April 10, 2018

Testimony on CSHB 199 

Good afternoon, my name is Marleanna Hall and I am the executive director for the Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc., commonly referred to as RDC. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today on the Committee Substitute for House Bill 199.

RDC is a statewide trade association comprised of individuals and companies from Alaska’s oil and gas, mining, forest products, fisheries and tourism industries, as well at the 12 land owning Alaska Native corporations. Our membership also includes labor, municipalities and boroughs, the support industry sector, and individuals from around the state.

For those of you who do not know me, I am a lifelong Alaskan, originally from Nome. My family lives and works here in our wonderful state. 

Today, I hope to address the broader concerns of this CS on behalf of my diverse membership. Other invited testimony from the specific industries will offer more technical comments, but I hope I can add a broader overview of our concerns. 

With regard to the Committee Substitute for House Bill 199, increasing uncertainty and adding additional, unnecessary regulatory burdens to community and resource development projects across Alaska with little to no added benefit to salmon habitat is not sound policy. This bill would likely delay, or even halt, these projects and increase costs for our communities and private sector and would send Alaska further down on the regulatory-certainty scale.

My member companies who have already testified today have given specific examples of the anticipated detrimental effects of this proposed legislation, such as new delays, new unnecessary permits and requirements for permits, new requirements for permitting wetlands, new opportunities for litigation and permit challenges, and more. 

But first I ask a vital question: why is this bill necessary? Would the sponsors of the bill be able to give an example of how the existing permit process has failed? Many who testified today spoke to the lack of kings and the size of the fish that are out there in specific, and have yet to give an example of how these drastic changes to Title 16 will help, or equally importantly, how Title 16 has failed? 

The idea that our fish habitat is not protected is very misleading. Alaska has some of the best-managed fisheries in the world, and each one of us has a stake in maintaining that reputation.

If the law is old, and isn’t working that is one thing. However, this proposed law is a far cry from a productive, balanced process, that will allow Alaskans to live our way of life and coincide with our environment, including fish. 

The costs added to projects around Alaska won’t just impact business, but also communities and everyday Alaskans. If we are already protecting our habitat in a way that is working, why does this bill go so far to negatively impacts our way of life across the state. 

Clearly, both supporters and non-supporters of this bill want to live here and want to protect our salmon and other species for generations to come. All Alaskans, including the first people who have lived here from tens of thousands of years, have a stake in protecting fish habitat.

We are all here today because we love this place, and we love our way of life. It is clear and proven that community and resource development can coexist with the environment in our great state. Alaska has permitted large projects such as the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System and six major producing mines, as well as expanding vital transportation infrastructure, without harming our fisheries. Our existing permitting system protecting fish habitat has worked well. Alaska’s resource development-based economy has expanded immensely over the past 40 years and our track record of protecting fish habitat speaks for itself.

When updates to Title 16 are going to be done, it should be the focus of that effort to address the specific areas that need to be updated: public comment and consequences for failing to comply with a permit. 

This may have been the intention of the sponsor, but unfortunately, this bill goes way beyond that and will damage Alaska’s communities, economy, jobs, and way of life.

In conclusion, this bill will negatively impact community and resource development, including building new infrastructure and improving the limited amount of infrastructure we do have across the state, as well as much needed new infrastructure. We should look to existing projects that have been developed with Title 16 permits, which demonstrate that we can, and do, protect fish habitat, and learn from these projects. From the fish processing facility at the mouth of a river in Southwest Alaska, to the airport in Ketchikan, to the activities at Prudhoe, and to the Interior Alaska roads, fish habitat is protected and coexists with development.