Brune says DEC conducting review, comparing regulations to statutes
Reflecting Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s message of Alaska being “open for business,” the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, in common with other state departments, is reviewing its regulations, making sure that each regulation has statutory authority, Jason Brune, commissioner designee of DEC, told the Resource Development Council on March 21.
“We need to make sure that we’re doing no more and no less than what the Legislature and the federal government has asked us to do,” Brune said, commenting that his main focus is to ensure that his department has predictable, science-based, timely, legally defensible programs within which companies can operate.
At the same time, Brune emphasized the importance of DEC’s mission of conserving, improving and protecting Alaska’s natural resources and environment to enhance the health, safety and social wellbeing of Alaskans. Alaska sets the worldwide standard for how to conduct environmentally responsible development, he said.
And Alaska now has primacy over a number of federal environmental programs, conducted under the terms of the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. This delegation of authority to the state makes it possible to have Alaskans who understand Alaska issues, rather than people from out of state, to handle the permitting, Brune said, reflecting on his personal motto of “think globally, develop locally.”
Regulations for removal or reformIn terms of reviewing DEC’s regulations, Brune said that DEC has identified nearly half of the more than 100 regulatory packages that the administration thinks can be eliminated or significantly reformed. Regulations governing oil spill contingency plans provide an example of an opportunity for efficiency improvement - currently DEC has nearly 50 pages of regulations governing how these plans must be assembled.
“They’re getting way too burdensome,” Brune said. “We need to make sure that we have good C plans, but we need to make sure that they are effective tools for industry as well as for the agency.”
Brune also urged business people to inform DEC about any regulations that appear unnecessary and that may not, in fact, be protecting the environment.
Budget cutsAlthough the state administration is seeking ways of reducing state expenditure, to match expenditure levels with state revenues, DEC’s agencies are not being greatly impacted by budget cuts - the administration recognizes the importance of regulatory oversight and the need to be able to issue permits in a timely fashion, Brune said. A program for the oversight of cruise ships, is being eliminated, as is an economist position and regulation of the one remaining dairy in the state. And, as with other departments, there is a 50 percent reduction in travel expenditure.
Other programsOther programs that DEC is involved in include addressing serious air contamination in Fairbanks; water contamination in the state from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances; how to deal with the continuing pervasive use of honey buckets in rural communities; and commenting on proposed new rules for the definition of waters of the United States.
Brune also commented that one of the biggest environmental issues that he sees in Alaska is the disparity between the strong level of environmental protection expected of industrial activities and lower environmental standards that appear to be expected from individual Alaskans.
- ALAN BAILEY