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State House condemns EPA chief's remarks about Alaska gifts

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Posted: Monday, March 17, 2014 4:22 pm | Updated: 6:15 pm, Tue Mar 18, 2014.

JUNEAU—Lawmakers aren’t taking kindly to Environmental Protection Agency head Gina McCarthy’s dismissive comments about gifts she received while visiting Alaska last year, including a jar of moose meat that she said could “gag a maggot."

On Monday, the House unanimously supported an order condemning her statements and expressing concern about her ability to lead the EPA in a manner fair to Alaska.

“We condemn the language used by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy after her recent visit to Alaska and express serious concern that her comments indicate a negative bias against Alaskans and a lack of sensitivity to our way of life that will gravely distort EPA environmental and developmental decisions in Alaska,” reads the order, called a Sense of the House.

The comments came to light in a Wall Street Journal profile of McCarthy and her “gritty pragmatism” and “liberal use of four-letter words.” The comments that Alaska officials find offensive came in regard to how ethics officials chased her down for the gifts she received while visiting the Interior in August 2013. Those gifts included the jar of moose meat received during a hearing in rural Alaska and a small pin from North Pole Mayor Bryce Ward, of which she said she “threw the (expletive) thing away.”

The Sense of the House was proposed by North Pole Republican Rep. Doug Isaacson, who held the position of North Pole mayor prior to Ward. Isaacson made a number of floor speeches about McCarthy’s comments leading up to Monday's vote by the House.

The Sense of the House passed unanimously, but Rep. Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, did share a little bit of humor regarding the moose meat. He said he spoke with the tribal chief in Dillingham, who had spoke to the family who gifted the moose meat.

“He wanted it conveyed to the body that he got an opportunity to talk to the mother and son involved in the ordeal with the moose meat and they found some humor in it, actually,” he said. “They joked that they find a lot of non-Alaska foods offensive, too.”

Other leaders haven’t been so nonchalant about the comments. Alaska’s congressional delegation roundly criticized the remarks last week, with U.S. Sen. Mark Begich commenting that he might send McCarthy some moose meat, too.

The EPA released a statement on the incident.

"EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has offered her heartfelt apology to her hosts for some unfortunate remarks she made to the press recently regarding gifts she received while visiting Alaska. She was truly humbled by the kindness, warmth and hospitality shown to her throughout the trip and insists that she meant no disrespect.

"During her address at the recent National Congress of American Indians, Administrator McCarthy underscored her deep appreciation for the cultural value of gift giving, reconfirmed her commitment to strengthening partnerships between EPA and native people throughout Indian country and emphasized her respect for the important government-to-government relationship we share," it reads

Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.

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