A group of Inupiat tribal leaders traveled to Juneau recently to meet with state lawmakers concerning several proposed legislations that the group alleges would limit the amount of participation tribal members would have in resource development projects in the state. Lillian Stone, a school teacher from Anaktuvuk Pass; Earl Kingik, of Point Hope; Willard Neakok, president of the Point Lay Tribal Council; and Rosemary Ahtuangaruak of Barrow all visited the state's capital to express their concern about several bills currently moving through the House.
The proposed legislation would "roll back public notice and participation in resource development projects" and "could lock Inupiat communities out of decision-making on major projects such as oil and gas development in Arctic near-shore waters, construction of a pipeline across the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and the proposed road to Umiat, which would provide access for oil and gas development and exploration that would harm caribou and subsistence activities," wrote Mark Glyde, senior program director of Resource Media, which promoted the group's activity.
Among the bills drawing concern is House Bill 77 (SB 26), proposed by Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell, which would remove a requirement for the State Department of Natural Resources to conduct and take public comment on a "best interest finding" before it leases lands or gives other interests in state resources. The bill also allows development projects on state land to be granted "general permits" without a public notice or comment requirement, Glyde wrote.
House Bill 78 (SB 27) concerns the authority of DNR to delegate wetland permits. This authority is conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, whose process includes extensive public notice and participation.
House Bill 47, which failed to pass the Senate last year but was reintroduced this year by Rep. Eric Feige, requires Alaskans to post significant bond prior to challenging a resource permitting decision in court.
"This bill would effectively prevent all but the wealthiest corporations and individuals from being able to challenge permitting decisions in the state," wrote Glyde.
Carey Restino is the editor of Alaska Media LLC, which publishes The Arctic Sounder and Bristol Bay Times weekly newspapers. This article was republished here with permission.