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Permitting Initiative

A multi-agency effort to make the state's permitting process more efficient, timely and certain.

Permitted Projects

More than any other state, Alaska depends on natural resources for its economic well-being. To ensure responsible resource development, Alaska needs to maintain a strong permitting system that protects our environment, enables public input and provides a timely, predictable process for project applicants.

In 2011, the Department of Natural Resources began evaluating its permitting processes and proposing ways to make them more efficient. This effort continues through the present.

State resource agencies also are working together to prepare for new phases of resource development in Alaska -- such as renewable energy, underground coal gasification and unconventional oil projects.

Recent activities

Between 2011 and the present, DNR took major steps to eliminate its backlog of land and water-use permit applications. As of December 1, 2014, 58 percent of the backlog that existed at the end of fiscal year 2011 has been eliminated. (See chart)

In 2013, the Alaska Legislature passed three DNR-related bills to improve the state's permitting system:

» Senate Bill 27 authorizes DNR and DEC to evaluate the possibility of administering the federal program for permitting dredge and fill projects in surface waters and wetlands in Alaska. The bill gives DEC the authority to petition the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to authorize a state-run dredge and fill permitting program.

» House Bill 129 consolidates the Division of Oil and Gas' exploration and development approvals for oil and gas projects - enabling a more comprehensive public review at the beginning stages of a project - and streamlines its review of plans of operation.

» House Bill 198 enables DNR to grant a one-time lease extension to oil and gas developers if the extension is in the state's best interest.

Also in 2013, DEC and DNR organized a working group to review ways to improve air quality permitting for temporary oil and gas drill rigs.

In 2012, the Alaska Legislature passed HB 361, which enables DNR to process certain leases, material sales and other authorizations on a more timely, cost-effective basis.

Areas for public input

Large Projects: The state has developed a process for coordinating the permitting of large projects, especially mines, and we believe this process works well. How can it be improved?

Small Projects: Under the former Alaska Coastal Management Program, permitting for smaller projects within coastal zones was coordinated by DNR's Division of Coastal Management. Now that the program and the division do not exist, what role should the state play in the coordination of smaller project permits?

Federal Permitting: Many project delays are the result of the federal permitting process. What can the state do to help the federal agencies be more timely and predictable?

Legal Challenges: Almost every large project in Alaska is challenged in court or administratively. What should the state do to streamline the process and schedule to avoid project delays while ensuring full access to the appeals process?

Permit backlog: DNR is taking action to eliminate its backlog of permits and authorizations for smaller projects. We welcome additional ideas on how to reduce this backlog and prevent new ones from developing in the future.