Legislature(2003 - 2004)
05/10/2003 10:07 AM House RLS
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 142-DNR LEAD RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS CHAIR ROKEBERG announced that the next order of business would be SENATE BILL NO. 142, "An Act designating the Department of Natural Resources as lead agency for resource development projects; making conforming amendments; and providing for an effective date." Number 494 MARY SIROKY, Legislative Liaison, Office of the Commissioner, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC); Department of Natural Resources (DNR), noted that Commissioner Thomas Irwin's testimony should be included in the committee packet. Ms. Siroky explained that SB 142 establishes the Office of Project Management and Permitting. This office will coordinate with DNR to build upon the state mine permit team concept that's currently in statute. This is where DNR coordinates the activities of the permitting agencies. Ms. Siroky said that [he state mine permit team concept] has been a very successful way of doing business, in terms of Fort Knox. This [concept] has been used at Alpine and Fort Thompson as well as other large mine projects. Ms. Siroky clarified that this [legislation] wouldn't change DEC's statutory or regulatory requirements or authorities. Section 4 repeals the Environmental Coordination Act, which hasn't been used by the administration since it was put into place. Sections 2 and 3 maintain DEC's appeal process. CHAIR ROKEBERG clarified that SB 142, Version 23-GS1070\A, is the version that passed the Senate and is before the committee. MS. SIROKY explained that the Senate Resources Standing Committee had added a sunset provision, which included all of the Environmental Coordination Act language. Number 469 REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA asked whether DNR really needed this statutory change. She asked if a memorandum of understanding (MOU) could be utilized. Also, she understood DNR to be the lead agency for mining permits. MS. SIROKY noted that the mining statute responsibility is currently in statute. This legislation would put in statute the process that has been working very well for 10-plus years. Although she agreed that the administration doesn't need for this process to be in statute for coordination to happen, placing it in statute does ensure that this good idea continues in perpetuity. REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA turned attention to page 2, lines 23-24, which says, "lead and coordinate all matters relating to the state's review and authorization of resource development projects." "That's literally everything," she said. She said she understood that could be more than just DEC or [Alaska Department of Fish & Game] matters. MS. SIROKY related her understanding that people will come to this new office in DNR and ask for these services. Therefore, it will be an applicant's choice to participate in this process. The applicants, she believes, will pay through reimbursable services agreements (RSAs) for the services that the agency provides. The assumption is that [this process] will be used for larger projects. Number 447 REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL pointed out that the permissive "may" language indicates that [this process] would have to be dealt with in an agreement. MS. SIROKY agreed. REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ expressed the need to be sure that because it's relating to the state's review and authorization of resource development projects it wouldn't be inconsistent with allowing court review. MS. SIROKY replied that there has been no such indication from any of the attorneys general that have reviewed this. REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ turned to the repealers, specifically AS 46.35 regarding permit coordination and extension and inquired as to why that was being eliminated if DNR has already been designated as the lead agency. MS. SIROKY explained that it's a statute that the department never used. That statute directs DEC to coordinate and establish a permit information office. The aforementioned office was followed by the Alaska Coastal Management Program and the establishment of the [Division of] Governmental Coordination, which ended up doing all of the coordination functions. Therefore, [AS 46.35] was never really used by the agency in any type of coordination fashion and thus it's a relic for which there is no use. REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ pointed out that AS 46.35.010 is a legislative determination that says permits and related documents are undesirable and should be [eliminated]. He asked if the desire is to make permitting more difficult. MS. SIROKY replied no. The legislation eliminates the entire chapter, AS 46.35, because it hasn't been used. Although some of the language speaks to how the agencies should behave, the language isn't necessary to continue with the regulatory reform. REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ pointed out that AS 46.35.020 is the purpose, AS 46.35.030 is the master applications, and AS 46.35.040 deals with public hearings. CHAIR ROKEBERG reiterated that the entire chapter is being deleted. REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ acknowledged that and pointed out that there is no replacement for it. MS. SIROKY clarified that the chapter has been replaced by the Alaska Coastal Management Act. Number 398 REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA agreed, but highlighted that other legislation in the system will leave a void in terms of coordination. Therefore, there is some confusion with regard to how the lead agency [concept] will work. She said she understood that some [of the lead agency concept] will be picked up in regulations, which is cause for some concern because the legislature doesn't draft those. Representative Kerttula specified that this master application was used only once and was unsuccessful. REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ asked if the public hearing portion of the chapter being eliminated is being maintained elsewhere. MS. SIROKY replied yes. All of the public hearing requirements are available in other statutes for both agencies. The department saved and moved two sections regarding an appeal process that the department developed in regulation. REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ drew attention to AS 41.17.085, regarding permit applications under the Forest Resources and Practices [Act] ("Forest Practices Act"). MS. SIROKY related her belief that is being addressed in the Forest Practices Act and thus is likely why it's being deleted here. Number 370 REPRESENTATIVE McGUIRE moved to report SB 142 out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying zero fiscal notes. There being no objection, it was so ordered.