EPA Administrator Michael Regan responds to questions in Anchorage during his “Journey for Justice” tour of Alaska on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023. Photo by Margaret Bauman for The Cordova Times

Three Alaska Native corporations are to receive a total of $2.5 million in federal funds to clean up legacy contamination on lands conveyed through the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA).

The money, announced on Sept. 1 by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan in Fairbanks, is earmarked for the Ounalashaka, Tyonek Native and Ukpeagvik Inupiat corporations.

The announcement came on the fourth leg of Regan’s “Journey to Justice” visit to Alaska, during which he met in Anchorage with Alaska Native officials to discuss funding to clean up land that was contaminated when it was transferred to tribal entities under ANCSA, as well as other conservation, energy and solid waste challenges.

During his “Journey to Justice” tour, Regan visited Utquiagvik and Eklutna, as well as Fairbanks and Anchorage.

“All people in all communities in America deserve clean air, clean water, healthy land and healthy resources,” Regan said during a news conference in Anchorage on Aug. 20. “Solutions come from the community and these communities have solutions.”

He acknowledged that Alaska faces unique environmental challenges that often disproportionately impact Tribal communities.


Stephen Peskosky, CEO of the Tyonek Native Corp., said his corporation is looking forward to completion of the work of inventory and decommissioning of abandoned fuel drums on the Iniskin Peninsula, using their $1 million EPA grant.

“The Iniskin area is important to the Tyonek community and many adjacent ecosystems,” Peskosky said. “We look forward to completion of this project and seeing our lands returned to their natural splendor.”

Denise Rankin, president of the Ounalashka Corp., noted that OC recently marked its 50th anniversary and was entitled to 115,000 acres of land on Unalaska, Amaknak and Sedanka islands.

“As with many other ANCSA lands, several sections of the land deeded to OC were contaminated lands from the actions of the WWII Aleutian Islands campaign,” Rankin said. “OC had struggled with the means to clean up its lands and the costs only continue to increase. Thanks to the ANCSA Contaminated lands grant, we will finally be able to clean the land around Building 551 of PCB contamination making for a healthier environment for our shareholders, Tribal members, and the community.” 

Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corp. (UIC) is to receive $582,345 from EPA’s Contaminated ANCSA Lands Program to assess lands impacted by a fuel spill and do lead and asbestos testing and abatement at the former Naval Arctic Research Laboratory in Utqiagvik.

UIC president and CEO Pearl Brower said that work “resonates deeply with our core commitment to protecting our lands for future generations. It’s our heritage and legacy that we strive to preserve, and in this endeavor, every step forward signifies a victory for us all.”

Regan said he is looking forward to making sure that Alaskans get their fair share, particularly with 40% of resources doing to disadvantaged people and people of color.

Among the speakers at the Anchorage news conference was Kate Wolgemuth, program and government affairs manager for the Voice of the Arctic Inupiat, who noted that the visit gave Regan an opportunity to see firsthand how contamination from abandoned federal government materials is still impacting the lives of people in some remote areas.

“These sites are both directly in our communities and on the lands and waters where we hunt, fish and gather to feed our people,” she said.

Regan said that the EPA is providing technical assistance as well to build local capacity to deal with these environmental issues. He also said there needs to be an adjustment of some assets in EPA’s grant program.

Natalie Cale, CEO of the Ounalashka Corp. at Unalaska, echoed Wolgemuth’s words, saying this is a statewide problem for Alaska Native people.