EPA Launches $20M Program to Address Contaminated Alaska Native Lands
The US Army Corps of Engineers – Alaska District conducted cleanup work at Chernofski Harbor in Unalaska.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a $20 million program to assist Alaska tribal entities in addressing legacy contamination on lands conveyed through the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA).
Addressing Legacy Contamination
EPA expects to award three or more cooperative agreements for site assessments and three or more cooperative agreements to begin cleanup of ANCSA properties contaminated at the time of conveyance.
Contaminants on some of these lands—arsenic, asbestos, lead, mercury, pesticides, PCBs, and petroleum products—pose health concerns to Alaska Native communities, negatively affect subsistence resources, and hamper economic activity.
“EPA is proud to lead the federal family’s efforts to expedite cleanup of legacy contamination on lands conveyed to tribal communities through the ANCSA settlement,” says EPA Region 10 Administrator Casey Sixkiller. “This has been a long time coming and we’re finally able to fund work to reduce the risks and impacts to Native communities. I am looking forward to working with the state, ANTHC [Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium], and ANVCA [Alaska Native Village Corporation Association] to coordinate our efforts to inventory, verify, assess, and cleanup the sites, starting this year.”
Eligible tribal entities include Alaska Native regional corporations, Alaska Native village corporations, federally recognized tribes in Alaska, Alaska Native nonprofit organizations and associations, and inter-tribal consortia comprised of Alaska tribal entities. The application deadline is June 23. EPA Region 10 anticipates making selections in July.
“It is long past time that the federal government take steps to address the environmental injustice committed when contaminated lands were conveyed to Alaska Native Corporations as settlement for their land claims under ANCSA,” says Senator Lisa Murkowski. “I applaud the availability of award opportunities through the new program I worked to set up in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 and look forward to seeing EPA and its federal partners begin to step up and start the clean-up process on these ANCSA lands.”
The US Department of Defense, US Department of Interior, and EPA are leading the initiative, with participation from the US Bureau of Land Management, US Department of Justice, and the US Army Corps of Engineers. The agencies are working together to leverage resources and expertise to accelerate cleanup of contaminated ANCSA lands.