- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - The Alaska House on Wednesday narrowly passed legislation that would levy a surcharge on refined fuels distributed in the state to help fund an account used for the cleanup of contaminated sites, non-emergency spill response and other activities.

HB 158, from Rep. Cathy Munoz would levy a 1-cent-per-gallon surcharge on refined fuel sold, transferred or used in Alaska, with exemptions.

Current funding for the account includes a 4-cent surcharge on each taxable barrel of oil produced in Alaska and fines, settlements or penalties recovered from those financially responsible for spills. But the Department of Environmental Conservation says declining oil production is affecting the account, which faces an $800,000 shortfall this year and a potentially multimillion-dollar shortfall next year.

Munoz, R-Juneau, said about 1,500 of the 2,000 spills reported last year involved refined fuels, and she said there are legitimate arguments for fairly apportioning cleanup and response costs.

Critics called it a new tax on Alaskans and questioned the efficiency of the program as currently operated.

The vote was 21-19. Similar legislation is pending in the Senate.

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