EPA Chief Tours Alaska to Address Climate Change; Listen to Alaskans

The president's new Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy is touring Alaska to address climate change and its effect on the state.

Tools

by MIchele White

PORTAGE GLACIER -- The president's new Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy is touring Alaska to address climate change and its effect on the state.

On Monday, she toured Portage Glacier.

It's her first trip to Alaska.

"Everyday I learn," says Administrator McCarthy, "I just got here yesterday and I'm seeing things I never expected to see up close and personal."

She says she plans to take that same attitude with her as she visits Bristol Bay and Fairbanks.

The administrator says she is here to highlight the president's climate change action plan -- and to learn, and listen to Alaskans.

She discussed the EPA's draft assessment of development in Bristol Bay, which she said is not a policy document, but a science one.

"I think we've tried to go through the most robust process we can to get people's input and to make sure we get the facts correct," says Administrator McCarthy, "and this is still part of that process. So, we'll work through those science discussions and then we'll talk about the policy that follows."

Her mission, she says, is a fact-finding one.

The administrator says she plans to have public meetings and smaller private ones with tribal leaders in Bristol Bay.

"I am going to try to understand how they live, what they think is important. I'm going to try to understand what both a mining operation means to local constituents there and I'm going to try to understand what the salmon mean to the local communities."

While stressing the president's message to work together with the states, she says the EPA is taking comment on a second draft of the Bristol Bay watershed assessment for the future.

The administrator also plans to visit Fairbanks and look at ways to improve air quality there.

Ultimately, Administrator McCarthy says that the EPA is not trying to determine Alaska's future.

"I'm here to understand how people see their future," she says, "and how our decisions mean something to them in crafting that future. I need to understand impacts."