Legislature(2003 - 2004)
03/12/2003 01:05 PM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 78-UNIFIED PERMIT APPLICATION CO-CHAIR FATE announced that the next order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 78, "An Act relating to adoption and use of a unified permit application form by the natural resource agencies; and repealing the Environmental Procedures Coordination Act." CO-CHAIR FATE noted the bill would be held in committee at the request of the sponsor. Number 1821 REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA, speaking as sponsor, characterized HB 78 as a one of the first important steps in an [effort] to start streamlining the resource permitting process in Alaska. She suggested the way to [obtain] economic stability in Alaska and get out of the state's current economic problem is [through] strong, stable, well-managed resource development. She said oil funds 85 percent of the budget, but there are other resources in Alaska that are worth developing. She said a clean, easy to use, fair process is needed, and some good processes are in place, but she thought the [legislature] should spend its time arguing about substantive or scientific issues - things that really matter, not about the process. She said permitting issues are really dry and can be very boring, but the process drives the outcome. She talked about her love for permitting issues and offered some of her previous employment experience working in resource issues such as working in the attorney general's office on issues such as coastal zone management and outer continental lease sales. Number 1996 REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA said the bill would create a single application process for projects that require permits for more than one state resource agency. She said [HB 78] requires a single permit application form and establishes a permit application clearinghouse in the Office of the Governor. She said HB 78 also sets up very tight deadlines and requires agencies to collaborate on the permit process, and the bill also repeals the Environmental Procedures Coordination Act. She remarked, "Maybe I'm the only one that could get away with repealing that without someone questioning my motives." Representative Kerttula suggested that the [Environmental Procedures Coordination Act] provides an out-of-date process, and in her experience had only been used once, ineffectively. She suggested the process is redundant, and she said the bill does not change the permits themselves or any statutory duties that the agencies have. REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA said overall, comments made on the bill have suggested that the bill doesn't go far enough, so there will be some legislation from both the governor and the minority [caucus] that goes a whole lot further. She said another comment she'd received is the bill goes too far and is duplicative. She said the bill is not duplicative; however, the coastal policy questionnaire, which gets used in coastal zone management issues, does exist and is similar. She suggested creating a subcommittee to work out the issues because all of the different pieces [of legislation] will have to be balanced and coordinated. Representative Kerttula said if the bill is duplicative, it might be with things that are "coming down the line," and she suggested that the question of where to locate the clearinghouse would have to be worked out with impending legislation "that's coming our way." She mentioned that there is a move to put a lot of functions of permitting into the Department of Natural Resources. Number 2067 REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA said this bill would keep the clearinghouse in the governor's office, and it has been her experience that it's important for the governor to have easy access to information about permitting. She said this is a policy call and something that can be discussed later. REPRESENTATIVE WOLF told Representative Kerttula that she had just described the Kenai River Center. In response to a comment made by Representative Kerttula, he said U.S. Senator Ted Stevens offered support for the Kenai River Center and it doesn't work. REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA said she would like to talk with him about why it doesn't work. REPRESENTATIVE WOLF indicated that obtaining a restoration permit can be very time consuming and involve multiple agencies. REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA told Representative Wolf that she would talk more with him about that because she doesn't know that much about the Kenai River Center, but she wanted to learn more about it and why it isn't working. She said her assumption is that it probably involves federal issues. This effort, she said, is about making [the process] work and about applicants that have to [obtain multiple] permits, particularly, smaller applicants. So, she said, [under this bill] the applicant can go to one place, use one application, and get help [with the application process]. REPRESENTATIVE WOLF suggested that because of the way the [process] is set up, it is impossible to go to one agency. He said there are federal, state, and local issues, which require several agencies [to be involved in the process]. He remarked, "You cannot do this." Number 2268 REPRESENTATIVE GATTO turned attention to a handout in the committee packet. He said the example of the small project specifies that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requires both a Section 404 permit and a Section 10 permit. However, he said, a large project only requires a Section 404 permit and eliminates the requirement for the Section 10 permit. He said this would lead him to believe that if the project were big enough, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would not be needed. Representative Gatto asked if is accurate that permits are deleted as the project size increases. REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA said the examples are actual projects and [represent] the permits that are required. She said permit requirements are based on the specifics of the project and because of differences in the two projects, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has different requirements. REPRESENTATIVE GATTO said it's not really an [accurate] comparison if totally different kinds of projects are used in the example. REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA offered to provide examples that specify the differences. She said the [handout] was an effort to show how many permits are required, even in the case of a very small project. She said the [handout] was not intended to compare the [the differences in permit requirements for small and large projects]. Number 2366 WILLIAM (BILL) JEFFRESS, Director, Division of Governmental Coordination (DGC), Office of Management & Budget, testified. Mr. Jeffress said along parallel paths with HB 78, the administration has already gone quite a ways in developing and streamlining the permitting process. He said EO [Executive Order] 106 moves DGC and the ACMP [Alaska Coastal Management Program] into DNR, which is part of the overall plan to streamline permitting. He talked about moving the Division of Habitat and Restoration to DNR's Office of Habitat Management and Permitting. He said the effort is to reorganize the permitting structure, and with current legislation that was introduced earlier in the day, DNR would be the lead permitting agency for all resource permits issued in Alaska. MR. JEFFRESS said under this scenario the Office of Habitat Management and Permitting and the Office of Project Management and Permitting would be created; the ACMP would be a section and a another section would be the large-project permitting coordination team. He talked about small, everyday permits that are issued, and he said [the department] wants to ensure that there is as seamless a transition as possible and "none of those fall through the cracks." He indicated a clearinghouse is envisioned that will sort small projects [and direct them] to the appropriate agency. He said large projects would be coordinated by a strong team manager that would select from the different resource agencies involved and would [require] a multi-agency [effort]. He explained that the expertise that's needed will be pulled from different agencies to permit those projects and move them forward. MR. JEFFRESS indicated [those involved in the effort] are still working through the "nuts and bolts" and that some of the issues are under the [legislature's] control, which will shape the final direction of this. He said he applauds Representative Kerttula's efforts in putting forth HB 78 and that he thinks the focus is on the same end result of streamlining permitting and making it easy and as undaunting a process as possible. He said he'd mentioned to Representative Kerttula earlier that neither the federal government nor the state has been able to quantify how many opportunities have been missed, because a lot of people look at the permitting process, which is so cumbersome and scary that they decide to do something else. MR. JEFFRESS suggested the more user-friendly the process is, the better off [the state] is going to be. He said in coming from the regulatory community, he knows that there are a lot of resources available to draw on, and he hopes everybody has patience with him because he will probably be asking a lot of questions and getting ideas on how to streamline this process. He said a good team is currently set up that represents both the experience in DGC and within DNR, including the different divisions and the permitting functions that DNR has implemented over the years. Number 2588 CO-CHAIR FATE talked about holding the bill to see how it will mesh with the governor's proposed legislation, and he asked whether any effort toward a [creating] a fiscal note would be made if this is merged with other efforts to streamline the permitting process. REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA suggested putting all of the bills into a subcommittee, and she said she assumed that the best ideas would be put forward in the end. She said she would work toward a fiscal note, but in the end she thought it would be subsumed. REPRESENTATIVE WOLF suggested that moving the Office of Habitat and Restoration from ADF&G to DNR will make [the permitting process] more user-friendly. Number 2657 CO-CHAIR FATE indicated that HB 78 would be held for further consideration.