2012 Legislative Session Review
Oil taxes were once again the main topic of conversation this session but after nearly 90 hours of committee hearings no substantial legislation passed. The Governor’s proposed oil tax giveaway failed. The Senate’s compromise bill did not pass. The legislature also failed to re-instate the coastal management program, which gives Alaskans a say in development decisions along the coast. The legislature did extend the wildly successful Renewable Energy Grant Fund. The program provides grants for renewable energy projects in Alaskan communities with the highest energy costs, getting rural communities off expensive diesel fuel. Read below for other conservation issues taken up during the legislative session.
The Conservation Alliance’s Legislative Priorities
Fix It First – The Governor presented a lop-sided draft capital budget with well over a hundred million dollars of corporate welfare, masked as necessary infrastructure projects. Many Senators were skeptical of state funding to benefit a select few corporate interests and overall funding for major transportation projects was cut. The Alliance argued that the state transportation dollars should be used for maintaining our infrastructure shared by all Alaskans, not building private roads for corporations.
Children's Toxic Phase Out – The Senate passed legislation to
phase out PBDEs, a toxic class of chemicals found in many common household goods but, unfortunately, the bill did not pass the House. A major hurdle was the dishonest tactics used by the opposition to stop the bill. One doctor knowingly used false information while testifying at both House and Senate committees, fabricating potential dangers of passing the bill, as reported in this Chicago Tribune series. Despite the opposition’s tactics, the Alliance presented a vision to the legislature, working with firefighters and public health professionals, of keeping Alaskan homes toxic free and keeping them safe from fire hazards.
Energy Efficiency – New energy policy hit a lull this year as policymakers focused on established programs while waiting for anticipated reports meant to highlight new solutions for lowering energy costs across the state. The legislature passed an extension of the Renewable Energy Grant Fund and continued significant investment in residential energy efficiency, both of which were important steps to continue Alaska’s progress in lowering energy costs for Alaskans. The Alliance continues to work on affordable, clean energy solutions.
Fighting for Alaskan’s Rights – Industry and resource extraction special interests drove an assault against Alaskans rights to use the courts to protect clean air, land, and water. The bill, HB 168, would have required regular Alaskans to put up money to challenge a bad permits or to stop a project from violating a permit. The Alliance and many community organizations stood up and said no to this short-sighted piece of legislation. The bill stalled and did not pass this legislature.