Legislature(2005 - 2006)

2005-02-16 House Journal

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2005-02-16                     House Journal                      Page 0330
HB 153                                                                                            
HOUSE BILL NO. 153 by the House Rules Committee by request of                                       
the Governor, entitled:                                                                             
    "An Act relating to regulation of the discharge of pollutants under                             
    the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System; and                                        
    providing for an effective date."                                                               

2005-02-16                     House Journal                      Page 0331
was read the first time and referred to the Resources and Finance                                   
The following fiscal note(s) apply:                                                                 
1.  Zero, Dept. of Fish & Game                                                                      
2.  Zero, Dept. of Natural Resources                                                                
3.  Zero, Dept. of Transportation & Public Facilities                                               
4.  Fiscal, Dept. of Environmental Conservation                                                     
The Governor's transmittal letter dated February 15, 2005, follows:                                 
"Dear Speaker Harris:                                                                               
Under the authority of art. III, sec. 18, of the Alaska Constitution, and                           
in the interest of reducing duplication in and otherwise improving                                  
regulatory processes, I am transmitting a bill relating to regulation of                            
the discharge of pollutants that would authorize state assumption of                                
primacy over the federal Clean Water Act National Pollutant                                         
Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program.                                                       
Under existing state law, the Department of Environmental                                           
Conservation (DEC) regulates a broad universe of waste and                                          
wastewater disposal activities.  These include the same activities (the                             
discharge of pollutants to surface waters) that the United States                                   
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates under the NPDES                                     
program.  This results in duplication of effort by the state and EPA,                               
and in important decisions about the control of wastewater disposal                                 
being made by federal regulators with limited knowledge of Alaska-                                  
specific issues.                                                                                    
Through ch. 143, SLA 2004, DEC was authorized to take the actions                                   
necessary to assume primacy for the Clean Water Act NPDES                                           
program for the timber-industry sector.  It was recognized through                                  
enactment of ch. 143, SLA 2004 that a timber-industry sector program                                
would be a good first step on the road to broader assumption of                                     
primacy for the NPDES program.  That step, however, brings home to                                  
Alaska only a relatively small portion of important wastewater                                      
permitting decisions.  This limits our ability as a state to design a                               
comprehensive, rational environmental protection program.  Such a                                   
program would balance prevention of threats to state waters from                                    

2005-02-16                     House Journal                      Page 0332
industrial discharges and the more common wastewater discharges                                     
such as from municipal sewage treatment plants and stormwater                                       
against our constitutional charge to develop state land and resources,                              
consistent with the public interest.                                                                
This bill would remove the timber-sector limitation on the authority                                
provided by ch. 143, SLA 2004, thereby allowing the DEC to take the                                 
actions necessary to assume primacy for all of the NPDES program                                    
delegable to the state.  This would enable DEC to pursue the full                                   
benefit of the federal Clean Water Act for Alaska, by bringing home to                              
the state this important permitting program in full, all at once or                                 
through phased implementation.  This would not affect adoption or                                   
implementation of state water quality standards.                                                    
The bill also would amend existing fee provisions to allow for                                      
financing of a portion of the full state NPDES program through user                                 
fees.  Specifically, sec. 2 of the bill would give the DEC the general                              
authority to adopt user fee regulations covering the entire state-                                  
assumed NPDES primacy program, thereby removing the existing                                        
limitation of this authority to only the timber-industry sector.  Under                             
existing AS 37.10.050 - 37.10.058, state NPDES permits would be                                     
included in the designated regulatory services category for which flat                              
fees are set, just as state-issued wastewater disposal permits and the                              
state's certification of federal NPDES permits already are.                                         
Section 4 of the bill contains several conditions to include in a state                             
NPDES program.  These conditions are the result of extensive                                        
consultation between the DEC, the EPA, and permittees who will be                                   
affected by the state's assumption of the NPDES program.                                            
The enforcement and penalty provisions would apply to the full                                      
NPDES program in the same manner as approved by the Legislature                                     
last year for the timber-industry sector program authorized by ch. 143,                             
SLA 2004.                                                                                           
I urge your prompt and favorable action on this measure.                                            
                               Sincerely yours,                                                     
                               Frank H. Murkowski