2023 Legislative Recap

Written by SEACC

June 14, 2023

Climate recap with Matt Jackson

This session was a mixed bag. There was really good news in the form of the Renewable Energy Fund (REF) being made permanent, and all of SEACC’s climate priority bills at least got a hearing. But the elephant in the room is that ever since the oil tax credit giveaway passed in the form of 2013’s SB21, the state has been on thinner and thinner ice, both climatically and fiscally. It’s especially frustrating because the longer we keep losing money propping up the oil industry, the more expensive the climate crisis gets, not to mention the high costs of a state government in total disrepair. Every year we don’t fully fund the REF’s priority projects list, for example, is another year of sunken costs in diesel fuel. If we just adopted some common sense revenue legislation like this year’s SB114, which would close some of the gaping holes created by SB21, we would have the money for the REF and education and ferries and many of our other critical issues. Despite the legislature’s ongoing addiction to oil, I have a lot of hope that our other priority bills like the Green Bank and the Renewable Portfolio standard will pass next session. They’ve already been heard and introduced, but the never ending budget fights took all the air out of the room. The single best thing that could happen for climate change in Alaska in the next year is if SB114 were passed in a special revenue session this fall.

Forest recap with Maranda Hamme

House Bill 104, the Expedited Timber Sales Bill passed in House Resources and is now on hold in the Senate Resources Committee until the next legislative session. This bill, disguised as a way to make use of timber before it’s destroyed by fire or insects, is simply another way to speed up timber sales the Commissioner decides are in the best interests of the state, bypassing public process and opinion. The SEACC Forest Program testified twice in opposition to this bill, as we feel it will have huge implications regarding the state timber sale process, specifically in Southeast Alaska. We were also watching SB 48 and HB 49, Carbon Offset Program; Carbon Storage — SB 48 was signed into law — and SB 87, Lumber Grading Program, passed the house and senate.

Water Recap with Aaron Brakel

The Senate Finance Committee rejected the Governor’s request for $5 million to take on wetlands permitting. For now, permitting for discharges to wetlands under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act will remain in federal hands. Senator Jesse Kiehl’s “turn off the tap” PFAS bill passed, banning firefighting use of these dangerous forever chemicals in Alaska except where specifically required by federal law. HB 95, which would have turned the designation of Tier 3 Outstanding National Resource Waters designation into a legislative political football, failed to gain traction in the Senate.
We’ll be following these and more when the legislature reconvenes and we’ll keep you posted on opportunities to testify.

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