Alaska Headlamp – Need. For. Speed.

EPA to make common sense permitting reform. Now more than ever, as the economy continues to pick up steam, it is vitally important to reduce the barriers to economic growth. Nowhere is this more important than in the manufacturing sector. In manufacturing, lengthy permitting processes can still be the death knell for projects that would otherwise expand operations and create new jobs. The Clean Air Act (CAA) has created delays so great that they kill some projects in their infancy before the permitting process has even started. While there has been bipartisan support for addressing permitting delays, Congress has only recently laid out a starting point from which improving efficiencies in permitting can be obtained. In the meantime, the Environmental Protection Agency has stepped in to make some common sense reforms that were long overdue. Citing President Trump’s push to streamline regulatory permitting, the EPA recently announced its intention to clarify the permitting process under the New Source Review (NSR) analysis, which pertains to potential increased emissions at project sites.

Two-tiered permitting process to impact minor activities. With the Alaska Legislature closing in on the final day of its regular session, the battle over a bill to tighten restrictions on permits to develop near Alaska’s anadromous streams is still attracting a lot of attention. On Saturday, dozens of Alaskans phoned in and attended a House Fisheries Committee meeting to weigh in on an amended version of House Bill 199, which would increase restrictions for obtaining a permit to develop in streams deemed to be salmon habitat. Public opinion was divided, though the majority testified in support, citing concerns about the future of Alaska’s salmon runs. Opponents said the current permitting system works and the additional restrictions would hamper industry too much. The current version of HB 199, originally sponsored by Rep. Louise Stutes (R-Kodiak), would institute a two-tiered permitting system for development impacting anadromous streams, including “major” and “minor” activities, based on the amount of damage the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Habiat Division determines would occur in the stream. It adds a public notice and comment procedure as well as legislative intent language about the protection of salmon resources, among other changes.

An Alaskan company built from the ground up. An Alaska company that started out as just a heater reconditioning company has grown in nearly two decades to be a crucial provider of oil field, construction and mining equipment for cold-weather climates. Fairbanks-based Equipment Source Inc. began in 2000 catering to oil field companies working on the North Slope, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. Then store creators Terry Warnath and his nephew, Josh Parks, developed their own industrial heater, the ES700. The indirect-fired air heater excelled at providing long-term, reliable and continuous service in the most severe weather conditions. Warnath and Parks soon were competing against the very companies they previously had serviced. Local businessman Tim Cerny slowly bought into the company and is now the sole owner, but Parks stayed on as the manufacturing manager. Equipment Source uses Kubota engines, Mecc Alte generator ends and other purchased parts and pieces to build its equipment. “But as far as the frame and the shell and the metal structure, we’re truly building that from the ground up here,” store manager Nick Ferree said. “It’s very fun, and not very common in Alaska, and especially not in Fairbanks. It’s not the most economical place to do stuff like that,” Ferree said.

Record setting legislative session. The Alaska Legislature is on pace to pass fewer bills in this two-year session than in any other since the early 1990s — one measure of the paralysis inflicted by polarization and the state’s deficit crisis. Lawmakers passed 37 bills between the start of their two-year session — in January 2017 — and Monday, according to an analysis by the Alaska legislative library. That’s the fewest at that point in any two-year session since the start of the library’s records, in 1994. The current Legislature passed last year’s annual state operating and capital budgets, but only after months-long delays. It’s passed contentious bills to open Alaska to ride-hailing services like Uber, and to comply with federal requirements under the REAL ID Act — as well as symbolic measures like one to commemorate black soldiers who helped build the Alaska Highway. But dozens of other bills have languished — passing the Republican-controlled Senate only to stall or die in the hands of the mostly-Democratic House majority. Or vice versa. The Legislature’s slow pace of passing bills has thwarted lawmakers’ own priorities and pet projects, as well as a major crime-fighting initiative pushed by Gov. Bill Walker. And it’s frustrated individual Alaskans — some of whom have seen their favored legislation blocked in committees. The Legislative library’s analysis is just one data point, and it’s likely lawmakers will pass a barrage of bills as they approach next week’s initial, 90-day deadline to finish the session.

From today’s Washington Examiner, Daily on Energy:

MOVING ON …. ENVIRONMENTAL APPROVALS FOR INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS TO BE EXPEDITED: Various federal agencies are expected Monday to sign an agreement intended to shorten the environmental review and permitting process for infrastructure projects. The leaders of at least 12 agencies will sign the “memo of understanding,” according to Bloomberg, which would implement an executive order signed by Trump in August.

Signoff: Trump is expected to preside over a signing ceremony after a Cabinet meeting Monday.

Signing the memo will be the departments of Energy, Interior, Transportation, Commerce and Homeland Security, the EPA, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Need for speed: Trump’s Aug. 15 executive order calls for “timely decisions” on projects with the goal of completing “environmental reviews and authorization decisions for major infrastructure projects within two years.”

Under the agreement implementing the order, federal agencies will have to conduct concurrent environmental reviews, rather than consecutive reviews, to speed up the process. The main agency with expertise will lead the permitting review process, setting timelines for the other agencies to follow.

First Reads:

EPA Leads the Way on Permitting Reform
Real Clear Policy, Tim Doyle, April 6, 2018

Salmon habitat bill still milling in House Fisheries committee
The Peninsula Clarion, Elizabeth Earl, April 9, 2018

Alaska company provides machines that can withstand cold
AP News, April 8, 2018

Paralyzed by partisanship and the budget crisis, this Alaska Legislature has passed fewer bills than any on record
Anchorage Daily News, Nathaniel Herz, April 8, 2018