Legislature(1999 - 2000)
04/23/1999 01:46 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 110-PROPERTY ACQUIRED BY GOVT. ENTITY SENATOR GARY WILKEN reminded the committee SB 110 relates to liability of a municipality for foreclosed land. Senator Wilken said the proposed version of the bill is a compromise between the Fairbanks North Star Borough (FNSB) and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). SENATOR WILKEN said the new bill applies only to state and local governments, and does not apply to the federal government. SENATOR WILKEN stated he reviewed the comments submitted by Mr. Virgil Norton, and concluded Mr. Norton's comments go beyond the scope of SB 110. He does not support incorporating them into this bill. He maintained his support for the committee substitute. Number 052 MR. VIRGIL NORTON, testifying via teleconference from Anchorage, wanted to be sure the committee had received his fax. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR assured him they had. He informed MR. NORTON that the committee substitute before the committee does not include his suggestions, as the sponsor did not want to incorporate these changes into this version. MR. NORTON said at issue is the definition of "release," which includes a permitted release or an act of nature. Currently, under strict liability, DEC holds property owners liable for releases they had no knowledge of at the time they acquired the property. He said under this definition even leaching constitutes a release. MR. NORTON commented, "The government does not always take these laws and interpret them the way the legislature intended them to be," and this denies an innocent landowner the "innocent landowner defense." Number 158 CHAIRMAN TAYLOR assured MR. NORTON the committee had received his three amendments. MR. NORTON said he understands why the definition of "release" was drafted to be broad but the 470 fund, managed properly, could pay for cleanup of a contaminated site if the landowner is unavailable or cannot pay. MR. NORTON alleged DEC is "a renegade, out-of- control agency." Number 178 CHAIRMAN TAYLOR asked why the legislature should limit liability for cities and not citizens. SENATOR WILKEN said that was a bigger issue he was unwilling to tackle in this bill. Number 188 CHAIRMAN TAYLOR moved amendment #1 suggested by MR. NORTON. The text of the amendment reads: (1) For purposes of determining liability in an action to recover damages or costs under AS 46.03.822, a release shall be deemed to have occurred when a hazardous substance is first introduced into the environment. A party, other than the party responsible for the initial release, who has acted responsibly upon discovering contamination in accordance with (2)(A) & (B) of this section may not be held liable for the spread or migration of the hazardous substance except by an act of intentional misconduct or gross negligence. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR remarked, "If it's good for the goose, it ought to be good for the gander." Without objection, Amendment #1 was adopted. Number 200 CHAIRMAN TAYLOR moved Amendment #2. The text of the amendment reads: (9) "release" means any spilling, leaking, pumping, pouring, emitting, emptying, leaching, dumping or disposing into the environment, including the abandonment or discarding of barrels, containers, and other closed receptacles containing any hazardous substance, but excluding (A) any release that results in exposure to persons solely within a workplace, with respect to a claim that those persons may assert against the persons' employer; and (B) emissions from the engine exhaust of a motor vehicle, rolling stock, aircraft or vessel: (C ) An act of nature occurring after the release of the hazardous substance into the environment. Without objection, Amendment #2 was adopted. Number 208 CHAIRMAN TAYLOR moved Amendment #3. The text of the amendment reads: *Sec. 4. Adding a new subsection to read amends A.S. 46.03.822; (1) Notwithstanding other provisions of this section and notwithstanding the definition of "release" in AS 46.03.826, for the purposes of this section, a release is considered to have occurred when a hazardous substance is first introduced into the environment, and a person is not liable for the spread or migration of the hazardous substance after its initial release if (1) The person was not responsible for the initial release (2) The person has satisfied the requirements of (2)(A), & (B) by acting responsibly after discovery of the release and (3) Has not caused or increased the spread or migration through intentional misconduct or gross negligence (4) The person is a governmental entity that acquired the facility (A) By escheat, bankruptcy, foreclosure, tax delinquency, or abandonment; (B) [Or] through an [ANOTHER] involuntary transfer or acquisition:[;] or (C ) Through the exercise of eminent domain authority by purchase or condemnation; (3) The person is a corporation organized under 43 U.S.C. 1601-1629e (Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act) that acquired the facility under those sections; (4) The person inherited the facility by inheritance or bequest; or (5) The person is a state governmental entity and the state acquired the property under Public Law 85-508 (Alaska Statehood Act). Without objection, Amendment #3 was adopted. Number 215 CHAIRMAN TAYLOR moved to adopt the committee substitute (Version K/Cook) and indicated the amendments adopted would be incorporated into this committee substitute. Without objection, the committee substitute was adopted. SENATOR DONLEY moved CSSB 110 (JUD) from committee with individual recommendations. SENATOR ELLIS objected. The roll was called. Voting to move the bill were SENATOR DONLEY, SENATOR TORGERSON, and CHAIRMAN TAYLOR. SENATOR ELLIS was opposed. CSSB 110(JUD) moved from committee with individual recommendations.