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Central Peninsula speaks out against HB77

Commenters: Changes to bill are needed; don't cut the public out

Posted: December 10, 2013 - 10:26pm  |  Updated: December 11, 2013 - 10:05pm
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Photo By Greg Skinner/Peninsula Clarion
Clark Whitney Jr. presents a scroll of the “extinct rivers” of North America during his testimony on HB77 Monday in Soldotna. He called the proposed bill a “ruse to get mining in under the radar.”

Editor's note: this story was edited to correct the spelling of Dave Wartinbee's name.

 

The central Kenai Peninsula’s sometimes polarized community came together Monday to protest the proposed House Bill 77 during testimony in Soldotna.

Without exception, the public expressed displeasure for two portions of HB77: the removal of public input on permits and the loss of personal access to water reservation.

Consistently, public concern was wrapped in a vocal distrust for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources and the administration of Gov. Sean Parnell, which they claim are selling out Alaskans in favor of corporations.

Local salmon educator, entertainer and activist Dan Pascucci sang his testimony disapproving of HB77 claiming that DNR, once tasked with resource conservation, had turned into a new acronym — do not regulate corporations.

“I’m a corporation in Alaska, making money is my task-a. Please give me a permit without question, pass the House Bill, please, this session,” he sang.

The main concern of those attending the hearing, which was held in the Kenai Peninsula Assembly Chambers and sponsored by Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, was that the bill would centralize decisions on state land use with the commissioner of DNR, and therefore the governor.

Micciche called for hearings in Soldotna and Homer, he said, because he received more email correspondence for HB 77 than any other bill during the 2013 Legislative session.

Micciche put together a panel of stakeholders and leaders from the governing agencies for two nights of explanation and public testimony.

House Bill 77 is a 24-page, 51-section proposed law seeking to streamline the DNR permitting process for the use of state land for economic development. The proposed law passed through the House 23 to 14 before being stopped in the Senate and sent back to the Rules Committee.

“It exists in Rules today,” Micciche said.

Critics say HB77 will streamline Alaskans out of the permitting process and silence public input on projects that affect renewable resources, such as salmon, in favor of a resource extraction economy.

Parnell sponsored HB77 but Alaska Department of Natural Resources Deputy Commissioner Ed Fogels said his department wrote the bill largely by building upon HB 61, which passed with “hardly a sneeze.”

Fogels acknowledged the proposed law is “far-reaching and controversial.”

Current DNR permitting laws slow down development and progress, Fogels said. When HB 77 began 2,500 permits were backlogged. That has since been reduced by 50 percent, he said.

HB77 is part of a “big initiative” on how the state does business in the name of Alaskans. DNR is looking to stop appeals “that don’t have merit,” he said.

In his opinion, three sections have brought public ire upon HR77: the allowance of general permits; a change to who can apply for a “water reservation”; and changing who can appeal a DNR decision.

General permits would extend to permit future similar activities and development without public notice or process once the original permit was issued.

Only governments will be allowed to hold water reservations.

Current appeals need no reason; HB77 will require an appeal to show a substantial and adverse affect.

“We can see misuse coming down the road,” Fogels said. “We’re trying to improve the process for all Alaskans.”

By misuse Fogels means water reservation applications by individuals or non-government groups to muck up larger mining company permits, such as the Pebble Mine project and the Chuitna Coal Mine on the west side of Cook Inlet.

Under current state law, private individuals, organizations, and government agencies can apply for a reservation of water for instream use. The application can lead to years of study that might stop or slow down other development, such as mining or dam operations. That would end if HB77 passes as written.

Of the 35 personal or organizational water reservation permits currently sought, most are in areas where large-scale operations want to open — Chuitna, Pebble Mine and the Susitna Hydroelectric Project, he said.

“I wouldn’t want the Pebble mine to hold a water reservation either,” Fogels said.

Kenaitze Environmental Program Director Brenda Trefon took issue with the notion that federally recognized tribes such as hers should have no right to seek a resource permit such as a water reservation. She noted that if HB77 passed 16 tribal permits would be revoked or not allowed.

Fogels said that a government, under the new definition, must represent all Alaskans in a geographic region. Tribes don’t do that, he said.

“Alaska people have been governing resources for thousands of years,” Trefon said.

Bob McCard of Kasilof said the bill went too far and infringed on the democratic process, giving too much power to the commissioner of natural resources.

Most of those who spoke were concerned about the effect HB77 would have on fish habitat by cutting out the public from the process of permitting mines and other industry on state lands.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell said that regardless of HB77 empowerment of DNR her agency would still regulate development’s affect on fisheries and fish habitat through Title 16 laws. Any proposed use of state land would require an ADFG Title 16 Fish Habitat Protection Permit, she said

Campbell’s confident stance was quickly countered by biology professor and lawyer Dave Wartinbee, who pointed out that Section 1 of the proposed HB77 trumps all other laws in the state in governing the issuance of a general permit, on state land, by the commissioner of DNR.

The exact language says, “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the commissioner may authorize an activity on state land by the issuance of a general permit.”

“Anything else is trumped,” Wartinbee said. “DNR says they want the provision to stop abuse of the water reservation, I don’t believe that’s going to happen.”

Lindsey Bloom, a Juneau fisherman and board member of United Fisherman of Alaska and affiliated with the Independent Fishermen’s Marketing Association, took a last minute seat on the panel. Her biggest concern was the change to the general permit. She wanted more understanding of the intent of the new permitting process and said that intent should be written into the bill so that future leaders don’t misuse it.

“What kind of guarantees are there?” Bloom asked.

Micciche, a sport and commercial fisherman, said his biggest concern is for adequate in-stream water reserves for fish. Stepping up for his constituency’s biggest concern, Micciche asked how do "we decide what’s appropriate for general permitting?"

Micciche said he trusted Fogels’ motives, with regard to the expanded scope of general permitting, but said that Fogels won’t hold his position forever.

Admitting that he very much liked corporations and how they bring jobs and economic growth to the state, Micciche said they shouldn’t have more rights than Alaskans.

“The law should be defined better,” he said.

Micciche also took exception to the idea that HB77 would trump all other state land use laws and regulations.

“It needs work,” Micciche said of HB77. “It’s in Rules Committee now and work can be done there or on the floor.”

HB77 seeks to allow DNR to issue permits, in many situations, without public notice, explanation or redress.

Fogels said HB77 is expressly about jobs for Alaskans and called the management of the state’s 105 million acres a “balancing act” of economic use and while protecting the land.

“We need to ensure an economy in the state,” he siad.

Executive Director of the Kenai Watershed Forum Robert Ruffner said one concern he had about HB 77 was the removal of those who can apply for instream flow estimates.

Ruffner recommended that HB77 be pulled back and rewritten with more public involvement.

“Alaskans are not likely to give up rights,” he said.

 

Reach Greg Skinner at greg.skinner@peninsulaclarion.com.

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RaySouthwell
953
Points
RaySouthwell 12/11/13 - 11:47 am
1
0
Peter Micciche

"Micciche, a sport and commercial fisherman, said his biggest concern is for adequate in-stream water reserves for fish."

And all this time I thought he is the Superintendent of ConocoPhillips LNG plant in Kenai. According to this Alaska Dispatch article he supported SB21.
http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/20130327/conocophillips-employees-...

What I find interesting is no one asked why we need to change the law with HB 77.
DNR publication presented explained it well. "Permitting reform is a bipartisan effort as policymakers realize the economic benefits of allowing large-scale development projects to proceed in a responsible timely manner." (Pg1 of handout)

"Potential investors sometimes express reluctance to pursue projects in the U.S. and Alaska because of the ever-present risk of permitting delays and litigation (Pg 2 of handout)

"Secure Alaska's future oil. Increase production by making Alaska more competitive" (Pg. 5 of handout)

As I said at the meeting, I get all that. Big oil runs this State because they have big money and big power. I get all that but I don't get why Alaska does not use our untouched resource of money. Senator Micciche objected to my presentation. He said it was off topic. I disagreed it goes to the root cause of the problem. MONEY. Alaska and Alaskans are rich in resources. We have one untouched resource that would put the people back in the drivers seat. Billions of dollars.

Establish a public Bank of Alaska. Use our resource of money to create credit and support those businesses who will follow the guidelines we the people have established as safe in extracting our resources.

Create a Bank and tell those oil companies play by our rules or we will find others who will and create the credit needed to get the job done under our laws.

North Dakota did in 1919.

kksalm
232
Points
kksalm 12/11/13 - 11:00 pm
1
0
Do you feel "represented"?

Our very own house representatives think HB77 is a good thing. They seem to be out of touch with their constituents.
I for one will not forget how they voted when re-election time comes along. I think they just stepped in it and the smell is not going to go away. If you are represented by either Mr. Chenault or Mr. Olson, or any other of the Yea votes, I encourage you to request an explanation of their interpretation of our state's constitution.

Have a wonderful day!

YEAS: 23 NAYS: 14 EXCUSED: 3 ABSENT: 0

Yeas: Chenault, Costello, Feige, Gattis, Hawker, Higgins, Holmes,
Isaacson, Johnson, Keller, Lynn, Millett, Munoz, Nageak, Neuman,
Olson, Pruitt, Reinbold, Saddler, Stoltze, Thompson, P.Wilson,
T.Wilson

Nays: Austerman, Drummond, Edgmon, Foster, Gara, Gruenberg,
Herron, Josephson, Kawasaki, Kerttula, Kreiss-Tomkins, Seaton, Tarr,
Tuck

Excused: Guttenberg, Hughes, LeDoux

And so, CSHB 77(RES) passed the House.

beaverlooper
2939
Points
beaverlooper 12/12/13 - 08:58 am
0
0
@Ray Southwell

Micciche is not THE superintendent of the ConocoPhillips plant ,that job falls to Steve Arbalofski (the spelling of that last name is probably wrong). He is a superintendent of operations of a plant that is not in operation. A misrepresentation that he never seems to correct.

RaySouthwell
953
Points
RaySouthwell 12/12/13 - 08:38 am
0
0
Big oil

kksalm,
I believe most of our elected officials want to do what they believe is in the best interest for improving the economic future of Alaska. It appears to me, they must follow big oil's direction. This is not an issue of left and right or republican and democrat. Past President Clinton supports this idea of waivers on environmental rules. (See Newsweek June 2011)

We have not given our politicians any other choice for economic expansion. If we accessed our untouched resource of money through a public Bank of Alaska, politicians would have alternative choices for expanding Alaska's economic future. Until then, don't blame all politicians.

kksalm
232
Points
kksalm 12/12/13 - 09:12 am
0
0
There were 14 Nays

Ray, I hear what you're saying. Nevertheless, there were 14 politicians that actually were not thinking Big Oil on this one.
Unfortunately, here on the peninsula, your argument seems to make sense.

Have a wonderful day!

RaySouthwell
953
Points
RaySouthwell 12/12/13 - 09:12 am
0
0
beaverlooper

Thank you for the updated information. Apparently I based my understanding on old information. I spoke to Micciche in the summer of 2012. (Industrial days) Not knowing his background I was telling him the importance of an all-Alaska gas-line. He probably felt I was lecturing him. He listened politely and eventually interrupted me. He told me he ran the LNG plant.

The attached Alaska Dispatch article above also states he is superintendent. It is dated March of this year.

I also did not know the LNG plant was closed. I understood the export of LNG was closed but not the entire plant. Please give me the location of the information you posted. If its closed why do they need any Superintendent?

RaySouthwell
953
Points
RaySouthwell 12/12/13 - 09:27 am
0
0
Paul Seaton

kkslam,

Representative Paul Seaton (Homer) was there at the meeting. I don't think he had a special invitation like others. He stayed for the whole meeting and waited his turn. When called he gave a great explanation on why he voted no.
But it still goes back to the question how can we access our natural resources without Kowtowing to big oil. That answer is a public Bank of Alaska. Currently without oil production, Alaska would probably have the highest income tax rate in the nation.

kksalm
232
Points
kksalm 12/12/13 - 09:50 am
2
0
Paul Seaton, the one with a pulse

Seaton is the exception to the rule. The one republican thinking on his feet. Actually thinking, HB77 is not a good thing for my constituents. Unlike our Chenault and Olson's embarrassing partisen mentality at the expense of we the people.

Peace, out

cheapersmokes
943
Points
cheapersmokes 12/12/13 - 09:57 am
1
0
Bank of Alaska!

I feel that a central Bank of Alaska would be a great improvement in the prosperity of this land. However, I do not feel that continually posting about it here is going to do a tinkers damn bit of good. Since soon the politicians will be around promising you everything in exchange for your vote....I suggest to make a video of them with your cell phone and get them to say they will support it and also introduce the bill into the legislature within six months of taking office as either the sponsor or as a cosponsor or they will resign their position as a fraud.

RaySouthwell
953
Points
RaySouthwell 12/12/13 - 10:52 am
1
0
cheapersmokes

A public Bank of Alaska working like a central bank. I keep posting to have a discussion on something we can do to actually improve things in Alaska. Most posts are constant complaints. I have become focused on the primary root cause of our nations economic calamity. Politicians will fear this move because it is opposed by big banking. Where our money is. It is time to educate the population on positive action for uniting and moving Alaska forward. But I cannot do it alone. Either we the people of Alaska will come together or not. Politicians will follow the people if we speak clearly and are united. After spinning my wheels for so long I will stop and give up. Not easy for me to do.

beaverlooper
2939
Points
beaverlooper 12/12/13 - 12:49 pm
1
0
@Ray Southwell

By no longer operating I meant they weren't making LNG.They have had the plant in shutdown mode ,meaning they have steam and such running to keep things from freezing ,turbine shafts turning to keep from sagging etc.
As far as needing a superintendent? Good question ,I know a lot of people that work there and have been told. he never shows up in the control room and he does seem to have a lot of time on his hands for somebody with a full time job.
If you need confirmation call them and ask who the man is that in charge of the facility out there.

19581958
77
Points
19581958 12/12/13 - 05:34 pm
1
2
Off Topic

Please get back on Topic HB77??? We all know that the LNG plant in North Kenai is going to start back up as soon as the gas comes. Who cares who the superviser is. I'm sure he has some sort of politcal front. I'm for a gas line and the LNG and the Urea plant starting back up. More jobs, taxes, and increases in property values. Its a win win for everyone.

beaverlooper
2939
Points
beaverlooper 12/13/13 - 01:06 am
0
0
I ve seen you do the same thing.

Don't get so uppity .Ive seen you make the same types of remarks bout Parnell and what his REAL job is .Oil company lobbyist /politician.They are two peas in a pod.
I don' care who runs the plant either but I do care about Lies and half truths. If your used to lies , I am not.
You are really putting the cart before the horse with the urea plant,it would probably be cheaper to build a new one than try to re-do the one that,s there. If they do try to rebuild the old one I ,for one, want,ant to be far,far away when they start that baby back up.
As far as getting back to HB 77. It sucks.
Good enough?

19581958
77
Points
19581958 12/13/13 - 09:43 am
2
0
Its All Good

We all seem to be on the same page. Against crooked politicians who sell out Alaska cheap for their own gains. Don't forget the ones who went to jail, or were indicted but got away with it. Gee for such a small population compared to other states we sure go through a lot of them. I wonder why Alaska is so attractive to crooked politicians? I think we can agree on one thing and thats building a solid foundation for future generations who can enjoy the outdoors, raise thier family, and have a stable career.

RaySouthwell
953
Points
RaySouthwell 12/13/13 - 10:07 am
1
0
19581958

Dreamer. Me too. But until we recognize the "power of the purse" we all lose. Money creation for safe productive activities is needed. Today our federal government is run by a bunch of politicians half of whom are millionaires. They have allowed private banks to create money in areas, that historically, have always brought down nations.

Good News. Alaskans can make a difference with a public Bank of Alaska. Take the power away from D.C. and do as banks do. Create credit to expand our economy and meet our dreams for the future.

Seafarer
1147
Points
Seafarer 12/13/13 - 11:56 am
1
0
HB77

Ray, you pretty much hijacked the comments here about one of the most important bills in Alaskan history. While I like your idea, this was not the place for it.

HB77 is dangerous and with it passing comes the Pebble Mine and the end of Bristol Bay Salmon. It also brings a coal mine just for China and a billionaire businessman. Here comes Watana, too.

There goes your fave and secret fishing hole, your duck blind that has been there for a couple of generations, and there goes your well water. Soured by whatever corporation desires to build near you and your neighbors.

And you get NO warning, and you get NO say, and you get NO chance of appeal.

This is what HB77 does. It is against our Constitution and an affront to all Alaskans.

This is what our Lord and Master Sean Parnell wants for us.

RaySouthwell
953
Points
RaySouthwell 12/13/13 - 12:16 pm
0
0
Seafarer

Are you opposed to all development? I am not. I support responsible development. I recognize we all need jobs to support our families. The problem with delivering responsible developments revolves around money and who controls it.
I think as President Kennedy did

"We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's futures. And we are all mortal."

And he supported responsible developments for the advancement of all humanity.

Seafarer
1147
Points
Seafarer 12/13/13 - 02:49 pm
2
0
What, Ray?

My family has 7 generations here, When Wally said we are an Owner State, I took it to heart and soul. I OWN ALASKA! And I care about her until my heart aches, which is what the Parnell administration has caused since he got in office. He is evil! His lie about trading one resource for another almost took me to places where I would never again see the light of day. Of course I'm not against development, but not Parnell-style. Never. Do I want Bristol Bay, a Sacred Place, to go away so some rich bi!ch can wear a gold necklace around her stinking neck? NO! Do I want a billionaire sending OUR coal to China for the bankruptcy of Cook Inlet fishermen? NO!

Gimmee a break, Ray. I'm with you on you bank idea. I'm all in! Just wish I knew more about financial affairs, but alas. But, when I figure out a way to explain it so I can understand, I'll be rootin' and tootin' for ya!

By the way...Bristol Bay pays my rent. And my grocery, sundry, pharmacy, clothing, etc. is paid to the Kenai Peninsula. And my Union-Provided Insurance from Bristol Bay is paying the doctors here well into the 6 figures. Your hospital, Pal!

RaySouthwell
953
Points
RaySouthwell 12/14/13 - 07:48 am
1
0
Where money comes from

It is always about the money. He who controls the money controls everything. Politicians are at a loss on where the money will come from if we push big oil out of our State. Most would rather blame politicians here in Alaska than help them. I have no problem if big oil leaves Alaska as long as we have a back-up plan. Use our untouched resource called money. Otherwise we are going down like most of the nation. I have studied the ideals of professor Richard Werner. He has written a couple books and helped me understand money. Here is a short video were he explains "where money comes from."
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7qOuY9ZJ8w&feature=related

Steven Chamberlain
324
Points
Steven Chamberlain 12/16/13 - 01:26 am
2
0
Absolute Power

The State doesn't need HB77. They will do whatever they want to whenever they want to. They have no concern for You, your family, or your neighbors. They don't care about clean drinking water, clean air, or any other of your God given rights. The absolute power that the State wields is extremely radical and dangerous. The only way to stop it is for ALL of us to stand together and fight !!!
Your Government is completely out of control.

RaySouthwell
953
Points
RaySouthwell 12/16/13 - 08:17 am
0
0
Out of control

Steve, But why are they out of control. It revolves around money. The State understands the problems that develop, in the short term, revolves around money. People need jobs and only big oil can provide jobs and money. We could create credit through a public State Bank. Making money available for small businesses to expand and help our local economy. And keeping HB77 unchanged because we would become the investors that Alaska so desperately needs to expand our economy. North Dakota did it in 1919. They weathered the last bubble bust quite well and today their unemployment is lowest in the land at 3%.

Raoulduke
3055
Points
Raoulduke 12/16/13 - 08:44 am
2
0
Control?

They are out of control due to GREED. The citizen's have stood back,swallowed their lies,and allowed ALL of this to happen.Money is just the catalyst.It could be sea shells,wampum,or shiny rocks.The cause is GREED.The powers that be have written the laws only to condone such behavior.They have set different standards for themselves pertaining to " Conflict of Interest" issues.So! just how does one.I mean a collective populace.Have their REELECTED "CORRUPT" representatives change their way of thinking ? When the answer to this TOUGH question can be answered with all honesty,and NO elitist group positioning.Then,and only then will there be some semblance of control.

RaySouthwell
953
Points
RaySouthwell 12/16/13 - 09:10 am
0
0
Checks and balances

We have forgotten about self-interest that drives us all. Unchecked it turns to greed. On a national scene we had a Constitution that established checks and balances. All gone in D.C. I still have hope for Alaska. We need to understand successful economies revolve around money creation going towards expanding a productive economy. Until then, we will continue to vote for people, who we believe, will get us the most money. That revolves around monopolies.

A public Bank of Alaska would break up the strangle hold monopolies have on us.

beaverlooper
2939
Points
beaverlooper 12/17/13 - 12:22 pm
1
0
you're a one note piano Ray

There is no magic bullet.

RaySouthwell
953
Points
RaySouthwell 12/17/13 - 12:37 pm
0
0
Nothing changes

Until we understand how the piano works, no good music will ever come out from it. The first hundred years in this nation people understood. There was a constant battle on who should create the money supply. After 1913 we lost the discussion to history.

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