Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/11/2003 03:33 PM Senate RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
         SB 142-DNR LEAD RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS                                                                      
CHAIR OGAN  said that most  of the  questions he raised  about SB
142 at the  April 9 hearing have been answered.  At that hearing,                                                               
Senator  Lincoln   suggested  putting   a  sunset  date   in  the                                                               
legislation. He  supports that suggestion  and would like  to see                                                               
the program  reviewed by  the legislature in  the second  year of                                                               
the  next administration.  He asked  Ms.  Burleson-Baxter if  she                                                               
would like to testify.                                                                                                          
MS.  JANET  BURLESON-BAXTER,   Department  of  Natural  Resources                                                               
(DNR), told  members that  she, Dick  Lefebvre, Bob  Loeffler and                                                               
Cam Leonard were available to answer questions.                                                                                 
SENATOR ELTON  thanked the representatives  from DNR and  DEC for                                                               
bringing him  up to speed on  this legislation, as he  was absent                                                               
from the last hearing.  He  then said he had several questions to                                                               
ask on  behalf of Senator  Lincoln, who  was excused.   The first                                                               
question was  about the appeal  process under the new  system. He                                                               
noted  Senator  Lincoln was  concerned  that  the new  permitting                                                               
office  would  be   in  charge  of  issuing   permits  while  the                                                               
individual agencies would hear the appeals.                                                                                     
MS. BURLESON-BAXTER  said none of  the agencies would  lose their                                                               
authority  over appeals  of their  respective permits.  An appeal                                                               
could  be brought  to the  DNR project  office but  if the  issue                                                               
surrounded an  individual permit, the adjudicatory  process would                                                               
be  dealt  with through  the  existing  appeal procedure  of  the                                                               
particular agency.                                                                                                              
MS. MARY SIROKY, Department  of Environmental Conservation (DEC),                                                               
affirmed Ms. Burleson-Baxter's explanation.                                                                                     
SENATOR ELTON  then asked, on  behalf of Senator Lincoln,  if the                                                               
cost of the new office would  be minimal because the cost will be                                                               
transferred  to the  permittee.  He questioned  whether the  cost                                                               
will  be difficult  to estimate  until DNR  knows how  many major                                                               
permit applications it will have.                                                                                               
MS. BURLESON-BAXTER nodded affirmatively.                                                                                       
CHAIR OGAN  pointed out the fiscal  notes are zero but  the funds                                                               
for  this legislation  are included  in the  Governor's operating                                                               
budget request.  He commented that  approach keeps the  number of                                                               
committee referrals  down but questioned  what will happen  if no                                                               
new  positions are  funded in  the  budget. He  said putting  the                                                               
actual  cost  of  the  positions  on the  fiscal  note  would  be                                                               
MR. DICK LEFEBVRE, Acting Deputy  Commissioner, DNR, said DNR has                                                               
a number of large projects  in the queue already. DNR anticipates                                                               
that  the  reimbursable services  lined  up  for this  year  will                                                               
continue into next  year. The component in  the budget recognizes                                                               
some of those funds. Whether SB  142 passes or not, DNR will need                                                               
authorization to  receive and  expend those  funds, which  is why                                                               
DNR used  the budget  as the  main vehicle  to carry  the funding                                                               
CHAIR OGAN asked  if DNR could be the lead  agency if the funding                                                               
request in the operating budget is not met.                                                                                     
MR. LEFEBVRE said it could.                                                                                                     
SENATOR  ELTON  commented  that   when  the  legislature  directs                                                               
departments  to   make  an  unallocated  budget   reduction,  the                                                               
legislature does not  know where that reduction  will take place.                                                               
He agreed  the bill should have  a fiscal note that  reflects the                                                               
source of the funds and how those funds will be spent.                                                                          
SENATOR  STEVENS said  his interpretation  of  the section  being                                                               
repealed on  page 3, AS 46.35.070,  is that a state  agency still                                                               
has the  responsibility to issue  the permit but  the coordinator                                                               
is being changed, which is the reason for the zero fiscal note.                                                                 
MR. LEFEBVRE said that is correct.                                                                                              
SENATOR ELTON offered a conceptual  amendment to include a sunset                                                               
date that takes effect two years into the next administration.                                                                  
SENATOR STEVENS objected  for the purpose of  discussion. He then                                                               
asked the department  to comment on the sunset  provision and how                                                               
the three-phase team  concept would be implemented  with a sunset                                                               
provision. He also  asked what program the state  would revert to                                                               
if the sunset took place, and  whether it would be the program in                                                               
existing Section 4.                                                                                                             
CHAIR OGAN pointed  out that Section 4 is not  being used at this                                                               
SENATOR  STEVENS  asked  DNR  staff  to  comment  on  the  sunset                                                               
MS. BURLESON-BAXTER said  DNR likes the concept of  the bill. She                                                               
pointed  out the  concept of  the  lead agency  began during  the                                                               
Hickel  Administration  and  was continued  through  the  Knowles                                                               
Administration to  this one.  She said if  a sunset  provision is                                                               
included, she  believes DNR would try  to carry on with  the team                                                               
concept as  best as it could  because it has been  successful for                                                               
DNR in the past.                                                                                                                
SENATOR STEVENS pointed  out that DNR would have  no authority to                                                               
continue as the lead agency if a sunset took place.                                                                             
MS.  BURLESON-BAXTER   said  DNR  would  not   have  prescriptive                                                               
statutory  authority  but it  might  engage  in a  memorandum  of                                                               
SENATOR  ELTON said  his  understanding is  that  a sunset  would                                                               
require the state  agencies to revert to the ad  hoc process used                                                               
now. He  said the argument for  a sunset review is  that it would                                                               
set in  motion a process to  answer some of the  questions, i.e.,                                                               
is the new office charging  the permittees an appropriate amount.                                                               
A sunset  review would  give the  legislature the  opportunity to                                                               
review the  definition of  a large  natural resource  project and                                                               
tweak or eliminate  aspects of the program  that are problematic.                                                               
A sunset  also reminds  the department that  the program  will be                                                               
reviewed, which induces good behavior.                                                                                          
MR. LEFEBVRE told  members one benefit of  having clear statutory                                                               
authority   is  that   the  federal   agencies,  when   preparing                                                               
environmental impact  statements (EIS), would know  who they have                                                               
to  deal with.  Right now,  they  must deal  with state  agencies                                                               
individually  unless  state  agencies  agree  amongst  themselves                                                               
prior to the start of a project.                                                                                                
SENATOR STEVENS  said in his  opinion, some of the  annual sunset                                                               
reviews    undertaken   by    the    legislature   are    routine                                                               
reauthorizations.  The  legislature  has the  authority  to  make                                                               
changes to  a program at  any time, if need  be. He said  while a                                                               
sunset review forces  the legislature to review  a program, there                                                               
is a  dividing line  between a reauthorization  and a  review and                                                               
evaluation.  He  said  DNR's annual  report  to  the  legislature                                                               
should  keep legislators  informed about  how DNR's  authority as                                                               
lead agency is being utilized.                                                                                                  
SENATOR  WAGONER said  he planned  to support  the amendment  but                                                               
would prefer  an annual  review because  sunset reviews  are very                                                               
time consuming. He  believes this legislation is one  of the most                                                               
important before the legislature this year.                                                                                     
SENATOR STEVENS  said he believes in  putting the onus on  DNR to                                                               
describe how this  concept is working by requiring  it to present                                                               
an annual report to the legislature.                                                                                            
MR. LEFEBVRE  pointed out that  one of  the benefits of  the lead                                                               
agency concept is that it is  voluntary on the part of the permit                                                               
applicant. If  the applicant  is not  satisfied with  the project                                                               
process, the  legislature will know  about it well in  advance of                                                               
the next legislative session.                                                                                                   
SENATOR DYSON said inherent in  the missions and measures process                                                               
is an  annual review  by the  Legislative Finance  committees. He                                                               
said  he  believes most  sunset  review  time lengths  should  be                                                               
doubled because  they are very  time consuming.  However, because                                                               
this is  a new concept, he  feels a sunset provision  is valid so                                                               
that  the legislature  makes sure  an annual  review takes  place                                                               
every year.                                                                                                                     
SENATOR  ELTON  said  he  prefers the  formalized  process  of  a                                                               
[sunset] review.                                                                                                                
CHAIR OGAN  pointed out the  next DNR commissioner could  be very                                                               
anti-development and a lot of  power has been consolidated within                                                               
that position.  He advised  that it  might be  prudent to  take a                                                               
formal look at this change in a  few years as a check and balance                                                               
SENATOR WAGONER  said his  concern with a  sunset review  is that                                                               
the  legislature   has  the  right   to  review  this   piece  of                                                               
legislation  any time  it deems  it  necessary but  he feels  the                                                               
legislature should  watch this program change  closely because it                                                               
is new.  He expressed concern that  2008 is a long  time from now                                                               
so he proposed a sunset review in two years.                                                                                    
SENATOR  ELTON   accepted  Senator   Wagoner's  proposal   as  an                                                               
amendment to his amendment.                                                                                                     
SENATOR DYSON objected.                                                                                                         
The motion  to adopt  the amendment to  the amendment,  to change                                                               
the date  of the sunset  review from  2008 to two  years, carried                                                               
with Senators Stevens,  Wagoner and Elton in  favor, and Senators                                                               
Dyson and Ogan opposed.                                                                                                         
MS. SIROKY  told members that  from the agencies'  perspective, a                                                               
longer  time frame  for  a  sunset review  would  be better.  She                                                               
expressed  concern that  projects  take a  significant amount  of                                                               
time from start to finish so  a two-year window might not be long                                                               
enough to  see whether  the process is  working. She  suggested a                                                               
four or six year window.                                                                                                        
CHAIR  OGAN moved  to amend  the  amendment to  require a  sunset                                                               
review in four years.                                                                                                           
There being no objection, the motion carried.                                                                                   
The committee  then voted  on the  amended amendment,  that being                                                               
whether to  include a  sunset provision [to  take effect  in four                                                               
years]. The motion  carried with Senators Dyson,  Elton, and Ogan                                                               
in favor, and Senators Wagoner and Stevens opposed.                                                                             
There being  no further testimony,  SENATOR WAGONER moved  SB 142                                                               
as  amended from  committee with  individual recommendations  and                                                               
its  accompanying fiscal  notes.  There being  no objection,  the                                                               
motion carried.                                                                                                                 

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