Legislature(1997 - 1998)
03/06/1998 01:50 PM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE BILL NO. 144 "An Act authorizing the Department of Environmental Conservation to charge certain fees relating to registration of pesticides and broadcast chemicals; and providing for an effective date." JANICE ADAIR, DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH, DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION (DEC), informed Committee members that the language referencing direct and indirect costs would limit the Department by charging only direct costs. The stipulation has been part of AS 44.60.025(a) since it was first adopted by the Legislature in 1990 in passage of HB 85. Direct versus Indirect Costs. Ms. Adair stated that in 1993, when the Legislature passed legislation establishing the comprehensive air program in the State (HB167), it included what is now AS 44.46.025(c), and allowed DEC to include in its air permit fees both direct and "indirect" costs. Adding the authority for "indirect" costs was necessary because AS 46.14.400(h), also a part of HB 167, prohibits the Department from delegating or enabling another department or government entity (i.e. municipalities) from establishing air permit fees or collecting them. Therefore, since the air fees established by DEC were intended to cover the costs of a municipality that might run the air permitting program rather than just the department's own costs of providing the service, the term "indirect" was added to give the necessary authority. Other Services Provided by the Department. Ms. Adair spoke to the language, which originated in AS 44.46.025(a)(1) relating to the food and public facility activities of DEC. The language was moved into the introductory paragraph of AS 44.46.025(a) as part of SB 99, which passed the Legislature in 1993. The language was moved in recognition of the fact that there are a number of other services the Department provides which directly benefit individuals. The Legislature wanted DEC to charge for those services. Ms. Adair noted, currently, the types of services charged for that are not included as part of an inspection, permit preparation, administration or plan review and approval include: ? Laboratory analyses of food products for export; ? Certification of seafood products for export; ? Certificates of Origin for seafood products for export; ? Sanitary surveys of public drinking water systems; ? Domestic wastewater installer certification; ? Dog and cat health certificates; ? Food Service facility recognition program (planned); ? Monitoring waivers for public drinking water systems; ? Determinations of whether or not a public water system is groundwater under the direct influence of surface water; ? Determination of optimal corrosion control for a public water system that exceeds the lead and copper action levels; ? Certified Pool and Spa operator training; ? Various other training opportunities as they arise and are needed. Ms. Adair continued, there are some services in the current statuary list for which the Department can charge fees that are not part of an inspection permit or plan approval. The proposed amendment to the introductory paragraph would make the Department's authority to charge a fee for those services highly questionable. This would create a problem of funding, not authority. In a program that is heavily reliant on fees, every hour of an employee's time must be charged to a project. The costs incurred by answering questions about a facility or permit have to be covered. The only way to do that is to charge the costs to the project because there are insufficient general funds to cover the costs. Water and Wastewater Operator Training. Ms. Adair noted that in this section, DEC specifies how to address the advisory board because they cover the training and certification of operators for certain public water and wastewater systems. The primary authority used for domestic wastewater certified installers program is found in AS 46.03.020(a)(10)(D). Prohibition on Hourly Fees. She noted that hourly fees are "tough" for the Department. The reason that they exist is that those who pay these fee have asked for them. Currently, the only fees on the books that would be affected by the prohibition are the solid waste fees. For the new industrial solid waste component, the prohibition would create a large problem since the Department was given direction by the Legislature, last session, to make that aspect of the solid waste program fully funded by fees. Reimbursement Agreements. Ms. Adair pointed out that the Department's ability to enter into these funding arrangements has been supported in previous testimony before the Committee. These arrangements are used for large development projects, primarily mines. They essentially pay the cost for DEC services. Ms. Adair thought that for site-specific determinations in the water quality program area, an hourly fee would be the fairest fee to establish. Pesticide registration. Ms. Adair continued that if the Department has fees strictly based on the cost to the Department to register a pesticide product, it would be approximately $100 dollars per label. However, the Department needs only to cover the match for the federal pesticide grant. If pesticides are not divided into categories, it would appear that a $50 dollar per label fee for all products would bring in enough money to provide the match. She recommended that a $50 dollar label might be too high, depending on how many of the 2,000-3,000 pesticides the market survey found being sold in the State. Ms. Adair pointed out that the distinction between a household pesticide and a non houseshold pesticide made in the bill is problematic for the Department. She added that if categories had to be divided, it would be much easier to determine between restricted use and non-restricted use pesticides. If these categories were to be delineated, it would become an administrative nightmare for the Department and the companies involved. Co-Chair Therriault asked how many chemicals registered in the State would fall under "restricted". Ms. Adair noted that it would be the smallest amount presented. She added that the Department's proposed number of 2,000 - 3,000 was based on a recently conducted market survey. She pointed out that Alaska does not have a lot of pesticides being used in comparison to other states. Most of the agriculture here is organic. She reiterated that the determination is problematic and is another reason why the Department would like to have the fee established in a regulatory process which matches the federal grant. Co-Chair Therriault commented that the proposed committee substitute would not preclude the Department from entering into the reimbursable service agreement. Ms. Adair noted that the proposed water fees are creating angst and that they have not gone out for public comment yet. She stated that many changes occur during the public comment process. Co-Chair Therriault asked if there was an appeal process available for those who want to challenge their permit application. Ms. Adair replied there is. Some cases have been more informal than others. The regulations are in the process of being amended. Co-Chair Therriault questioned if training Department personnel was included in the fees. Ms. Adair responded that the hourly fees only cover the actual personnel service costs plus a certain percentage of the common costs. The fees do not cover costs associated with travel or training. This requires a well-trained staff. Ms. Adair concluded her testimony. HB 144 was HELD in Committee for further consideration. (Tape Change HFC 98- 57, Side 2).