House Bill 77 is a bill that, unless you follow natural resource issues, you probably haven’t heard of it. The bill was sponsored by the House Rules Committee at the governor’s request and intended to streamline the permitting process. It was first brought before the House of Representatives in 2013, undergoing a fast-track process but eventually fizzling due to strong and determined opposition. However, it supposedly is one of the Governor’s top priorities for this upcoming session and strongly supported by those in favor of unfettered development.
In promoting this bill, Governor Parnell said, “Alaskans deserve a fair and efficient permitting process. One that creates more job opportunities, and that is exactly what our bill provides. I am pleased the Alaska House of Representatives passed this legislation promoting responsible resource development.” BBT
Why is it so contentious? Here is an excerpt from the bill: Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the commissioner may authorize an activity on state land by the issuance of a general permit if the commissioner finds that the activity is unlikely to result in significant and irreparable harm to state land or resources.
At issue is what the Commissioner would consider significant and irreparable to be…and remember, the Commissioner serves at the behest of the Governor. By bestowing this power to the Commissioner, it would circumvent the public process and give the Commissioner unprecedented power.