"It was important to all of us that the message sent by our constituents concerning public property rights and water quality were addressed in this bill."
- Rep. Harris
(JUNEAU) - Friday, January 23, 2004 - Today Representatives John Harris (R-Valdez), Carl Gatto (R-Mat-Su), Bill Stoltze (R-Chugiak/Mat-Su) and Paul Seaton (R-Homer) introduced legislation regarding shallow natural gas (coal bed methane) development.
This legislation is an effort to resolve concerns many Alaskans have with coal bed methane development by changing current law in the areas of property rights, water quality assurance, and local involvement.
The sponsors worked diligently, listening to public input from numerous community hearings, while drafting HB 395. "It was important to all of us that the message sent by our constituents concerning public property rights and water quality were addressed in this bill," said Representative John Harris, prime sponsor of the bill. He continued by stating that it is the responsibility of legislators to find a balance, where possible, between the rights of property owners and responsible resource development.
Many of the problems with current law have been raised recently by residents of the Mat-Su Borough and Homer area through a series of public forums. Representatives attended a number of these meetings, listened to their constituencies, and worked to ensure the bill included certain provisions. Specifically, current law does not require the Department of Natural Resources to consider public comment. This bill requires that public be considered prior to executing a lease. "This amendment to current law provides residents the input opportunity they deserve," said Stoltze. Gatto added, "there is a way to develop Alaska's plentiful resources while working with the surface/home owners. The changes in this bill will make the process better for all."
Another change in HB 395 is language proposed by Rep. Seaton to close current regulatory loopholes allowing the operators to extract natural gas deeper than the 3,000 foot definition of shallow natural gas. "This clarification is necessary to provide Alaskans the guarantee that conventional natural gas resources will not be extracted without going through the competitive bid process," Seaton said.
HB 395 received committee referrals to: Special Committee on Oil and Gas, Standing Committees: Resources, Judiciary, and Finance. The legislation is a starting point and all sponsors encourage the public to engage in the committee process to develop the best for all parties.
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"This amendment to current law provides residents the input opportunity they deserve."