The Alaska House has passed a measure that critics say could hurt the public's ability to participate in permitting decisions.
Monday night's 23-14 vote followed debate on water rights and whether Native entities should be allowed to apply for water reservations, along with federal or state agencies and political subdivisions.
HB77, from Gov. Sean Parnell, is aimed at improving the permitting process in Alaska. The measure is extensive, dealing with issues such as land exchanges and permitting procedures.
“Alaskans deserve a fair and efficient permitting process, one that creates more job opportunities and that is exactly what our bill provides,” Parnell said in a statement Tuesday.
Democrats say the bill clears the way for mining projects to take place with little or no public input.
"You could see from the votes, people were troubled by that bill,” said House Minority Leader Representative Beth Kerttula (D-Juneau), who voted against it.
“There was a lot of pressure on that bill to move very quickly, and another example of cutting individuals and the public out of that process," added Kerttula.
The more controversial provisions include limiting administrative appeals to those "substantially and adversely affected" by a decision, who "meaningfully participated" in the public comment process.
It would remove the ability of individuals or groups to apply for water reservations, to maintain or protect certain water levels for purposes like fish habitat protection.
Channel Two's Adam Pinsker contributed to this report.
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