Opening Statement of Sen. Lisa A. Murkowski

September 23, 2003

Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works


Nomination of Michael O. Leavitt to be Administrator of EPA



Thank you Mr. Chairman -- and thank you, Governor Leavitt, for being willing to continue your public service by taking on this difficult and often thankless task.  I’m sure you know that no matter how well you do, you will seldom make anyone completely happy, and will never make everyone happy at once. 


Mr. Chairman, my state, like many others in the West, has often struggled with environmental restrictions sought by, imposed by, and maintained by interests with very little knowledge of the conditions we live with. 


We take our environmental responsibilities very seriously. We care about our environment, and we try very hard to address serious issues with clarity and common sense.  All too often, common sense is lacking when one-size-fits-all solutions are imposed from outside, and based more on fanciful gloom-and doom predictions than on facts.


The truth is this country has made mammoth strides in improving our environment, and every day we learn new ways to apply research and technology toward doing an even better job. 


This Administration is providing a breath of fresh air – and I mean that both literally and figuratively -- when it comes to environmental issues.  While improvements can certainly be forced – at great cost – by the threat of heavy-handed government enforcement, they come far more rapidly when they are to the participants’ economic advantage.  There is all the difference in the world between making money and not losing money. 


If we look honestly at what works and what doesn’t, we have to conclude that reform of the regulatory process is badly needed.  I commend the Administration for being willing to look at new approaches to building a better environment, rather than continuing to hammer at the same old nails. 



Governor Leavitt’s record on the environmental issues faced by the State of Utah is exemplary, despite the inevitable complaints by those who have not gotten everything they wanted.  His approach to negotiating complex issues has demonstrated that it is possible to achieve balance – and a reasonable outcome for those involved. 


In many respects, we in the West are not alone in seeking that same balance between our nation’s laws and our regional needs – between our responsibility for our own choices and those who wish to make choices for us. 


I am confident that I will not always agree with the positions that Governor Leavitt may take if he becomes the EPA Administrator.  Alaska has a number of outstanding issues with the EPA.


We have long wished for administrative action to establish Alaska as a separate EPA region; attempting to administer such a vast area with so few people who have even seen the issues first-hand is an impossible task. 


We would like to move forward on a determination that better defines the extent of Clean Water Act authority over Alaska’s wetlands.  We have over 174 million acres of land classified as wetlands, more than all the other states combined.  Much of it is neither used for navigation nor connected in any substantive way with other water bodies, or exists solely because it is underlain by permafrost. 


We would like to receive active assistance from the EPA in evaluating the long-term health effects of our reliance on small, diesel-powered utilities.


We would like to receive recognition that temperature inversions due to our climate are the primary reason some of our cities have difficulty attaining compliance with carbon monoxide rules. 


We would like the agency to work with us on developing a mechanism that will more effectively deliver grants to Alaska’s many rural Native communities. 


There are many other issues between us – far too many to list them all. 


   What I ask for, and what I believe Governor Leavitt will offer, is comprehensive, impartial and thoughtful consideration. 


I plan to offer Governor Leavitt my strong support in this committee, and look forward to hearing from him on specific issues. 


Thank you Mr. Chairman.