"This proposal brings Alaska's wastewater permitting program closer to home. We should be in charge of these types of permits, not out-of-state bureaucrats. No one cares more about Alaska's environment than Alaskans."
- Rep. Williams
(Juneau) - The House Finance Committee yesterday passed House Bill 546, which allows the state to seek primacy for permitting timber related waste discharges under the federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) discharge permitting program. Finance Committee Co-Chair Bill Williams (R-Saxman) said the bill would begin the process of giving Alaska authority over federal wastewater permitting of timber related activities. "This proposal brings Alaska's wastewater permitting program closer to home. We should be in charge of these types of permits, not out-of-state bureaucrats. No one cares more about Alaska's environment than Alaskans."
Under current law, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issues wastewater discharge permits for the timber industry in Alaska. The federal Clean Water Act allows states to manage federal industrial wastewater permitting programs and tailor them to those states' individual needs and concerns. Alaska is one of only five states that have not sought this authority. "The federal law envisions that each state will seek primacy for its program," said Williams. "Alaska has a great deal of expertise in timber sector permitting and compliance. It's time for us to step up do what's right for our timber industry and our environment."
Other benefits of the state taking over primacy for NPDES permitting include:
Challenges to the program will be in state court in Alaska, not in federal court in Seattle
If Alaska does not have permitting primacy, the state only has an advisory role on many important decisions regarding water quality in Alaska
If the state has primacy for the timber related permits, it will further develop its capacity and expertise to deal with the current issues involved in taking on primacy for all NPDES permitting. This will benefit all water programs in the State of Alaska