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28th Legislature(2013-2014)

Bill Text 28th Legislature

00 Enrolled HB 129                                                                                                         
01 Relating to approval for oil and gas or gas only exploration and development in a                                       
02 geographical area; and providing for an effective date.                                                                 
03                           _______________                                                                               
04    * Section 1. The uncodified law of the State of Alaska is amended by adding a new section                          
05 to read:                                                                                                                
06       LEGISLATIVE FINDINGS. The legislature finds that                                                                  
07            (1)  in 2001, the legislature amended AS 38.05.035(e) to clarify that the                                    
08 Department of Natural Resources is only required to issue a single written best interest                                
09 finding before approving contracts for the sale, lease, or other disposal of available land,                            
10 resources, property, or interests in them;                                                                              
11            (2)  on March 29, 2013, the Alaska Supreme Court issued an opinion in                                        
12 Sullivan v. Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands, Supreme Court Case                                 
13 No. S-14216, Opinion No. 6769 (March 29, 2013), that correctly and properly recognized that                             
14 art. VIII, sec. 2, Constitution of the State of Alaska, gives the legislature the "responsibility                       
01 and discretion to create procedures to meet the policy outlined in article VIII, section 1 to                           
02 develop Alaska's resources 'for the maximum benefit of [the State's] people,'" and that it is                           
03 "not the court's place to provide instruction on how the State should determine what action                             
04 would be for the maximum benefit of the Alaskan people";                                                                
05            (3)  while the decision of the Alaska Supreme Court acknowledged the                                         
06 legislature's authority to limit best interest findings to the disposal phase, the Alaska Supreme                       
07 Court also held that the Department of Natural Resources had a constitutional duty to                                   
08 "continue to analyze and consider all factors material and relevant to what is in the public                            
09 interest after the lease sale phase, including the cumulative impacts of the project, and to                            
10 provide the public with timely and meaningful notice of its cumulative impacts assessment in                            
11 order to ensure the constitutional principle of maximum use consistent with the public                                  
12 interest";                                                                                                              
13            (4)  the decision of the Alaska Supreme Court noted that this constitutional                                 
14 duty would be met by taking a "continuing hard look at new information and changing                                     
15 circumstances" as projects proceed through phases subsequent to the lease disposal phase;                               
16            (5)  the Department of Natural Resources has carefully considered and                                        
17 continues carefully to consider approvals of oil and gas exploration and development and                                
18 conducts an extensive analysis for each approval;                                                                       
19            (6)  the legislature instructed the Department of Natural Resources regarding                                
20 how it should determine what action would be for the maximum benefit of the people of                                   
21 Alaska by enacting AS 38.05.180(a);                                                                                     
22            (7)  the Department of Natural Resources already has taken and continues to                                  
23 take a "continuing hard look at new information and changing circumstances" by gathering                                
24 information each year under AS 38.05.035(e)(6)(F) and by calling for comments from the                                  
25 public to determine whether there is substantial new information that justifies a supplement to                         
26 the best interest finding for the most recent areawide lease sale;                                                      
27            (8)  in addition to those efforts by the Department of Natural Resources, the                                
28 processes for issuing numerous other state, federal, and local permits and authorizations, some                         
29 of which are described in ch. 101, SLA 2001, provide the public with timely and meaningful                              
30 notice of information related to the effects of leasing, exploration, development, and                                  
31 transportation;                                                                                                         
01            (9)  under AS 38.05.020(b)(1), the commissioner of natural resources is                                      
02 expressly granted the ability to adopt regulations that are consistent with AS 38.05.180(a) and                         
03 provide procedures necessary to meet the constitutional duty created by the decision of the                             
04 Alaska Supreme Court for taking an ongoing hard look at new information and changing                                    
05 circumstances when evaluating subsequent phases of an oil and gas project.                                            
06    * Sec. 2. AS 38.05.035 is amended by adding a new subsection to read:                                              
07            (o)  The director may approve exploration or development for all or part of an                               
08       area previously approved for oil and gas or gas only leasing under (e) of this section.                           
09       An approval applies to exploration or development commencing during a period for                                  
10       up to 10 years, as specified by the director in the approval. When authorizing                                    
11       exploration or development under this subsection, the department shall provide public                             
12       notice and the opportunity to comment using the methods described in                                              
13       AS 38.05.945(b) and (c). The approval authorizes a lessee to begin exploration or                                 
14       development during the period specified in the approval, subject to the lessee                                    
15       receiving other authorizations required from the department or other state, local, or                             
16       federal agencies. Once a lessee begins exploration or development on a lease or group                             
17       of leases, the approval for exploration under this subsection or the approval for                                 
18       development under this subsection remains valid for the term of the lease. This                                   
19       subsection does not relieve lessees of any statutory, regulatory, or lease obligations,                           
20       including any obligations to submit for approval plans of operation, of exploration, or                           
21       of development.                                                                                                   
22    * Sec. 3. This Act takes effect immediately under AS 01.10.070(c).                                                 
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