Legislature(1993 - 1994)
03/01/1994 01:00 PM CRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE COMMUNITY AND REGIONAL AFFAIRS STANDING COMMITTEE March 1, 1994 1:00 p.m. MEMBERS PRESENT Representative Harley Olberg, Chairman Representative Jerry Sanders, Vice Chair Representative Con Bunde Representative Cynthia Toohey Representative Ed Willis Representative John Davies Representative Bill Williams MEMBERS ABSENT None COMMITTEE CALENDAR *HB 446: "An Act relating to community agreements for environmental conservation purposes; and providing for an effective date." PASSED FROM COMMITTEE WITH INDIVIDUAL RECOMMENDATIONS WITNESS REGISTER JIM KOHLER, Executive Director Southeast Conference 124 W. Fifth Street Juneau, AK 99801 Phone: 463-3445 POSITION STATEMENT: Supported HB 466 JOHN SANDOR, Commissioner Department of Environmental Conservation P.O. Box 21135 Juneau, AK 99802 Phone: 465-5050 POSITION STATEMENT: Supported HB 466 PREVIOUS ACTION BILL: HB 446 SHORT TITLE: ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION AGREEMENTS SPONSOR(S): RULES BY REQUEST OF THE GOVERNOR JRN-DATE JRN-PG ACTION 02/04/94 2264 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME/REFERRAL(S) 02/04/94 2264 (H) COMMUNITY & REGIONAL AFFAIRS, RESOURCES 02/04/94 2264 (H) -ZERO FISCAL NOTE (DEC) 2/4/94 02/04/94 2265 (H) GOVERNOR'S TRANSMITTAL LETTER 03/01/94 (H) CRA AT 01:00 PM CAPITOL 124 ACTION NARRATIVE TAPE 94-10, SIDE A Number 000 CHAIRMAN HARLEY OLBERG called the meeting to order at 1:24 p.m. He noted for the record Representatives Toohey, Bunde, Davies and Willis were present and noted that a quorum was present. REPRESENTATIVE BILL WILLIAMS joined the committee a moment later at 1:25 p.m. Number 026 HB 446 - ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION AGREEMENTS JOHN SANDOR, COMMISSIONER, DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION, said, "I'm very pleased to be here to support and present this bill (HB 446). The Governor's February 4 letter to the leadership of both the House and Senate summarized the essence of this bill. (A copy of this letter is on file.) The time is right for it. The unfunded mandates are coming down from the federal government, to the state government, and especially on communities. It places such a burden upon governments at all levels that something really needs to be done. This administration has, three years ago, began a process of developing community environmental agreements. We have more than 50 of those in place. We also developed a statement of cooperation with the Department of Defense agencies and the Coast Guard with activities there. These are successful, but this bill is necessary because it pulls into one place the objectives of this...the three basic components of this bill. First, the community agreement would provide for the joint assessment of environmental needs within the local community or region and the establishment of indicators to track progress in meeting those needs. Second, the party to the agreement would jointly access and prioritize those needs by comparative risk to human health and the environment. Third, the parties would work cooperatively to resolve those needs to delegation and cooperative management to the extent under the law. The essence of the this is to develop cost effective solutions to meeting environmental requirements. Within Alaska, I think it will go one step farther. If we can get the United States Environmental Protection Agency on board in these agreements, and that is to identify those mandates that not only are unfunded, but also do not make sense in many parts of this state." Number 100 COMMISSIONER SANDOR then referred to President Clinton's Executive Order #12875 dated October 26, 1993. (A copy of this document is on file.) He said, "Which just took effect actually January 26, 1994, ninety days after the signing of the Executive Order. The Order is intended to enhance what the President calls intergovernmental partnerships. As you will note, the intent of this Executive Order is to reduce unfunded mandates upon state, local, and tribal governments and to streamline essentially the operation of governments. Unfortunately, this Executive Order has not been taken seriously by some of the levels of administrators; administrators within the federal government. I want to emphasize that participation in this is completely voluntary. Communities can enter into agreements and pull out of them at any time. Quite frankly, they are often suspicious of what these agreements are and have reason to be suspicious. But we've learned over the past three years, that in fact, they do work. It's important to know that this bill has a zero fiscal note..." Number 144 REPRESENTATIVE JOHN DAVIES said he supported the bill and asked, "(You've) indicated quite a number of efforts that you've already made, and I guess I'm wondering if you've been doing these, why do you need this bill?" COMMISSIONER SANDOR said, "We've been stretching it perhaps a bit. On the other hand, the attorneys have told us we can enter into agreements. There are, however, no provisions for having federal agencies enter into such agreements. This brings into one place, this authority, so that it's very clear and I think will help give impetus to the consideration of this as we propose this to additional communities and regional groups." Number 174 JIM KOHLER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SOUTHEAST CONFERENCE, stated, "We are, as of about ten minutes ago, beginning our fourth year under a cooperative community agreement with the Department of Environmental Conservation and... There is no question that communities are being faced with a burden of responsibility and task unprecedented, and it will continue. If one looks at just the mountain of requirements a local administrator and a community staff have to face just dealing with environmental related issues, it would be enough to drive most of us crazy... It is a burdensome task at best. Commissioner Sandor brought with him a commitment when he took over the reigns of this department to try and forge something that would bring his resources, the state's resources, into the offices, into the communities...so that we could collectively sit down and ask ourselves together, `What are the biggest problems we need to face, and how are we going to combine our resources to face those problems and work towards some solutions'. And the community agreement then sets out the commitment that we both make, to try to reach some kind of resolution solution, so that when we leave that exercise we know what we're both trying to get, to achieve. We know what we're going to commit to each other to try to achieve it and we work as partners. That has not existed prior to the time that we've entered this kind of process. And the question of why, if we can do this, do we need this legislation; from my own perspective, I believe that what Commissioner Sandor has brought over the last three years...is a vision of how to do something and how to make it work...let's hope that we can leave behind us, not something that is just the product of an individual, or a few individuals that have a commitment and a vision, but let's leave some tools and let's leave a framework so that folks can undertake a process that works. I disagree slightly with the fiscal note of zero. It has been our experience over the last three years from specific projects we've undertaken through the community agreements, that we have saved our communities collectively, well into the six digit figures...about a quarter of a million dollars collectively... So I think that what you have in front of you, while it may have elements of holy water, I think what it really does is sets out a structure and a tool that I hope spreads well beyond just the notion of cooperative agreements on environmental issues. The last point being that we are engaged in our region. All of our communities basically, by this time next year will have finished their own locally developed sustainable development plan. Our commitment from the conference is to bring all state agencies into that process and to duplicate these cooperative agreements between each community and each state agency so that everybody comes to the table as partners to try to get there from here basically..." Number 260 REPRESENTATIVE CYNTHIA TOOHEY asked, "These have been signed...the funding then is coming, is that correct?" MR. KOHLER said, "With the Southeast Conference, we entered our first cooperative about three years ago. We've been updating them annually. It's not an issue of funding. We're working basically with a set of resources that we both have available to us. What we're setting out is how we're each going to manage our resources to achieve these problems collectively..." REPRESENTATIVE TOOHEY referred to a letter from President Clinton, saying, "This is the President's agreement to pay for unfunded federal mandates." (A copy of this letter is on file.) Number 277 COMMISSIONER SANDOR replied, "He (President Clinton) was, I believe motivated, genuinely by this problem of unfunded mandates, and actually made the commitment to sponsor and promote intergovernmental partnerships to direct, in fact, federal agencies to do that. And it dovetails nicely into what we have here and what I intend to do, Mr. Chairman, if this bill passes, is to in fact, go back to EPA and say, `now, hey, we also have the legislature, the state, on board on this. We have the President's Executive Order calling for partnerships in dealing with unfunded mandates, how about waking up there in Seattle and join the partnership that your boss is proposing?' It's that simple. That's how it ties in." REPRESENTATIVE JERRY SANDERS joined the committee at 1:40 p.m. Number 309 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES said, "I just wanted to underscore that I think I heard the commissioner say that he felt that one of the other answers to my first question was that by passing this, it would help him in dealing with Region X and I think we should give the commissioner all the help he needs." He then moved that HB 446 be moved from committee with individual recommendations. There were no objections. Number 318 CHAIRMAN OLBERG adjourned the meeting at 1:40 p.m.