- Associated Press - Saturday, February 17, 2018

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - The Alaska Senate is considering a bill that would exempt utility companies from liability related to a pesticide used on most wooden power poles in the state.

The bill comes after federal wildlife officials alerted state authorities to “concerning levels” of the pesticide in areas on the Kenai Peninsula, KTOO Public Media in Juneau reported Thursday.

Most power poles are treated with the pesticide Pentachlorophenol. In 2015, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists found elevated levels of the pesticide in soils around power poles in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

The federal agency has not yet published its full findings on the matter.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation was alerted to the issue in January 2016, and state regulators notified an electricity utility that it could be held responsible for pesticide contamination around its poles.

The bill under consideration was sponsored by Republican Sen. Peter Micciche. He told the Senate Resources Committee that his bill aims to protect the electricity consumers by protecting the power companies.

“The reason for bringing this forward is the financial protection of nearly every Alaskan ratepayer who depends upon a utility to have electricity delivered to their home, business or facility,” Micciche said.

Under the bill, the liability for contamination would just shift from the utilities to the property owners, Democratic Sen. Bill Wielechowski said.

“I’m concerned that nobody’s going to be responsible,” Wielechowski said. “I mean, should the manufacturer possibly be responsible? Should the person who’s applying it be responsible? It would seem to me, there should be some responsibility somewhere other than the person who has absolutely no say about where these poles go.”

The Environmental Conservation Department said it’s studying the matter.


Information from: KTOO-FM, http://www.ktoo.org

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