Legislature(1993 - 1994)

03/18/1994 08:15 AM RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
  HB 446 - Environmental Conservation Agreements                               
                                                                               
  MEAD TREADWELL, DEPUTY COMMISSIONER, DEPARTMENT OF                           
  ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION (DEC), stated HB 446 which was                    
  presented by the governor relates to partnerships.  He said                  
  DEC has over 500,000 people who live in the state who care                   
  for its environment.  DEC has approximately 500 employees                    
  who cannot do the job unless it is done together with others                 
  in partnership.  He said HB 446 strengthens the law to                       
  ensure it is clear that DEC has the authority to enter into                  
  partnerships with communities and other entities, to work on                 
  delegating state or federal programs where possible, to set                  
  up indicators to track progress on environmental concerns                    
  and set priorities on those concerns.                                        
                                                                               
  MR. TREADWELL pointed out that most federal and state                        
  environmental laws might be decried as the stove pipe                        
  approach.  There are air laws which do not take into account                 
  water problems; water laws which do not take into account                    
  hazardous waste problems.  In trying to find compliance with                 
  the laws, there is a need to set priorities in a community                   
  because there may be a situation, for example, where people                  
  may be catching a disease from poor drinking water in a                      
  community, but an air requirement might require lots of                      
  money to be spent on monitoring the only power plant within                  
  a 3-4 mile radius.  He stressed that DEC feels it is                         
  important to sit down with a community and know its                          
  environmental priorities through the partnership process.                    
                                                                               
  Number 402                                                                   
                                                                               
  MR. TREADWELL stated in regard to prioritization, there are                  
  1500 contaminated sites around the state and what may be on                  
  a high action list for state action may not represent a                      
  community's priorities.  This process of community                           
  agreements allows DEC to sit down with a city council, talk                  
  about those sites in their area, and encourage local action.                 
  He advised committee members that the last committee which                   
  heard HB 446 had all Do Pass recommendations.  He stressed                   
  HB 446 strengthens and builds upon the partnerships DEC                      
  already has in existence.                                                    
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE MULDER asked how the number of contaminated                   
  sites in Alaska compares with the state of Washington.                       
                                                                               
  MR. TREADWELL said he could not answer that question, but                    
  being discussed in regard to the indicators program is to be                 
  able to make those kinds of comparisons.  He stated of the                   
  contaminated sites the state has, there are a number which                   
  are major threats to drinking water, but DEC is making a                     
  good effort.                                                                 
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE MULDER said he was trying to get an idea on                   
  the relative value in terms of the threat the state has                      
  compared to other states, past stewardship, where the state                  
  is, and where it is going.  He asked if this partnership                     
  process is like what the Department of Transportation does                   
  in the six year planning of their capital improvement                        
  program, they work through communities to develop priorities                 
  and as funding is available, the priorities are put into the                 
  Governor's capital budget.                                                   
                                                                               
  Number 456                                                                   
                                                                               
  MR. TREADWELL responded DEC has a similar process currently                  
  for capital appropriations and gave an example.  He said                     
  solid waste is a major problem in Southeast Alaska and as                    
  federal regulations have increased, having this kind of                      
  agreement has enabled DEC to sit down in various areas of                    
  Southeast to try and prioritize regional landfills.  He said                 
  the partnership agreement is basically a problem solving                     
  approach.                                                                    
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON asked if the community agreements are                  
  contractual agreements giving communities the authority to                   
  take legal action in the event of noncompliance.                             
                                                                               
  MR. TREADWELL responded that DEC has delegated some state                    
  programs to communities.  Fairbanks and Anchorage do health                  
  inspections, for example.  He said DEC would like to                         
  delegate more and added that under the law, DEC has certain                  
  oversight responsibilities when they do delegate.  The                       
  community agreements do not give DEC additional power to                     
  delegate but makes it clear that it is the intent of the                     
  legislature to work toward the areas where delegation is                     
  applicable under other laws.                                                 
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON clarified the community agreement is                   
  more of a policy statement.                                                  
                                                                               
  Number 495                                                                   
                                                                               
  MR. TREADWELL said that is correct.                                          
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON reiterated the agreement does not                      
  relieve DEC of any current responsibilities and does not                     
  eliminate DEC's authority to take legal action in the event                  
  of an illegal action.                                                        
                                                                               
  MR. TREADWELL replied that is correct and added the                          
  agreement also does not mandate that DEC pass certain things                 
  on to communities.                                                           
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON stated the partnership agreement is                    
  more of an arms length policy mechanism.                                     
                                                                               
  Number 530                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE said unfunded mandates tend to come                     
  from the top down, federal to state, state to local                          
  community, and clarified that the community agreements do                    
  not evolve into an unfunded mandate, coming from the                         
  community up to the state.                                                   
                                                                               
  MR. TREADWELL stated legislators continually hear from                       
  municipalities about their needs to fulfill their                            
  responsibilities and the community agreements will not                       
  change that.  He said the agreements allow DEC to sit down                   
  with a city council once a year and discuss present and                      
  future activities and priorities.  For example, if a town                    
  plans to build a sewer facility, DEC should be aware of                      
  that.  He gave other examples.  He explained the agreements                  
  will not create entitlement for communities, but will allow                  
  DEC to be better educated about what the needs are.                          
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE MULDER noted there is a zero fiscal note                      
  attached to HB 446 and felt that in five years, the cost                     
  could be substantial because the passage of HB 446 will give                 
  justification for the existence of another branch of DEC.                    
                                                                               
  MR. TREADWELL disagreed.  He pointed out there is a regional                 
  organization currently in place and a community lead person                  
  within DEC has been identified to work with each community.                  
  He added that embedded in DEC's budget is a large amount for                 
  data acquisition and stated DEC is data rich and information                 
  poor.  The community agreements will help DEC determine what                 
  information they have on a community by community basis.  He                 
  felt the agreements will help DEC's work to be more                          
  effective and does not see HB 446 creating a new entitlement                 
  for DEC.  He said on the indicators project, DEC has                         
  received federal funds to develop a set of indicators which                  
  are consistent with other states and has received a grant                    
  for comparative risk.  Once that project is set up, DEC will                 
  be able to report the information collected to communities.                  
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE MULDER asked if anything is going to stop if                  
  HB 446 is not passed.                                                        
                                                                               
  MR. TREADWELL said no.  He stated the commissioner and the                   
  Governor have asked for this legislation to have the                         
  legislature, as a policy body, reaffirm the program which is                 
  ongoing.                                                                     
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE MULDER asked if the lead person mentioned                     
  earlier is funded out of general funds.                                      
                                                                               
  MR. TREADWELL responded DEC has a regional administrator for                 
  each of the four regions of the state:  Southeast,                           
  Southcentral, Northern and Pipeline Corridor.  There are                     
  approximately 200 communities in the state.  Through the                     
  community agreement program, DEC has told the mayor of a                     
  given community that this lead person should be involved on                  
  day to day issues.  That lead person knows it is their                       
  responsibility to process permits, etc., but also to sit                     
  down once a year with the mayor and city council to develop                  
  an agreement so DEC and the community have common                            
  priorities.  He explained the lead person is in reality many                 
  people making up the regional staff and they are funded                      
  through federal funds, general funds and response funds, but                 
  added that part of their job is touching base with each                      
  community.                                                                   
                                                                               
  Number 671                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE GREEN expressed concern in regard to oil                      
  operations.  He said there are local emergency planning                      
  committees (LEPCs), regional citizens' advisory councils                     
  (RCAC), etc., and they receive considerable contributions                    
  from a fund.  He thought entering into an agreement with a                   
  community sounds like an advisory position and has more                      
  strength than indicated.  He wondered with going to                          
  communities to discuss issues and the travel, time, etc.,                    
  involved, why there is a zero fiscal note.  He did not see                   
  how DEC can do more without costing more and asked about                     
  funding sources.                                                             
                                                                               
  MR. TREADWELL responded DEC has not funded, except for one                   
  time, any RCAC's.                                                            
                                                                               
  TAPE 94-35, SIDE B                                                           
  Number 000                                                                   
                                                                               
  MR. TREADWELL gave an example where the federal government                   
  writes rules which require communities to test their                         
  drinking water once a month for bacteriological things,                      
  twice a year for certain heavy minerals, once every three                    
  years for radiation, etc., which is a tremendous unfunded                    
  mandate upon each community.  He said certain regions in the                 
  state have the lowest compliance rate in the country.  DEC                   
  has gone as far as possible with direct command, control and                 
  enforcement to get the problems addressed.  To go above and                  
  beyond that is to sit down with the mayor and city council                   
  and discuss why the requirements are important and what                      
  needs to be done.  He stressed the community agreement                       
  program is not going to cost more money.                                     
                                                                               
  MR. TREADWELL said for example, the person who runs the                      
  field office in Nome is responsible for 40 villages.  When                   
  he goes to a village, he is there to visit the water system,                 
  check on contaminated sites, check on the school district,                   
  check the dump, etc., but in each of these cases, he is                      
  dealing with one city official and part of his job now is to                 
  spend time with the mayor and city council to address                        
  problems together.                                                           
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE GREEN expressed confusion.                                    
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS stated a community agreement will get a                    
  community to focus on particular problems before they become                 
  serious problems.  For example, in Ketchikan there is a                      
  problem with the waste water discharge in the borough which                  
  previously was unknown.  Now the community is upset about                    
  what is happening in regard to regulations, etc.  Had the                    
  community been prepared, it would have been able to plan for                 
  the problem.                                                                 
                                                                               
  MR. TREADWELL said that is accurate.                                         
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked if having a community agreement                   
  in that example would have precluded the situation.                          
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS said a community agreement would have                      
  helped make the community and DEC work together to focus on                  
  the problem.                                                                 
                                                                               
  MR. TREADWELL stressed the community agreement program is a                  
  voluntary program.  He said DEC has had communities turn                     
  down the agreement offer while other communities have been                   
  grateful.  DEC has had attorneys look at the agreements to                   
  ensure they do not create entitlement or advocate other                      
  laws.  He said 90 percent of what DEC does is working with                   
  communities.                                                                 
                                                                               
  Number 093                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON stated the agreement program is a                      
  formalized cooperative methodology of compliance with                        
  federal and state requirements.  He asked on page 2, line 2                  
  where it indicates through delegation or cooperative                         
  management, if that implies delegation of legal authority to                 
  the local level.                                                             
                                                                               
  MR. TREADWELL responded in the same way the federal                          
  government retains oversight on the state when programs are                  
  delegated to DEC, DEC retains oversight over municipal                       
  programs when they are delegated there and gave several                      
  examples where DEC hoped they could get delegation.  He said                 
  DEC still writes the regulations, they still have to be                      
  consistent with state law, but DEC has gone as far as                        
  possible with delegation to make sure the decisions are made                 
  by communities.                                                              
                                                                               
  Number 145                                                                   
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN asked who will be allowed to                      
  enter into the agreements.                                                   
                                                                               
  MR. TREADWELL responded it will be cities and boroughs.  He                  
  said the broad definition of local governing body for an                     
  incorporated community can meet any of the Title 29                          
  depredations.                                                                
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN wondered if there will be a                       
  constitutional problem when an entity such as a Native                       
  regional corporation which represents a portion of people                    
  within an area and is a for-profit corporation, applies for                  
  permits.                                                                     
                                                                               
  MR. TREADWELL said currently if a Native regional                            
  corporation owns both fuel tanks in 20 places along a river                  
  to support a fueling operation, DEC can enter into a                         
  compliance order by consent which says as well as paying a                   
  fine, getting a court order, etc., it is appropriate for DEC                 
  to sit down with the group ahead of time and say in order to                 
  avoid long-term compliance problems, let us deal with the                    
  problem comprehensively ahead of time.  He gave an example.                  
                                                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON made a motion to MOVE HB 446 with a                    
  zero fiscal note out of committee, with INDIVIDUAL                           
  RECOMMENDATIONS.                                                             
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS asked if there were any objections.                        
  Hearing none, the MOTION PASSED.                                             
                                                                               

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