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

Demonstrators gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, June 24, 2022. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years, a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court’s landmark abortion cases. (AP Photo / Jose Luis Magana)
Alaskans react to Supreme Court overturn of Roe v. Wade

The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion.

Tara Sweeney, a Republican seeking the sole U.S. House seat in Alaska, speaks during a forum for candidates, May 12, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/ Mark Thiessen)
Lawsuit says Sweeney should advance in Alaska US House race

The lawsuit says the fifth-place finisher in the special primary, Republican Tara Sweeney, should be put on the August special election ballot

Gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker stands in the Peninsula Clarion office on Friday, May 6, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska AFL-CIO endorses Walker, Murkowski, Peltola

The AFL-CIO is Alaska’s largest labor organization and has historically been one of its most powerful political groups

A portion of a draft letter from Jeffrey Clark is displayed as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol continues to reveal its findings of a year-long investigation, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Federal agents search Trump-era official’s home, subpoena GOP leaders

Authorities on Wednesday searched the Virginia home of Jeffrey Clark

A tweet from former President Donald Trump is displayed as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol continues to reveal its findings of a year-long investigation, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 23, 2022. From left, Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Soumya Dayananda, committee investigative staff counsel, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., and Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Trump to Justice Dept.: Call election ‘corrupt’

Three Trump-era Justice Department officials recounted persistent badgering from the president

Upper Cook Inlet Exclusive Economic Zone can be seen on this map provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (Image via fisheries.noaa.gov)
Court ruling reopens part of Cook Inlet to commercial salmon fishing

The United Cook Inlet Drift Association called the court’s ruling a “victory”

Anglers gather along the banks of the Kenai River near Sportsman’s Landing in Cooper Landing in September 2018. (Peninsula Clarion file)
Sockeye limits to increase for Russian River, Upper Kenai

Sport anglers are now permitted a bag limit of six sockeye salmon per day and 12 in possession

The Kenai River runs alongside a strip of land near the Sterling Highway on May 17, 2020, in Soldotna, Alaska. The City of Soldotna was awarded $360,000 from a federal grant program offered through the U.S. Economic Development Agency to start planning what’s been called a “main street” adjacent to the Kenai River. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna gets federal funds to plan revamped riverfront

The project, if completed, would address about 85 acres of land running along the Kenai River

Landslide debris surrounds part of Lowell Point Road on Friday, June 3, 2022, in Seward, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Intermittent closures coming to Lowell Point Road

The work is in part of ongoing work related to the May 7 landslide

Most Read