U.S Senator Lisa Murkowski speaks to an audience at the Kenai and Soldotna Joint Chamber of Commerce Luncheon on Wednesday, March 30 at the Kenai Visitors Center.

U.S Senator Lisa Murkowski speaks to an audience at the Kenai and Soldotna Joint Chamber of Commerce Luncheon on Wednesday, March 30 at the Kenai Visitors Center.

Murkowski: Progress being made in D.C.

Alaska’s Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski said that although the nation’s capital has earned a reputation for dysfunction, congress has recently managed to consider and occasionally pass legislation dealing with basic issues of education, infrastructure, and energy.

Murkowski gave a talk on congressional activity and its local effects to attendees of a Wednesday luncheon hosted by the Kenai and Soldotna Chambers of Commerce.

“I don’t want to put on total rose-colored glasses, because Washington, D.C., is in a stew right now,” Murkowski said. “But I do want to remind that we have made progress as a congress, at a time when people didn’t anticipate that progress could be made.”

Examples she cited included the educational standards of the December 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced 2002’s No Child Left Behind legislation and which Murkowski said will put more education decisions on state and local authorities, as well as the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which gives grants and support to treatment for opioid addiction, an increasing problem in Alaska.

Murkowski also emphasized infrastructure and energy, pointing to the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, a five-year funding plan for transportation infrastructure that she worked on as a member of a committee that reconciled House and Senate versions of the bill.

“The last time we had a multi-year highway bill was about 8 years ago,” Murkowski said. “What we’ve been doing are quick fixes — basically a year extension, an 18-month extension. Anybody out there who builds anything … knows that if you can’t predict beyond next year, it’s really tough to get going on any projects.”

She said the consistency of federal funding provided in a long-term transportation spending plan was especially important for local projects because of the decline of Alaska’s capital budget.

As chair of the Senate Energy and Resources committee, Murkowski co-sponsored (with another committee member, Washington’s Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell) the Energy Policy Modernization Act currently making its way through the senate, which she said had “a lot of focus on permitting, streamlining permitting.”

“We haven’t seen an energy bill that focuses on reform in over 8 years,” Murkowski said, adding that the technology and economics of energy production and delivery had changed significantly in that time.

In an interview after her speech, Murkowski said that some of the bill’s local effects would come through an easing of federal permitting processes. Murkowski said the bill reforms the licensing requirements for exporting liquefied natural gas — a licensing process that she said is currently “vague and undefined.” She referred to the Bradley Lake hydro facility, which generates much of the Kenai Peninsula’s electricity, when talking about what she called an excessive regulatory process for hydroelectricity that the bill is also intended to loosen.

“Our hydro re-licensing … process is so burdensome — because we’ve had one regulation lay over another regulation lay over another — that right now it takes about 10 years to re-license a hydrofacility,” Murkowski said. “Not to license a new one, where you have to do all of your (Environmental Impact Statements) and all of your studies, but to re-license an existing facility, to the cost of tens of millions, if not more, dollars. … If what we want to do is encourage greater use of renewables so we can reduce emissions — and hydro is right in the center of that — what are we doing? How have our policies limited us so dramatically that we can’t either continue the use or increase the use of hydro?”

During the comment session after Murkowski’s speech, Kenai city manager Rick Koch thanked Murkowski for help over the past ten years with Kenai’s attempt to halt erosion of the Cook Inlet bluffs below Old Town, for which the city has sought federal funding through the Army Corps of Engineers. On Feb. 24, 2014, Koch and two other Kenai officials visited Murkowski and Alaska’s other congressional delegates in Washington, D.C. to advocate for the funding, which was granted in May 2015.


Reach Ben Boettger at ben.boettger@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

LaDawn Druce asks Sen. Jesse Bjorkman a question during a town hall event on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
District unions call for ‘walk-in’ school funding protest

The unions have issued invitations to city councils, the borough assembly, the Board of Education and others

House District 6 race gets 3rd candidate

Alana Greear filed a letter of intent to run on April 5

Kenai City Hall is seen on Feb. 20, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai water treatment plant project moves forward

The city will contract with Anchorage-based HDL Engineering Consultants for design and engineering of a new water treatment plant pumphouse

Students of Soldotna High School stage a walkout in protest of the veto of Senate Bill 140 in front of their school in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, April 17, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
SoHi students walk out for school funding

The protest was in response to the veto of an education bill that would have increased school funding

The Kenai Courthouse as seen on Monday, July 3, 2023, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Clam Gulch resident convicted of 60 counts for sexual abuse of a minor

The conviction came at the end of a three-week trial at the Kenai Courthouse

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meets in Seward, Alaska, on Tuesday, April 16, 2024. (screenshot)
Borough awards contract for replacement of Seward High School track

The project is part of a bond package that funds major deferred maintenance projects at 10 borough schools

Kenai Peninsula Education Association President LaDawn Druce, left, and committee Chair Jason Tauriainen, right, participate in the first meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s Four Day School Week Ad Hoc Committee on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
4-day school week committee talks purpose of potential change, possible calendar

The change could help curb costs on things like substitutes, according to district estimates

A studded tire is attached to a very cool car in the parking lot of the Peninsula Clarion in Kenai, Alaska, on Monday, April 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Studded tire removal deadline extended

A 15-day extension was issued via emergency order for communities above the 60 degrees latitude line

A sign for Peninsula Community Health Services stands outside their facility in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, April 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
PCHS to pursue Nikiski expansion, moves to meet other community needs

PCHS is a private, nonprofit organization that provides access to health care to anyone in the community

Most Read