Recently I had the opportunity to attend the Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA) Civics and Conservation summit. Twenty-two kids from all over the state came together for a week in Juneau to talk with legislators and even meet with Gov. Bill Walker about climate change.
While I was there, I learned and studied about House Joint Resolution 6 (HJR 6) which deals with land that was contaminated by or by projects overseen by the U.S. government before the lands were transferred to Native corporations under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANSCA) in 1971.
The U.S. government has acknowledged it holds financial responsibility for cleaning up these sites (which total to about 650) but have failed to do so. The resolution asked them to get started in remediation. However, the harsh truth is that we have waited so long in delaying cleanup, it will be nearly impossible at this point to successfully clean all 650 sites regardless of who’s paying for it. Health issues are now being documented that are related to the pollution. These places may never be fully cleaned up, but I would hope that this serves as an example to our current and future local, state and federal officials as a reminder that shortsighted decisions are often financially and environmentally costly in the long run.