At least one Alaska lawmaker is concerned about proposed changes to the regulations governing the use of pesticides on state land, and there's only one more day for public comment on the revisions.
Public comment is at the heart of the issue: Under the proposed changes, anyone interested in obtaining a permit to use pesticide would no longer have to undergo a public-comment process on the individual permit. Instead, applicants would have to share their plan on a website and provide public notification where the pesticide would be used.
Instead of requiring individual permits for each instance of pesticide use, a new set of regulations would govern pesticide use. Anyone using pesticide on state land would have to follow the regulations.
Rep. Les Gara (D-Anchorage) sent a letter to the Department of Environmental Conservation -- which oversees the state pesticide program -- expressing concern about the elimination of the public-comment periods.
"We have two concerns," Gara said about the proposed changes. "One is the spraying of toxic chemicals that can leach into fishing waters. We're also concerned about them not allowing public comment in areas that families might use, for example, that some state bureaucrat might not know about yet."
He added that there could also be concerns from homeowners about private wells not far from where pesticide is being applied. He said that the public input process could bring such information to light.
Gara said that the DEC had not yet responded. He said that the only response he'd received had been a denial of his suggestion to postpone the public comment period on the proposed rule changes another 60 days, until Oct. 2.
Members of the DEC pesticide control program were not available for comment Wednesday afternoon.
You can read about the proposed changes, including the suggested language, here. The DEC says that other states use programs similar to the one being suggested for Alaska.
The comment deadline is 5 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 2. Anyone interested can email comments to Rebecca Colvin with the DEC at rebecca.colvin(at)alaska.gov.
Contact Ben Anderson at ben(at)alaskadispatch.com