Legislature(2015 - 2016)BUTROVICH 205
02/29/2016 03:30 PM RESOURCES
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SB 170-DNR FEES FOR GEOLOGICAL SERVICES 3:34:11 PM CHAIR GIESSEL announced consideration of SB 170 and noted that the bill is designed to make the Division of Geological and Geophysical Survey (DGGS), in the Department of Revenue (DNR), more self-sufficient, so it will rely less on general funds. A few years ago the legislature authorized DGGS to purchase a Sam's Club building in East Anchorage. Geological materials, such as core samples from oil and mineral exploration, had been stored in Conex containers in Eagle River, and they were leaking, causing sample degeneration. She stated that the material was a library of information for future explorers. The DGGS is not allowed to charge people to view the cores, which could help support the facility and the staffing. She said other states charge for this service, and SB 170 authorizes DGGS to receive payment from explorers who want to see the cores. 3:35:05 PM SENATOR STOLTZE joined the committee. 3:36:28 PM AKIS GIALOPSOS, Staff to Senator Giessel and the Senate Resources Committee, Alaska State Legislature, explained that Section 1 of SB 170 adds DGGS to [AS 37.05.146(c), a list of program receipts to be accounted for separately]. Section 2 changes the requirement that DGGC fees and receipts go into the general fund, he stated, and Section 3 is the heart of SB 170, allowing the DGGS to institute fee structures for services, equipment, and the use of DGGS facilities. 3:38:35 PM SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked about Section 2, which deletes the requirement that money from selling reports and maps will go into the general fund. MR. GIALOPSOS said that Section 3 will allow the division to charge for equipment and services and "was going to be now accounted for in Section 1 of the bill, which is the receipt authority." He added that Section 2 would remove the reason for the fees being deposited into the general fund. SENATOR MICCICHE asked if other departments have similar authorization to charge for services and keep the funds. MR. GIALOPSOS answered that the authorization in SB 170 would be the "88th version of receipt authority being designated in the state's ledger book." The next witness can clarify which divisions of DNR are striving for self-sufficiency by using receipt authority, he suggested. 3:40:15 PM STEVE MASTERMAN, State Geologist and Director, Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys, Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Fairbanks, Alaska, said that the Division of Mining, Land, and Water is transitioning from unrestricted general funds to designated general funds. He noted that the Division of Parks and Recreation is making that transition as well. The Division of Forestry is funding a certification program with industry receipts, and the Division of Agriculture has increased fees by 20 percent to fund operations by designated general funds. He said it is a business model for DNR to transition to revenues that are designated by its activities, and SB 170 would be an extension of that model. CHAIR GIESSEL said spoke of Texas charging a fee for using a geologic materials center, which she toured, and she asked what other states do. MR. MASTERMAN said there are 28 core depositories in the United States and Canada, and of the 10 depositories that are over 25,000 square feet in size, seven charge a fee. Alaska's GMC [geologic materials center] is 100,000 square feet, he added. Of the smaller facilities, about half charge a fee. 3:43:36 PM CHAIR GIESSEL noted a chart Mr. Masterman provided and asked how fees are set. MR. MASTERMAN answered that he is looking at fees from other facilities. He noted that Alaska's [proposed fees] are in the middle or lower/middle of the range. Industry has expressed concern, "and so we are very cognizant of not charging too much for these services." The facility should be successful but not drive people away, he opined. CHAIR GIESSEL asked how industry uses the GMC. MR. MASTERMAN explained that the inventory is online and available. Every rock in the facility has a barcode, and all are geographically referenced and can be searched by location, prospect, commodity type, or borehole name. He said that the drill samples represent over 48 million feet of drilling. There are over 330,000 surface samples and about 200,000 "thin sections" that have been donated to the state. To gather that information now would take tens of billions of dollars, so it is very valuable. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked about a letter dated on February 16 where Mr. Masterman said he would not charge for donations. MR. MASTERMAN explained that there is no charge if people give rocks to the division. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked if school groups will be charged. MR. MASTERMAN said no. The division received money from Walmart to support educational uses, and the university does use the facility for core workshops. 3:48:00 PM SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI suggested putting such language in statute. MR. MASTERMAN said that would be very appropriate. "We love to have the kids come out there." SENATOR STOLTZE said he grew up in the area and his elementary school took him there on field trips, "and I think I'm much enriched as a result." SENATOR COSTELLO noted that legislators thought the issue was addressed last session. She had visited the old center, which looked like something from Samson and Sons. She took her boys on a tour, and it is quite an educational opportunity, she stated. SENATOR MICCICHE said he appreciates DNR covering its costs, but he referred to resistance from DNR on similar efforts. 3:50:46 PM MARY NANUWAK, representing herself, Bethel, Alaska, said all fees should be the same for everyone except nonresidents or attorneys who will gain from it. She spoke of hunting and fishing fees for Native Alaskans who rely on subsistence, and then was reminded that the current discussion related to geologic materials. Ms. Nanuwak noted that certain Native lands are not supposed to be occupied by state agencies, including grave sites and subsistence areas. CHAIR GIESSEL, finding no further comments, closed public testimony. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI suggested a conceptual amendment to allow school groups to use the GMC without a fee. CHAIR GIESSEL suggested adding the language to Section 3. SENATOR COSTELLO suggested it include children who are not with a formal school group, making it less preclusive. SENATOR MICCICHE noted that the goal is to charge industry groups for access to the core samples. MR. MASTERMAN agreed. SENATOR STOLTZE suggested giving DNR the discretion to waive fees for educational purposes, in order that preschools and university programs, for example, have free access. CHAIR GIESSEL proffered language such that DNR promulgate regulations to waive fees for educational opportunities. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI moved conceptual amendment , requiring the department to waive GMC fees for educational opportunities. There were no objections, and it was so ordered. 3:58:08 PM SENATOR COSTELLO moved to report SB 170, as amended, from committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal notes. There being no objection, CSSB 170(RES) moved from the Senate Resources Standing Committee.