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Our View: Either rewrite House Bill 77 or kill it

House Bill 77

Without a major overhaul, deep-six this measure

Sen. Peter Micciche has taken the time to do what the Parnell administration would not be doing if House Bill 77 became law -- listen to Alaskans on natural resource permitting.

The Soldotna Republican has opposed the bill as passed by the state House of Representatives because it invests far too much power in the commissioner of natural resources to allow developers a free hand on state lands without public notice or knowledge, and kill too many protections of state resources.

He's right.

During forums in Soldotna and Homer this week, Micciche heard strong voices reinforcing his own opposition to the bill, even with administration members explaining and defending it.

On the Kenai Peninsula, the main issue is protection of salmon habitat. Neither sport nor commercial fishermen will warm to the idea that not only might they have little say in the future of that habitat, but they might not even know if there's a threat to it.

Such a law leaves far too much to the discretion of one individual, and leaves Alaska citizens in the dark about what that individual decides. It takes Alaskans out of the process, leaving it to the administration and developers to agree, without public participation, how Alaska lands can be used.

This isn't streamlining. This is an invitation to abuse, and a legal means to first keep Alaskans in the dark, then sharply curtail their right to appeal decisions if and when they learn about them. This is not how a representative democracy works. Nor is this wise management of Alaska's natural resources.

A more efficient, fair permitting system serves everybody. But that permitting system should operate in the open where Alaskans can see what's proposed and what's at risk -- and have a say in the decision-making process.

As Sen. Micciche said, he ran for office backing speedier, streamlined permitting for development projects. He's no obstructionist. But as he also said, he did not run for office with the intent of cutting his constituents out of natural resources decisions that affect their lives and livelihoods.

That's what House Bill 77 does. This is bad law that guts the democratic process.

Take redundancy and waste out of the permitting process? That's good government. Take Alaskans out of the permitting process? That's special-interest government. Unless there's a major overhaul, HB 77 should never see the Senate floor. Just the shredder.

BOTTOM LINE: Sen. Micciche listens to his constituents, and they're right about House Bill 77.