House bill targets hazards of illegal drug labs

Some legislators worry about cost of proposed guidelines for lab cleanup

Posted: Monday, February 24, 2003

FAIRBANKS - A bill in the Legislature creating guidelines for cleanup of illegal drug labs passed its first committee Friday.

Rep. Jim Holm, a Fairbanks Republican, is sponsor of the bill aimed in part at methamphetamine manufacturers.

"We've had over 90 meth labs that have been addressed by the different departments throughout the state in the last few years, and it's a tremendous problem," Holm told the House Judiciary Committee. "We've had a lot of trouble in the Fairbanks area ... in the last couple of months we've had several that created real potential problems."

The bill was identical to one proposed last year by Rep. Gretchen Guess, an Anchorage Democrat, now a senator. Her bill passed the House but never came to a vote in the Senate.

Guess has reintroduced the bill on the Senate side.

Methamphetamine is an addictive stimulant also known as crank, crystal or speed. The volatility of the ingredients makes labs that produce it dangerous.

The bill requires law enforcement officers to post signs warning of the danger of entering a property that has been used as a drug lab. It creates guidelines for when such a property can be occupied, sold or leased and requires testing procedures and standards to see whether a property is safe.

Judiciary Committee members expressed reservations about the estimated $99,000 annual cost of the bill.

Rep. Tom Anderson, an Anchorage Republican, wondered whether there had been documented examples of health problems arising from former methamphetamine labs.

Holm said he was not aware of any and but said the bill is "pre-emptive."

He suggested alterations that a Department of Environmental Conservation representative said would cut the cost by more than half. One provision limits the amount of DEC involvement in cleanups. A property owner only would have to certify the property was clean rather than present evidence.

Committee members also heard concerns about who would pay for cleanups and inspections.

Holm said such particulars could be addressed later.

"I'm just more concerned that we protect the people rather than worry about who gets to pay the bill," he said.

Guess' bill has passed the Senate State Affairs Committee and is headed for the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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