The Haines Borough Government Affairs and Services Committee considered revisions to a controversial environmental protection ordinance Tuesday night.
In April, the Haines Assembly considered an ordinance that would prohibit the aqueous storage of hazardous materials one mile from any surface body of water. The assembly sent the ordinance to the GAS committee to clarify its language.
At the meeting some businesses voiced concern that the ordinance would regulate their operations because the definition of hazardous waste was unclear. Director of Public Facilities Brad Ryan said the seafood processing facility at Excursion Inlet stores liquid refrigerants.
“They have anhydrous ammonia. Thirty thousand pounds. I just “googled” it to see how many gallons thout would be. It looks like six thousand gallons,” he said.
Ryan recommended an exemption for quantities of up to 10,000 gallons.
But a growing list of exemptions fueled the concern of ordinance critics who say it is targeted to one industry.
“I believe the intent is erroneous and I do not believe it should be going forward,” said GAS committee member Brenda Josephson.
She said that the ordinance is aimed at regulating mining in the Chilkat Valley. She recommended it die in committee.
Ordinance author and freshman assemblyman Will Prisciandaro is out of town, so he could not be present at the meeting. In a letter, he said that the ordinance is intended to be a broad preventative environmental regulation that is not specific to any industry. He said the goal is to help protect the waters of the borough from any potential large disaster.
GAS committee member Sean Maidy spoke up for Prisciandaro’s intent:
“I talked to Will before he left and this has been said so many times: this is not targeting a mine. And for us to start talking in committee about how this is a way that we can go around targeting a mine to not start is not the intent that Will had.”
As written, the ordinance would prohibit the construction of a tailings dam. Constantine Metal Resources, a mineral exploration project operating in the Chilkat Valley, plans to dry stack tailings rather than building tailings dams.
Language, exemptions, and legality proved so slippery that Borough Manager Debra Schnabel recommended the borough hire a consultant.
“Somebody who may have some experience in this and can make recommendations,” she said.
“There’s a body of knowledge we can tap into that will help us refine this to get it where we want it to be.”
The seemingly short and simple ordinance will stay in committee for continued revisions. Committee chair Heather Lende says the changes currently on the table are likely to among the recommendations the committee makes to the assembly. Those include exemptions for fuel and refrigerant storage. The borough is unlikely to be exempt from the ordinance.
The next GAS Committee meeting is scheduled for July 2.