Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/10/2004 01:39 PM Senate CRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                SB 355-WASTE MANAGEMENT/DISPOSAL                                                                            
CHAIR BERT  STEDMAN announced SB  355 to be up  for consideration                                                               
and asked Commissioner Ballard to come forward.                                                                                 
COMMISSIONER   ERNESTA  BALLARD,   Department  of   Environmental                                                               
Conservation (DEC),  explained that  the bill doesn't  change the                                                               
department's authority;  it simply provides new  regulatory tools                                                               
and improves some definitions.                                                                                                  
In  Administrative  Order  202   issued  in  December  2002,  the                                                               
governor  asked   the  department   to  review   their  statutory                                                               
authorities and current regulatory  programs to determine whether                                                               
improvements could save  money and time while  achieving the same                                                               
regulatory  effect. SB  355 is  the result  and is  an effort  to                                                               
better protect  land and water  from waste disposal.  The changes                                                               
have no fiscal impact on DEC.                                                                                                   
The bill is risk based and  allows DEC to use different tools for                                                               
different  risks "so  we  are saving  the  most professional  and                                                               
site-specific staff time for the  most impacting activities." For                                                               
less  risky  activities,  she  assured  the  committee  that  DEC                                                               
continues to provide protection.                                                                                                
She  said, "I'm  proud  to point  out that  the  governor has  as                                                               
aggressive a program for environmental  protection as he does for                                                               
resource  development  and, in  fact,  he  expects excellence  in                                                               
both." DEC's  role is  clearly defined and  they provide  most of                                                               
the environmental protection for the  state and they also fulfill                                                               
the  state's obligation  under the  federal clean  air and  water                                                               
The first change  the bill makes is to replace  the word "permit"                                                               
with   "prior  authorization."   Currently   DEC  has   statutory                                                               
authorization  to issue  permits  to control  pollution and  this                                                               
broadens the concept and will allow  the use of tools more suited                                                               
to the different risks that DEC confronts.                                                                                      
COMMISSIONER BALLARD  noted that  the different tool  options are                                                               
identified  on the  blue handout.  The tools  include: individual                                                               
permits, general  permits, permits  by rule, plan  approvals, and                                                               
integrated permits.                                                                                                             
Individual permits are issued for  large higher risk projects and                                                               
are site specific. They include  activities such as large seafood                                                               
processors,    municipal    wastewater    discharges,    refinery                                                               
discharges, ballast water  treatment discharges, large landfills,                                                               
oil and gas drilling waste disposal and asbestos monofills.                                                                     
General  permits are  used for  lower risk  activities and  for a                                                               
number of  similar activities in  a geographic area.  Examples of                                                               
such activities  include: placer mines, log  transfer facilities,                                                               
storm  water  discharge,  remote  camp  sewage  and  solid  waste                                                               
disposal,  oil  and gas  exploration  and  development and  small                                                               
seafood processors.                                                                                                             
Permits by rule are used to  authorize low risk activity that has                                                               
the  potential for  real impact.  They require  DEC to  establish                                                               
rules to tell  the public the kinds of  best management practices                                                               
they   believe  are   appropriate.   This   tool  also   provides                                                               
enforcement   authority    without   requiring    an   individual                                                               
relationship with  the entity engaged  in the  activity. Examples                                                               
of the activities include:  rural landfills, residential domestic                                                               
wastewater  systems that  discharge  to marine  waters, coal  bed                                                               
methane    exploration,    non-jurisdictional    wetland    fill,                                                               
construction dewatering,  oil and water separators,  small animal                                                               
confinement operations,  construction debris landfills,  and wood                                                               
waste monofills.                                                                                                                
Plan  approvals are  a prior  authorization mechanism  for a  low                                                               
risk  activity.  Examples of  this  type  activity include  zero-                                                               
discharge  sewage  treatment  lagoons,  zero-discharge  temporary                                                               
storage  of  oil  and  gas  drilling  waste,  and  zero-discharge                                                               
temporary storage for some coal bed methane projects.                                                                           
Integrated waste  management permits  are for  complex facilities                                                               
and  operations  that  need  more than  one  DEC  waste  disposal                                                               
authorization.  Mining  companies  are enthusiastic  about  these                                                               
permits. Those likely to use  integrated waste management permits                                                               
include:  complex  mining  operations   and  major  oil  and  gas                                                               
development and production projects.                                                                                            
The  bill expands  DEC's authority  to require  proof that  there                                                               
will be  the financial  resources available to  clean up  a waste                                                               
pile  at the  end of  the life  of a  project. Finally,  the bill                                                               
calls  for  definition changes  that  are  important to  DEC.  Of                                                               
particular  importance is  the  clarification  of the  difference                                                               
between municipal  solid waste  and other  solid waste.  "We have                                                               
hundreds, literally, of small land  fills in rural Alaska that we                                                               
would like to  differentiate from other waste  generators so that                                                               
we could  use the  new permit  by rule powers  that we  would get                                                               
through  this bill  to give  them  clear guidance  about what  is                                                               
required in siting and management of their waste facility."                                                                     
2:25 pm                                                                                                                       
CHAIR STEDMAN asked  for the record to show  that Senator Lincoln                                                               
joined the meeting. He then  asked Commissioner Ballard to expand                                                               
on the fees and associated costs.                                                                                               
COMMISSIONER BALLARD  replied there is  no fiscal note.  The fees                                                               
that are currently  in place will still pertain  and although she                                                               
isn't projecting  any savings, she  is hoping the bill  will make                                                               
the department more efficient.                                                                                                  
SENATOR GARY STEVENS thanked her  for stopping by his office then                                                               
noted that there is a lot  more direct marketing by fishermen who                                                               
sell fresh  or headed and  gutted product. He  questioned whether                                                               
such activity would fall under a general permit.                                                                                
COMMISSIONER BALLARD  said that  would require  a food-processing                                                               
permit.  Furthermore,  she  said,  "As you  know,  we  have  been                                                               
working hard with  that industry to try and offer  the same risk-                                                               
based spectrum of permitting  opportunities for people processing                                                               
seafood so  that the individual  single boat processor can  get a                                                               
permit and have the protection he needs to sell his fish."                                                                      
SENATOR KIM  ELTON referred to the  blue sheet and asked  what is                                                               
involved in moving from a  general permit to an individual permit                                                               
or from  a permit by  rule to a  general permit. For  example you                                                               
might  start  with one  application  for  a residential  domestic                                                               
waste  water  system  that discharges  into  marine  waters,  but                                                               
within five years there might  be 30 residences, which could have                                                               
a large impact on the adjacent marine waters.                                                                                   
SIDE B                                                                                                                        
2:30 pm                                                                                                                       
Another example would be one  small fish processor operating in a                                                               
certain  area that  is eventually  joined  by a  number of  small                                                               
processors all  of which may have  a larger impact than  a single                                                               
large processor.  "Is there movement  between the  categories and                                                               
how do you handle that," he asked.                                                                                              
COMMISSIONER  BALLARD replied  there is  movement. She  explained                                                               
that a permit is  specific to what comes out the  end of the pipe                                                               
so the  permitting regime  focuses on  the source,  the effluent,                                                               
and  the receiving  water.  And because  there  are no  automatic                                                               
renewals, DEC  reconsiders the circumstances associated  with the                                                               
activity  every five  years.  If the  capacity  of the  receiving                                                               
water  is  strained by  the  discharge  then  there would  be  an                                                               
allocation on  a maximum load  basis, but you  try not to  get to                                                               
that point.  As designed, the  individual permit tool is  used to                                                               
keep from stressing the receiving  water beyond the accommodation                                                               
SENATOR   ELTON  noted   that  Section   5  changes   the  public                                                               
notification  requirements. The  previous  requirement calls  for                                                               
two  notices   to  be  published   in  a  newspaper   of  general                                                               
circulation and the  proposed change is to publish  one notice in                                                               
a  local newspaper  with general  circulation.  Referring to  the                                                               
coal bed  methane leases that were  let in Homer, he  pointed out                                                               
that the public notice was  made in the Kenai newspaper. Although                                                               
the notice  fit the definition and  letter of the law,  the local                                                               
residents felt aggrieved because the  notice wasn't placed in the                                                               
local Homer paper.  He remarked that the language  didn't seem as                                                               
though it  would avoid  a similar  sort of  problem. "We  have to                                                               
trust the judgment of somebody who  may or may not understand the                                                               
local dynamics when they're placing  the local advertisement," he                                                               
COMMISSIONER  BALLARD  said there  are  several  answers to  that                                                               
question. First DEC would like to  see more members of the public                                                               
who  are interested  in government  activities use  the Internet.                                                               
DEC  already has  the capability  to electronically  notify large                                                               
groups of  people and they are  trying to increase that  means of                                                               
communication and notification.                                                                                                 
As  part of  AO 202  DEC is  trying to  assure that  they do  not                                                               
impose  additional  administrative   procedures  requirements  on                                                               
themselves.  However,  "When  we  are  involved  in  a  difficult                                                               
communication, we  generally tend  to over communicate  not under                                                               
communicate." Generally  they use the Anchorage  paper because it                                                               
is  the  one   in  general  circulation  and   people  are  often                                                               
interested in  DEC issues  regardless of where  they live  in the                                                               
Continuing she said, "Let us get  back to you on exactly why that                                                               
language appears there. I believe it  is in response to a general                                                               
request  of the  governor's that  we have  a consistent  approach                                                               
across  government  that  at  least   sets  what  the  floor  for                                                               
communication will be."  But she could assure him  that DEC looks                                                               
at  the  subject of  a  communication  before  they decide  on  a                                                               
communication plan.                                                                                                             
Stressing the importance of using  the Internet, she said the DEC                                                               
web page  had been reworded  and the broken links  fixed. "People                                                               
can go  to our web page,  they can click on  regulation, they can                                                               
get pending  regulation, it  is simple, you  can do  it anywhere.                                                               
You can do it  from a cabin with a satellite, you  can do it with                                                               
a modem,  you can  do it anywhere  in the state  and I  feel more                                                               
comfortable knowing  that you don't  have to be  able to go  to a                                                               
public meeting  or to read a  newspaper in order to  know what is                                                               
going on  at DEC.  We're able  to reach  a much  broader audience                                                               
electronically than we  could ever have dreamed  of reaching with                                                               
a single or two box ads in a newspaper."                                                                                        
SENATOR ELTON said he appreciates  the answer and although he's a                                                               
policy kind  of person,  he's unlikely  to bookmark  a regulatory                                                               
page  and  generally, he  didn't  believe  that homeowners  would                                                               
either. He  was pleased to hear  her say that these  were minimum                                                               
standards  but minimum  standards were  met in  Homer and  that's                                                               
become  a  complex  and potentially  expensive  problem  for  the                                                               
state. He said he looks forward  to further dialog on ways to use                                                               
common sense to get beyond the minimum.                                                                                         
COMMISSIONER BALLARD  responded by telling him  that summary fact                                                               
sheets are  on the  DEC web page  if you don't  want to  read the                                                               
regulations.  "In  this state  the  challenge  of reaching  every                                                               
community is  horrendous and I'm very  ambitious about electronic                                                               
communication," she stated conclusively.                                                                                        
SENATOR  GEORGIANNA   LINCOLN  asked   how  landfills   would  be                                                               
monitored out in Bush Alaska.                                                                                                   
COMMISSIONER BALLARD replied that isn't  the exact subject of the                                                               
bill,  but they  have worked  hard to  provide rural  communities                                                               
with tools they can afford and  will use to site and manage their                                                               
landfills in  the safest way. For  that program their goal  is to                                                               
issue permits  by rule, which  would be  a set of  best practices                                                               
guidelines and a  risk calculator. The latter is  a worksheet for                                                               
siting and management.  DEC's activity will be  to promulgate the                                                               
rules and  do field  inspections. The  current regime  requires a                                                               
permit application, which is an  individual specific permit under                                                               
DEC's solid waste program.                                                                                                      
There were no further questions asked of Commissioner Ballard.                                                                  
MARILYN  CROCKETT, deputy  director  of the  Alaska  Oil and  Gas                                                               
Association testified  via teleconference  in support of  SB 355.                                                               
"This legislation  is an excellent  example of DEC  continuing to                                                               
pursue  opportunities to  streamline its  processes while  at the                                                               
same   time  ensuring   that  its   assigned  responsibility   of                                                               
protecting Alaska's environment is carried out."                                                                                
This  bill  also  gives DEC  the  authority  to  administratively                                                               
extend permits that are due  to expire. This is important because                                                               
it  gives  the department  additional  time  it  may need  to  go                                                               
through  the  renewal  process.   It  gives  the  department  the                                                               
flexibility to prioritize its limited permitting resources.                                                                     
STEVE   BORELL,  executive   director   of   the  Alaska   Miners                                                               
Association testified  via teleconference  in support of  SB 355.                                                               
They are particularly  pleased with the new authority  for DEC to                                                               
administratively  extend  permits  to deal  with  the  occasional                                                               
times that it isn't possible for  DEC to process a permit renewal                                                               
prior to the expiration of a permit.                                                                                            
RICH  HEIG, president  of the  Counsel of  Alaska Procedures  and                                                               
general  manager  of  Greens  Creek   Mining  Company  spoke  via                                                               
teleconference  in  support  of  SB 355.  They  appreciate  DEC's                                                               
approach to  streamline the permitting process.  They concur with                                                               
the  benefits  set  forth  by the  commissioner  and  others  who                                                               
There were no further questions or comments.                                                                                    
SENATOR GARY STEVENS made a motion  to move SB 355 from committee                                                               
with the  zero fiscal note and  individual recommendations. There                                                               
being no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                                          

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