Legislature(1993 - 1994)
01/20/1993 08:00 AM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES asked if the DEC had a position on HB 39, "An Act relating to prevention, abatement, and control of air pollution." MS. ADAIR said she had not done a comparison of the two bills but believed they were not the same. She said the DEC would support the proposed "Air Quality Permit Bill" (the Senate Resources Committee bill). Number 316 REPRESENTATIVE JOE GREEN said in the past there had been an adversarial feeling between the DEC and industry and he was glad to see that was changing. He wanted to know if the DEC was taking a strong role regarding wetlands' classification and, specifically, if they agreed permafrost land should automatically be classified as wetlands. He disagreed with that regulation. Number 337 MR. TREADWELL said according to the law, all permafrost areas in the state were classified as wetlands. He said the Bush administration had made the promise of a no net loss of the nation's wetlands and a White House task force had been assigned that issue. In Alaska, a smaller percentage of wetlands was lost to development than any other place in the nation. He understood an average of 53 percent of wetlands had been lost in the Lower 48, and Alaska was less than one percent. MR. TREADWELL explained that the Bush administration had worked on a delineation manual used in the field to define wetlands. Alaska had some input regarding the manual but it had been delayed into the Clinton administration. On August 9, 1991, President Bush had issued a policy statement on wetlands, which included a statement that states with less than one percent loss of wetlands would not have to go through the litigation sequencing required by other states. This statement had not been backed by regulations but the DEC had been working to make the one percent rule stick. MR. TREADWELL felt if the one percent rule was in effect, the DEC could classify high, medium and low wetlands, and keep tracking the use of wetlands to simplify the application process. He stated the DEC would be working towards adding input to the delineation manual, asking for specific science and for regional delineation manuals. He said it was very important for everyone to work for the state's exemption in federal regulations, and that a major part of the state's program was to classify wetlands by value and set up a scheme to accomplish that. He felt this classification was in the best interest of sound land planning. Number 396 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN said the wetlands issue certainly adversely affected industry and community development. He wanted to know if there were any group efforts such as that of the Municipal League on the issue. Number 400 MR. TREADWELL said the Municipal League had passed two resolutions in the past supporting the one percent rule and the state permitting program. He said the DEC was committed to making appointments to a wetlands task force for strong municipal representation. He cited Petersburg as an example where all usable municipal land was considered wetlands, and assured the committee local communities would be involved and considered as partners in the planning process. He noted this administration had said zoning belonged in local government. REPRESENTATIVE ELDON MULDER said several years ago Anchorage had been embarrassed by signs around creeks and lagoons cautioning the public about polluted water. He said legislation had been passed for a matching grant program for communities, and the state could provide funds to identify the source of that pollution. He asked the DEC if anything had been done with that program. MR. KELTON said Anchorage traditionally received a lump sum of money instead of identifying specific projects for funding. Those Anchorage dollars required a 50 percent match. Anchorage could then allocate those dollars in any area for the improvement of environmental water quality or sanitation problems. He said he would have to find out past appropriations for Anchorage, but his recollection was that Anchorage spent minimal amounts on water quality issues and had focused funding on extensions of Local Improvement Districts and treatment processes at the Point Margo plant. Number 456 MR. TREADWELL said there had been a few other efforts to clean up Anchorage streams. He pointed out the Water Watch statewide program enlisted volunteer groups, and that an effort was being made to have all major streams in the Anchorage bowl adopted by these groups. Secondly, he said the fecal coliform number that the state used was about ten times less than the national number. Rumor was that this number had been a typographical error and that error declared many of the streams polluted, he added. This error was being looked at and a decision was pending in the water quality standards to correct the error. MR. TREADWELL assured the committee that those streams in the Anchorage area were being looked at, and an agreement had been made to list the polluted water bodies statewide and provide a regulatory plan to return those water bodies to water quality standard. Within the Anchorage area and other urban areas, he predicted that sewers and septic tanks on the hillsides would become a water quality issue. He felt the DEC needed long-term solutions for these situations. REPRESENTATIVE MULDER said village safe water was a big problem, and applauded the DEC's efforts in urban areas as well, because not only were the signs embarrassing for visitors, but it was also a health hazard. He agreed long- term solutions needed to be addressed and funded, especially better and expanded sewage systems. MR. TREADWELL said the assessment program mentioned earlier was a capital budget item this year (1993) in the amount of $300,000. Number 510 REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON asked if any seafood or health inspections on offshore vessels or operations were being done. MS. BALLENTINE said any vessel that came into an Alaskan port was permitted by the DEC and inspections were done while those vessels were in port. She said further that the DEC did not have the capability for inspections on fishing grounds. REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON pointed out that by the time the product came into port it had already been processed. MS. BALLENTINE concurred. Number 524 MR. TREADWELL pointed out the DEC had held up the shipment of products in some situations in the past. REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON said the bottom fish operation by the Puget Sound fleet was of major concern to him. He wanted to know its effect on the Alaskan economy and whether the product was well inspected. MR. TREADWELL said besides seafood inspection, vessels must also comply with oil and water laws. He disclosed the DEC had asked the EPA to ensure inshore facilities and offshore processors would comply with the same grinding, air quality, and discharge requirements. He said enforcement efforts in cooperation with the Coast Guard had been stepped up regarding processors within the three mile limit to make sure those processors held state permits. Number 542 REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON said he had worked with oil spill prevention laws and was aware of the need for contingency plans for non-crude operators. He wanted to know if a plan was being developed and when that plan would be completed. MS. ADAIR disclosed a contingency plan was in the works, but financial responsibility continued to be a problem. REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON asked if the governor had vetoed the bill which gave assistance to small operators. MS. ADAIR said the bill suspending financial responsibility had passed. MR. TREADWELL added that either in that bill or other language, the legislature had requested a legislative research group to come up with a report with the DEC on that bill, and a letter of intent was pending. He was scheduled to meet in Anchorage with members of the insurance committee that might have found a solution, he noted. Number 563 REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON voiced concern about the Clean Air Act and asked if the air quality bill introduced in the Senate would reflect the administration's view. MS. ADAIR said the "Air Quality Permit Bill" was a product of a DEC appointed interim committee. She said proposed changes to [AS].O10 language had not been added to the bill, and [AS].O10 contained very broad statutory language which allowed the DEC to regulate air pollutants to protect public health. She pointed out there was concern that the DEC would use this provision unfairly to regulate air contaminants. The statute had been on the books since 1971 when the DEC was established and it had only been used twice outside of what had been required by the federal law. One was to regulate ammonia discharge from the Unical plant in the Kenai. The plant was one of the largest ammonia plants in North America and ammonia was not one of the regulated substances under the federal act. MS. ADAIR stated the other instance in which the statute was used regarded Government Hill in Anchorage, where a tank farm sat below a bluff. Because the tanks were owned by separate owners, it escaped regulation under the federal act, so the DEC used [AS].010 to regulate benzine emissions from Government Hill. She said the public was very concerned about health issues in this situation and a compromise had been made in the proposed legislation. The environmental community and some industrial groups had been opposed to the addition of [AS].010 language and, therefore, it had been left out. She felt that including [AS].010 language could end the consensus that all parties had worked so hard to reach. MR. TREADWELL added the DEC had kept their commitment to the interim committee to deliver to the legislature the proposed "Air Quality Permit Bill". He said the DEC's commissioner had approached the committee with some questions regarding the proposed bill and the [AS].010 issue could be brought up again before the committee. He felt some parts of [AS].010 language were important to consider, if not in this bill, but in other places such as a scientific advisory group. He said the DEC supported the concept of a scientific advisory group. Number 615 REPRESENTATIVE CON BUNDE commended the DEC on actively pursuing malicious polluters. He asked for a briefing when the DEC addressed the problems with operation CHARIOT. He also asked for an explanation of the resource funding going to the Department of Veterans and Foreign Affairs. Number 637 MS. ADAIR said when the response legislation was passed after the Exxon Valdez accident, responsibility was divided between the DEC and the Division of Emergency Services which was in the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA), for responding to an oil spill. The DEC was given authority to do the contingency planning, the financial responsibility, and the DMVA was given the responsibility for statewide training depots and corps, she added. REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE asked if and when a federal EPA office was located in Alaska how it would impact the DEC in regard to duplication of effort and regulations. MS. ADAIR hoped the DEC and the EPA would meet, divide responsibilities and work more efficiently together. She explained that because of the EPA's Seattle location, the DEC was often forced to duplicate the EPA's efforts to insure all information was gathered and that such information was correct. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked if the formation of the EPA's District 11 would provide the EPA with more information on Alaska's problems. MS. ADAIR felt if the EPA's Regional Administrator and the decision-makers were Alaskans, it would be more likely that they would have information for the circumstances dealt with here in Alaska. Tape 93-5, Side A Number 000 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked if the DEC in its biological lab, in conjunction with the Department of Health, handled hepatitis screening. MS. ADAIR said during an outbreak, the DEC could be involved in testing, but the primary responsibility for humans was handled by the Department of Health and Social Services.