EPA Chief Says She’s In Alaska to Listen And Learn

The nation’s recently appointed chief administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency visited Alaska in the last week of August to hear for herself residents’ comments on climate change, the Pebble Mine and air quality.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy was accompanied by EPA Region 10 administrator Dennis McLerran of Seattle as she stepped aboard a commercial sightseeing vessel on the morning of Aug. 26 to see for herself the shrinking Portage Glacier and explain that right now the EPA is in a listening mode, rather than a decision-making mode.

Also on McCarthy’s agenda was a trip to Dillingham to speak with area residents and tribal administrators about the proposed Pebble mine at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed, and a trip to Fairbanks to discuss air quality issues.

“The challenge of climate change is not a short-term issue,” McCarthy said. “It is a long-term challenge and one in which we need every level of government and individual to really participate in what the solutions are.”

McCarthy said that President Obama’s climate change action plan “isn’t about killing jobs. This is about understanding that climate change is a fundamental issue we need to deal with, not just in terms of addressing environmental challenges, but fundamentally in addressing sustainable economy for the United States.”

On the issue of proposed mining ventures in the Bristol Bay region, she said that the draft watershed assessment prepared by the EPA and now in the process of being made into a final document is not a policy document, but a science document.

“We will work through the science discussion and then we will talk about the policy that follows, but right now we are in fact finding mode to make sure we get the science correct, that we understand the impacts in that area,” she said.