January 24, 2003 --- Vol. 9, No. 8January 2003

Murkowski gives lead in permitting to DNR, eliminates DGC

In a move to revitalize all of the state's resource industries, Gov. Frank Murkowski said last night in his state-of-the-state address that he is making the Department of Natural Resources the lead agency for all state permitting, moving the Alaska Coastal Management Program from the Governor's Office to DNR and eliminating the Division of Governmental Coordination.

Oil is the administration's plan for increasing state revenue, Murkowski said, and the administration will be looking "for ways to help the industry enhance recovery from existing and known fields and increase daily production." He said the administration has met with the producers already and encouraged them to "increase production from heavy oil." The state also needs more oil exploration, Murkowski said, and "expanding the drilling window and reducing the permitting time" will help accomplish that goal. "Then we must actively promote our oil resources to attract new investment from large and small companies."

All resource industries are sources of state revenue, the governor said, and "To be successful in revitalizing the resource development and tourism industries, we have to remove the obstacles over which we have control."

Streamlining permitting is one way to do this, Murkowski said: "And in order to streamline the permitting process, I will be laying on the table a combination of executive orders and legislation" to make the Department of Natural Resources the lead agency for all state permitting. He said this builds on the large-projects permitting DNR developed in 1992 for Fairbanks Gold. He said DNR will receive more legal and financial support as the lead permitting agency.

Murkowski said he also plans to streamline the Alaska Coastal Management Program, and will be transferring responsibility for that program from the Office of the Governor to DNR and eliminating the Division of Governmental Coordination in the governor's office "in favor of the Department of Natural Resources as the lead agency." He said the administration would work with "coastal communities to ensure that their interests are protected."

Finally, the governor said, the permitting function of the Department of Fish and Game's Division of Habitat and Restoration will be transferred to DNR "in order to consolidate permitting authority."

Murkowski also said he was "very optimistic" about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: "We're working with the congressional delegation to open the coastal plain of ANWR and to advance the gasline project as well."

On the gas line, the governor said he would "support any economically viable project that will get the state's gas to market." He noted that voters approved the gas pipeline authority and said he would appoint board members and seek appropriations for the authority's initial activities.

"It would make good sense," he said, "for this new gas pipeline authority to coordinate its work with communities, the port authority, owners of the gas and other proponents of commercializing Alaska's gas."

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