- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 7, 2015

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - A national debate over a federal government proposal to clarify Clean Water Act rules drew contradictory testimony at a hearing in Anchorage.

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, in his first field hearing as chair of a subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, on Monday called the proposal one of the “most important, significant expansions of federal jurisdiction” in Alaska, the Alaska Dispatch News (https://bit.ly/1IoijGO ), an Anchorage newspaper, reported.

The rules would expand waters regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, he said. Sullivan has co-sponsored a Senate measure to restrict the proposal.

“If the rule is finalized in its final form, many Alaskans would be subject to getting a permit from the EPA even to dig ditches in their own backyard,” he said.

EPA officials say the rules, worked out with the Army Corps of Engineers, do not protect waters not already covered under the Clean Water Act of 1972.

Brian Litmans, senior staff attorney for Trustees for Alaska, an environmental law firm, said the rules clarify existing language and would help capture some water that should have been under the act’s jurisdiction.

“This rule codifies the determinations that have come out of the Supreme Court,” he said.

Six of the 10 panelists invited by leaders of the subcommittee opposed the new rule.

Lorali Simon, vice president of external affairs for Usibelli Coal Mine in Healy, said the rules could stop development in Alaska.

“Alaska has unique features such as permafrost and tundra that could be considered jurisdictional waters,” she said. More mining efforts would be affected because they use impoundments, ditches, channels, ponds and pits that could fall under permitting requirements, she said.

Tara Sweeney, vice president of external affairs at Arctic Slope Regional Corp., said new areas of the North Slope would fall under the rule. EPA did not consult with ASRC or other Alaska corporations and tribes on the proposed rules, she said.

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Information from: Alaska Dispatch News, https://www.adn.com

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