Juneau, Alaska – The Alaska House of Representatives Wednesday unanimously approved a resolution calling on the federal government to pay for the cleanup of hundreds of contaminated sites its agencies left on lands conveyed through the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.
House Joint Resolution 6, by Majority Leader Charisse Millett, encourages the United States Congress to pass legislation holding the federal government responsible for the remediation of over 600 contaminated sites. Additionally, the resolution calls on the Department of the Interior to fully implement the six recommendations made in its 1998 report to the United States Congress.
“In 1971 an incredible piece of legislation was passed by Congress, the Alaska Native Claims Act,” Millett, R-Anchorage, said. “Lands were given to the first people so they can have economic wealth, so they could live their subsistence lifestyle and so they can continue to live the way they have been for many years. The travesty in all of this is that these lands were contaminated by the federal government but they won’t take responsibility for the cleanup. We have people that can’t fish, hunt, or develop their land because of contamination; Alaskans should be completely irritated with how the federal government acts when it comes to Alaska.”
Many of the sites include former military installations, Bureau of Indian Affairs schools, radar sites and holding facilities. Arsenic, asbestos, mercury, PCBs and other toxins have been identified in large quantities near settlements. Because the lands are now privately held, Native corporations are subject to potentially being fined as well as being burdened with the cleanup costs. “The fact that the very department that denies a lifesaving road to the residents of King Cove on the grounds of environmental protection and saving birds would let such environmental calamities fester, really reeks of hypocrisy,” Millett said.
HJR 6 now moves to the Alaska Senate for consideration.