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Below is the letter sent by the Alaska Forum to the House Resources Committee asking them to amend House Bill 290 to offer greater environmental protection for Alaska's waters.





February 21, 2000

TO: All Members, House Resources Committee
FR: Ross Coen
RE: House Bill 290

Dear Members of the House Resources Committee, I am writing with regard to House Bill 290 in order to call your attention to what my organization believes to be a minor and altogether fixable fault in the bill. The Alaska Forum for Environmental Responsibility is a statewide, non-profit group that seeks to hold both government and industry accountable to the laws designed to safeguard Alaska’s environment. In Section 7, Paragraph 16 of HB 290, the definition for "stranded gas pipeline" specifically excludes "marine terminal facilities…including pollution control equipment[.]" I believe that this passage means the following: if this bill passes in its current form and the proposed natural gas pipeline is built by the ANS Sponsor Group then the marine terminal and spill response activities would be exempt from any regulation or oversight by the coordinated state agencies in the Joint Pipeline Office. One could argue that this minor language in only one House Bill could not possibly grant such a monumental exemption, but it appears nevertheless to set a dangerous precedent as to what the state may regulate and what it may not. You might call it the proverbial first step down that slippery slope. It is my understanding that the proponents of HB 290 have argued for this exemption because (1) by excluding the marine terminal you would decrease the gas’ transportation costs, thereby increasing state revenue; and (2) the Joint Pipeline Office is charged with regulating only pipelines, not facilities. Both points are fallacious. First, Roger Marks with the Department of Revenue has testified that the state may include regulatory authority on marine terminal oversight while not affecting the transportation costs of the gas. Second, both Bill Britt, the State Pipeline Coordinator, and Mike Barnhill with the Attorney General’s office have testified that the state’s regulatory authority is expressly defined as to include both pipelines and facilities. A claim to the contrary is not only erroneous, but ignores the more than 25-year history of the Valdez Marine Terminal. I respectfully request that the House Resources Committee amend HB 290 to remove this exemption found in Section 7, Paragraph 16. Careful oversight of not only the gas pipeline but of all related facilities is necessary to ensure the safe operation of this industry so vital to Alaska’s economic future.

Thank you,
Ross Coen




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