Week Ahead: Alaska Senator Has Dual Clout on Environment, Energy

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who chairs the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, also has clout on environmental matters—and she'll make her influence felt at a Tuesday hearing that's one of numerous events in those areas during the week of June 26.

Murkowski chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee's Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, which has scheduled the hearing with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to discuss the Trump administration's proposed 31 percent budget cut for EPA in fiscal year 2018.

Along with other Republican appropriators, Murkowski has taken a dim view of the administration's called-for cuts for EPA, as well as the Interior, Energy, and other departments. “There are elements of this budget I strongly disagree with—especially the drastic cuts to programs intended to help the most vulnerable among us,” Murkowski said in a statement last month.

Trump's proposed budget would defund an EPA grant program that provides $20 million to build water and wastewater projects in Alaska Native villages.

When Trump released his initial budget plan in March, Murkowski told Alaska Public Media that the budget request likely was written by new aides still getting up to speed with various federal programs. “If you don't know exactly what [the programs] do, and how helpful and beneficial they are, it might be easy to say, ‘Well, we'll just [get] rid of that one. We'll just take that one off the books. We'll zero it out for now until somebody says otherwise,’” Murkowski said at the time.

In her 15-year Senate career, Murkowski has demonstrated a willingness to cross party lines. But she has taken the lead among Republicans in backing oil exploration and production in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, building the Keystone XL pipeline and limiting the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gases.

In 2016, she received a 29 percent score from the League of Conservation Voters, 10 percentage points above her 19 percent lifetime rating from the environmental advocacy group. Her 2016 score tied her with South Carolina's Lindsey Graham and Colorado's Cory Gardner as sixth-highest among Senate Republicans.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce gave Murkowski an 88 percent score in 2016. Bloomberg BNA will cover the Senate appropriations hearing on EPA.

In Other News

Svinicki vote: The Senate is expected to vote Monday on Kristine Svinicki's nomination to a third term at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Her current term is set to expire Friday, which would leave the NRC one seat shy of a quorum on the five-seat commission. Catherine Douglas Moran will cover.

Army Corps budget: The Senate Appropriations’ Energy and Water Development Subcommittee will hold a Wednesday hearing to discuss the budget requests for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Interior Department's Bureau of Reclamation. Trump's budget calls for a 16 percent cut in corps funding and a 13 percent reduction for Reclamation. Alan Kovski will cover.

EIA conference: U.S. Energy Information Administration holds a two-day conference starting Monday on natural gas infrastructure, renewable energy project financing, the future of U.S. nuclear power, and other issues. Energy Secretary Rick Perry will deliver the keynote address, and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) is among the other scheduled speakers. Rebecca Kern will follow.

Blood lead: The EPA is holding a public peer review during the week of its scientific work on how lead water contamination affects children. The agency is developing a safety standard for lead in water using new scientific data on how contaminated water affects the levels of lead in the blood of children, who are most vulnerable to the metal's toxic effects. David Schultz will follow.

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative: The nine-state, market-based greenhouse gas emissions reduction program will have a stakeholder meeting in New York City on Tuesday to solicit input on the initiative's program-design elements and modeling analyses, including the post-2020 emissions cap for the nine-state region. Bloomberg BNA staff will assess.

Chemicals law: The Environmental Law Institute is hosting a review of the EPA's implementation of the nation's amended chemicals law on Tuesday. Speakers will include Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.). Panelists will include EPA leaders, legal practitioners, and academic specialists. Pat Rizzuto will cover.

Pipeline safety: The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration will have a meeting Thursday and Friday on establishing a voluntary information-sharing system to improve safe handling and transport. Sylvia Carignan will cover.

Pesticides in groundwater: The EPA is holding a public meeting Wednesday on modeling scenarios for pesticides in groundwater. Tiffany Stecker will cover.