Legislature(2003 - 2004)
03/05/2003 09:02 AM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 101(FIN) am "An Act making special appropriations to promote the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas exploration and development; and providing for an effective date." This was the first hearing for this bill in the Senate Finance Committee. TOM WRIGHT, Staff to Representative John Harris, presented the bill to the Committee. He explained that this legislation would appropriate funds to Arctic Power to further their educational efforts regarding the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) on the Congressional level. He stated that the bill would additionally provide funds to the village of Anaktuvuk to continue their efforts in promoting ANWR; provide funds to the Office of the Governor; and provide funds to Arctic Power to develop monthly expenditure reports for the Legislature. Senator Hoffman asked the purpose of the appropriation to the Office of the Governor. Mr. Wright responded that he was unaware of the reason for the appropriation. Senator Hoffman asked whether a written request from the Office of the Governor is available. Mr. Wright replied that a letter from the Governor was not included in the packet. Co-Chair Wilken suggested that a title change be considered by the State House of Representatives to clarify that the area being considered for exploration and development is a relatively small portion of ANWR referred to as Area 1002. He voiced that identification of the area in this manner might more accurately convey that a small portion of ANWR, rather than all of ANWR would be opened to exploration. Mr. Wright voiced that the House of Representatives would not be opposed to this suggestion. Senator Hoffman asked whether the number of supporting votes in Congress has changed. Mr. Wright responded that ANWR is addressed in two pieces of Congressional legislation: one is the inclusion of Area 1002 in the Budget Reconciliation Act which is up for a reconsideration vote; and the other is ANWR's inclusion in the Energy Bill. He specified that a majority vote and 60 votes, respectively, are required. Senator Hoffman asked the latest tally of the support in Congress. Mr. Wright responded that the supporting vote tally ranges from 46 to 52 votes; however, he could not verify the actual count. KIM DUKE, Executive Director, Arctic Power stated that the private non-profit entity has been coordinating the effort to open ANWR for approximately ten years. She stated that the State has allocated funds to help Arctic Power in this endeavor, and she expressed optimism that the circumstances have improved. She stated that State funding has provided for such things as Congressional member visitations to ANWR as well as allowing ANWR advocates to travel to other states to explain the project. She stressed that this on- going effort has benefited the State, and she voiced optimism that the effort would be rewarded this year. Senator Hoffman, noting that this request is $2 million less than the original request, asked what items were omitted. Ms. Duke voiced that this "conservative" request would allow for the continuance of a short-term aggressive campaign; however, she asserted, were the effort to be lengthy, additional appropriations would be sought. She summarized that, while it is difficult to predict the proceedings in Congress, the hope is that the campaign would be effective. Ms. Duke continued that in order to be effective, there are no plans to curtail or eliminate any of the programs that Arctic Power conducts. She stated that the campaign would continue to include such things as the North Slope tours and the outreach program. She stressed that the funding would be sufficient for a shortened but aggressive campaign effort; however, she continued that were this funding spread over a nine-month or yearlong timeframe, it would be insufficient. Senator Olson questioned whether this "conservative amount" of funding, as compared to historically higher levels of funding, might jeopardize the effectiveness of the campaign. Ms. Duke responded that Arctic Power would pursue the campaign with the assumption that additional funding would be forthcoming. She reiterated that the decision was made to conduct an aggressive campaign. Senator Bunde asked whether Congressional visits to ANWR have historically occurred in July. Ms. Duke responded that tours have been conducted as early as March. She communicated that the Office of the Governor extends invitations to Congressional members, and that Arctic Power then coordinates the tour. Senator Bunde voiced support of the program. Senator Hoffman inquired as to the type of documentation that would be supplied to the Legislature. Ms. Dukes explained that Arctic Power would continue to submit the monthly reports to the Legislature, the Governor and to Alaska's Congressional delegation as required in the grant. She mentioned that, as required, expense reports are submitted for reimbursement and audits of the program are conducted. She stated these records are public. Senator Hoffman voiced that this documentation is important as there is a "misconception" that documentation has not been provided. AL ADAMS, Volunteer and Co-Chair of Arctic Power and former State Senator, testified via teleconference from an offnet site in Washington, DC. He stated that the campaign to open ANWR is a coordinated effort in conjunction with such entities as the Office of the Governor, associated industry and labor unions, and Alaska's Congressional delegation. He opined that while this lower level of funding might hamper the process, the Arctic Power campaign would aggressively pursue the additional votes required to open Area 1002. The bill was HELD in Committee.