On Earth Day, Alaska Senate passes green-billing legislation, revised hunting license standards

By: James Brooks, Alaska Beacon

Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, leaves the Senate chambers on Wednesday, May 17, 2023. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)

The Alaska Senate voted unanimously on Monday to make it easier for groups of Alaskans to invest in wind and solar power projects, sending the idea to the state House for further work.

Senate Bill 152, from Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, allows Alaskans to jointly invest in a renewable power project, and if the project produces more electricity than its subscribers use, those subscribers can share the benefit when the excess power is sold to a local utility.

Current electric regulations allow so-called “net metering” to be applied only to a single electric meter; SB 152 changes the rules to allow the benefits to be applied to multiple meters, such as in a homeowners or condo association.

Chugach Electric has already proposed one community solar project in Anchorage, and Fairbanks’ Golden Valley Electric Association is planning another.

Hunting license eligibility may match PFD standards

The Senate also voted, by a 15-5 margin, to change the eligibility standards for Alaska-resident hunting, fishing and trapping licenses. 

Senate Bill 171, by Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski, would tie those standards to eligibility for the annual Permanent Fund dividend. 

That means recipients would have to live in the state for at least 180 days per year, with some special exemptions.

Currently, resident licenses are available to people who live in the state for at least one year, keep a home in the state, plan to return to the state and don’t claim residency somewhere else.

Law enforcement officials testified earlier this year that the current standards are so loose that it’s difficult to prosecute someone for improper use of a resident license.

The change is supported by a spectrum of organizations, local governments and individuals, but it drew opposition from some legislators, including Sen. Mike Shower, R-Wasilla, who said it could be unfair to snowbird residents who spend winters in Florida and other warm-weather locations.

Shower said the proposal might violate the Alaska Constitution’s provisions guaranteeing equal access to fish and game.

SB 171 advances to the House for further consideration.

Also Monday

  • The Senate voted 18-2 to change the mission statement of the state’s industrial development bank to include “workforce housing,” defined as containing five or more dwelling units. Senate Bill 239 encourages the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority to address the state’s housing shortage, said its sponsor, Sen. Forrest Dunbar, D-Anchorage.
  • Senators unanimously agreed to extend the work of the Alaska Commission on Aging through 2032. Senate Bill 189, from Sen. Scott Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks, extends the commission’s mandate for eight years. 
  • Members of the Senate unanimously adopted a resolution calling on Congress to fix problems with the automated weather stations used to supply pilots with weather data. Many of the stations have repeatedly broken down, contributing to flight delays.
  • In the House, legislators voted 38-0 to declare April 21-27 as Crime Victims’ Rights Week.