“Maze of Federal Red Tape Not for the Faint of Heart”
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today held a hearing to continue the Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s discussion of opportunities to improve and expand American infrastructure. Tuesday’s hearing focused on infrastructure beneficial to federal lands and waters, as well as the people and communities who live near and rely on them.
Murkowski opened the hearing by detailing the broad range of infrastructure that is needed for and possible within federal areas, ranging from trails and roads to sawmills, reservoirs, energy projects, and mines. She also spoke to the pervasive financial and regulatory challenges that project proponents often face while seeking to build or maintain such infrastructure.
“Infrastructure is not just a matter of dollars—it’s also about cutting the regulatory red tape that often holds projects back and adds to their costs,” Murkowski said. “We have seen the need for this in community-supported forest thinning projects, timber sales, water projects, mining, and new recreation uses. In other words, just about everywhere. And the takeaway is that navigating the current maze of congressional statutes, federal regulations, administrative directives, executive orders, secretarial memos, and court decisions is a minefield.”
Murkowski also pointed to the growing maintenance backlogs at the National Park Service (nearly $12 billion), the Forest Service (over $5 billion), and the Bureau of Reclamation (over $3 billion), and reiterated the need to leverage public-private partnerships to address many of the infrastructure challenges facing the federal government and struggling rural regional economies.
During the question-and-answer portion of today’s hearing, Murkowski spoke to the important role the multiple use doctrine plays on federal lands for timber, resource development, watershed, recreation and conservation activities.
“Often times, there’s not a level of equity when you think about where those dollars go in managing these lands for multiple use,” Murkowski said. “What I am hearing consistently is that what would be helpful is if we can do more here to reduce some of the regulatory uncertainty coming your way, and to alleviate some of the costs that are associated with that.”
In her final exchange with witnesses at the hearing, Murkowski covered a variety of topics including the deferred maintenance backlog, facilities that allow the public to access and enjoy federal lands, the need for renewed attention and investment in water and hydroelectric infrastructure, the potential for mineral production on federal lands to reduce our nation’s foreign mineral dependence, and the critical role that infrastructure plays in the health of America’s national forests.
Murkowski is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. An archived video of the hearing can be found on the committee’s website.