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House Says Consider Economic Impacts of Injunctions (HB47/Feige)

Feige’s HB47 levels the playing field in state court proceedings on projects

Wednesday, March 12, 2014, Juneau, Alaska – The Alaska House of Representatives today passed Rep. Eric Feige’s bill to highlight that the courts should follow their own rule in making filers post bonds when requesting the courts to stop legally permitted industrial operations. 

House Bill 47 levels the playing field when injunctions or stays are considered by state judges. “The bill puts filers on notice,” Feige, R-Chickaloon, and the Co-Chair of the House Resources Committee, said. “Those who file suits should have financial consequences to contend with. Ultimately, as the law is written today, those who feel the most immediate impacts of these cases are workers and their families and that’s not right, because workers are laid off and the economic activity and benefits grind to a halt.”

Under current state law, the cost to bring a lawsuit against a legally permitted project is almost zero, as the risk is borne by the defendants. Injunctions cause delays to projects, shutting them down completely in most cases, at a significant cost to working Alaskans, businesses and the state treasury.

“We’re not limiting public access or involvement,” Feige said. “We’re protecting our respected process and looking to strengthen our economy and provide a fair level of protection to those pursuing projects.”

“The State already has a rigorous, deliberate, science-based permitting system with many opportunities for public participation, and we trust their process,” Feige said. “We also trust the courts to uphold the laws we pass. This bill brings fairness and equity to the process and will make those who look to stall or kill worthwhile, legally-permitted projects, think twice and pony up in order to make their case.”

HB 47 parallels the bar set out in Alaska Civil Rule 65(c), which states: “no restraining order or preliminary injunction shall issue except upon the giving of security by the applicant, in such sum as the court deems proper, for the payment of such costs and damages as may be incurred or suffered by any party who is found to have been wrongfully enjoined or restrained.” (Emphasis added)

Judges already have the ability to require security. In most cases they are not doing so. This bill works with the existing civil rule and requires that the party requesting the court to ask for a bond or security present evidence of the costs and damages incurred and that the court consider this as one of the relevant factors when it determines a bond/security amount; setting the amount of the bond remains with the courts.

The bill was clarified to make it clear that no such security is required of the state or a municipality.  Exception language was also added to avoid any unintended consequences with federal programs that the state has assumed primacy for, specifically Clean Air, Clean Water and Surface Coal. 

HB 47 now moves to the Alaska Senate for consideration.

 

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