
The end result is an inventory with what is known about each site and its regulatory status, including 1) the entity to which the BLM conveyed the property; 2) location of the contaminated site; and 3) the type and amount of contaminants that may be present. Before it can be considered final, the inventory needs to be refined with further regulatory and site characteristics, when that information becomes available. Once finalized, the inventory will provide Alaska Native entities and the appropriate Federal and State regulators with the information they need to help address these contaminated sites.
Here is a summary of the current findings as of September, 2015:
Although the BLM conveyed and patented the majority of these lands, it did so while acting solely in a pass-through capacity as the Federal government’s “real estate agent.” Subsequent to transfer, the BLM has no statutory authority to compel or conduct cleanup on ANCSA lands. Once lands are conveyed, full title transfers to the relevant Alaska Native corporation, and there is no existing statutory authority for the BLM to execute or compel cleanup on the conveyed lands. Only the ADEC and the Environmental Protection Agency have authority to compel cleanup on privately owned ANCSA lands.
Congress directed the BLM, through the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015, to complete a comprehensive inventory in addition to updating recommendations from a previous report completed in 1998.
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Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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