House Bill 77 passed the House in the last legislative session. The Senate version of this bill is expected to be voted on early in the upcoming legislative session.
I attended the hearing on HB 77 in Soldotna on Dec. 9. This bill would give the commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources vast new powers to restrict the public’s rights to participate in DNR’s permitting process. This bill is being sold as a streamlining of existing regulations that worked well in the past. The need for this expedited streamlining process is not apparent.
There is also an unrealted item in HB 77. This item calls for the construction of a hydro power facility on Chikuminuk Lake in the Wood Tickchik State Park. This lake is in the largest and most pristine state park in the United States.
Why is this unrelated item in a bill about streamlining DNR’s permitting process? Chikuminuk Lake is about 100 miles east of Bethel. Promising to provide electricty to Bethel, from Chikuminuk Lake, should encourage Bethel’s senator to vote for the senate version of HB 77. A road and power line from Bethel would require a right of way across the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge.
In my view, if the present version of HB 77 becomes law, it will facilitate Governor Parnell’s efforts to give away state resources to the lowest bidder without having to deal with us pesky citizens. This bill also appears to have the finger prints of former Governor Frank Murkowski all over it.
In my estimation, HB 77 was written to permit a blatant corporate grab of Alaskan resources with the blessings of the Parnell administration. Think about how a streamlined DNR permitting process, without public participation, could affect the outcome of the Pebble Mine and Chuitna coal controverseys.