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Lawmakers Shelve Controversial Permitting Bill

A controversial permitting bill has been sentenced to die in committee.

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Senate Resources Chair Cathy Giessel sent out a press release on Thursday evening announcing that the resources committee will not hold any more hearings on HB77.

Committee member Peter Micciche says that with the end of session looming, the bill was simply too complex and too polarizing to advance.

“Some people will be very happy. Some people won’t be as happy. But I think that everyone can agree that we can, in the future, do a better job working together on releasing things that people see as having an effect on their everyday lives, their rights as Alaskans, their right to be heard.”

The Parnell administration introduced HB77 last year. The bill was pitched as a way to make the permitting process more efficient, and it initially zipped through the Legislature. But fishing groups, tribal organizations, and environmental outfits came out strong against the bill, arguing that it gave too much power to the natural resources commissioner and limited the public’s role in permitting decisions.

After the bill failed to secure the necessary votes last year, the Department of Natural Resources held meetings with opposition groups and revised the bill in consultation with Micciche. While some of the more contentious provisions were altered, the rewrite still attracted a heated public response when it was unveiled last month.

Micciche believes some components of the new draft have merit and could have been enacted into law had they not been wrapped in such an expansive piece of legislation. He says those parts will likely need to be revisited in the future and parceled out into a series of less ambitious bills.

But this year, the Legislature is done with permitting policy.

“I don’t know go where bills go in the after life, but I do — I do — honestly wish House Bill 77 a very happy eternity as it rests in peace.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Natural Resources wrote in an e-mail that the agency is a “disappointed in this outcome,” but understands the decision.

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