HB77-“The Silence Alaskans Act” Public meeting in ANC 12/11/13

It’s time to speak up about HB 77 or be silenced!

Anchorage Public Meeting Wednesday, 12/11
6 pm to 8 pm
Alaska Experience Theatre
333 West 4th Avenue, Anchorage

The Department of Natural Resources will be attending this forum to share information about the Silencing Alaskans Act (House Bill 77) and answer questions about the implications of the bill on our wild salmon, water, and natural resources. This is your chance to be speak out and be heard about the bill that threatens Alaska’s iconic wild salmon.

Contact Kylee Singh at (907) 793-8629
or kylee@akcenter.org for more information.

If you don’t already know about this outrageous bill, now is the time to learn.

House Bill 77 is a broad bill that would give the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) unprecedented power over natural resource decisions by eliminating current safeguards of law, and silencing those who might object to DNR actions.

See the bottom of this post for a full description.

HB77 provisions include:

  • Changes the law to authorize DNR to grant “general” permits for essentially any activity on state land.
  • Limits public participation in many DNR decisions. Multiple sections of the bill limit who can appeal DNR decisions to the agency or even to a court. 
  • Authorizes DNR to permanently give away state land to private developers, in the hopes that the development would somehow benefit the state.
  • Only federal, state, or local government entities could apply to DNR to reserve water. This would extinguish existing rights and investments held by non-profits and tribal entities on several streams in Alaska where fisheries are in conflict with mineral development and prohibit any similar reservations in the future.

And there’s more! Please read the full description below to learn why this bill should be of great concern to all Alaskans.

Longer description of HB77:

House Bill 77 is a broad bill that would give the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) unprecedented power over natural resource decisions by eliminating current safeguards of law. It contains nearly 50 sections accomplishing numerous unrelated purposes and is thus difficult to summarize briefly.

Below are the highlights of proposed changes to state law in HB 77:

Consolidating Power / Eliminating Checks and Balances: HB 77 changes the law to authorize DNR to grant “general” permits for essentially any activity on state land. It provides almost no limits or qualifications for this expansion of authority, and trumps any other law on the books, including any existing safeguards or requirements. Making it worse, this expansion occurs through general permits, which broadly authorize almost any type of activity. That makes individual actions-including those related to mining-subject to less or no public participation and agency deliberation.

Eliminating Public Process: HB 77 takes several direct steps to limit public participation in many DNR decisions. Multiple sections of the bill limit who can appeal DNR decisions to the agency or even to a court. While the specifics vary throughout the bill, it generally attempts to impose the most stringent hurdle possible for who is considered to be affected by a decision and thus able to appeal. The changes threaten to exclude members of the public who have an interest in resource decisions if they cannot prove a financial stake or real estate interest involved in the action. The bill also imposes more rigid pleading requirements, which could prohibit even directly affected individuals from appealing if they have not taken certain technical steps.

State Land Giveaway: HB 77 would also authorize DNR to permanently give away state land to private developers, in the hopes that the development would somehow benefit the state. It does not require any guarantee that the hoped-for benefit will actually occur.

Changes to Water rights: By authorizing infinite extensions of temporary water use permits, the bill makes an end-run around traditional water rights allowing indefinite appropriations of water without any criteria for approval, such as not harming fish or habitat, or the ability for public input. The bill also prohibits and retroactively revokes existing applications for instream flow reservations (a device to protect natural water flows for fish, transportation, water quality and recreation). Under HB 77 only federal, state, or local government entities could apply to DNR to reserve water. This would extinguish existing rights and investments held by non-profits and tribal entities on several streams in Alaska where fisheries are in conflict with mineral development and prohibit any similar reservations in the future.