April 16, 2014
DEC Division of Water
Attn.: Earl Crapps
Anchorage, AK 99501
Via email to email@example.com
Re: Draft Antidegradation Implementation Regulations Plan
Dear Mr. Crapps:
The Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc. (RDC) is writing to comment on the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Division of Water’s draft Antidegradation Implementation Regulations plan.
RDC is an Alaskan business association comprised of individuals and companies from Alaska’s oil and gas, mining, forest products, tourism and fisheries industries. RDC’s membership includes Alaska Native Corporations, local communities, organized labor, and industry support firms. RDC’s purpose is to encourage a strong, diversified private sector in Alaska and expand the state’s economic base through the responsible development of our natural resources.
RDC appreciates the efforts DEC has put into developing the draft implementation regulation plans. It is a policy of RDC to advocate for predictable, timely, and efficient state permitting processes based on sound science and economic feasibility, as well as provide adequate resources to permitting agencies for personnel, research, and science. That said, RDC is concerned the proposed regulations will further burden permittees as well as DEC staff with additional work, creating delays or even halting future projects due to permitting concerns and delays.
As these proposed regulations will be used in permitting discharges it is important to RDC members to have reliable, timely permitting processes. These unnecessary changes further expose RDC members to regulatory risk, costs, and permitting delays, with little or no added benefit to the environment. RDC also believes more time should be spent on clarifications, and these important regulations require additional study and consideration.
For example, RDC is concerned the implementation process for designating Outstanding National Resource Water is too easily navigable, and will lead to unfounded applications for designation. Ultimately, this will burden DEC staff and that additional burden will add to permitting delays.
RDC is concerned the scope of the revisions is too broad, and should be more narrowly focused to what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is requiring. It is important to note DEC’s existing antidegradation policy and its implementation methods are already consistent with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s antidegradation regulations and requirements.
Moreover, RDC believes the existing policies are sufficient for protecting Alaska’s watersheds. The current implementation policy is legally compliant, and another layer of regulations will be duplicative of the extremely rigorous process already in place.
Further, RDC strongly believes that the State’s current permitting and water quality standards programs ensure that all uses of the State’s waters are fully maintained. These programs are already among the most rigorous and stringent in the country. As such, implementation of the proposed regulations will produce a significant additional burden on applicants during permitting and operations without producing any real benefits in regards to protecting the uses of State waters.
Projects in Alaska are already more expensive to start up and maintain, and an additional layer of permitting will likely have a negative impact with no added benefit to the environment. As a resource economy state, with a constitutional mandate to develop its natural resources, Alaska should not continue to discourage investment.
In addition to concerns described in this letter, RDC urges the DEC to address concerns made by the Alaska Miners Association (AMA) (April 16, 2014). In its letter, AMA requests the DEC (1) provide important clarifications and definitions, (2) avoid duplicating management efforts, (3) address questions regarding Tier 3 designations, (4) reduce the scope of the draft rule to only include plans as required, thereby reigning in the responsibility and authority of DEC, and (5) provide the implementation process so that it is easy to interpret and comply with.
These are very important issues to RDC members – oil and gas, mining, fishing, forestry, and tourism – and should be fully addressed before implementation begins. RDC further urges the DEC to consider making changes to the proposed implementation plan, as suggested in this and AMA’s letters, and republish the draft for public review.
RDC thanks DEC for its efforts to involve stakeholders, and appreciates the opportunity to comment on the Antidegradation Implementation Regulations plan.
Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc.