Fee Review Guidance (18 AAC 15.190)
The information presented here is of a general nature and is intended to help you become familiar with and navigate DEC's administrative appeals processes. This document does not contain the specific policies and procedures which govern appeals. The governing regulations are in Chapter 15, Administrative Procedures, of Title 18 of the Alaska Administrative Code (18 AAC 15).
A fee review is a review by a DEC division director (or their designee) of a decision made by staff to charge a fee or a decision about the amount of a fee. It is intended to be a relatively quick, simple and informal way to appeal a staff fee decision. You do not have to pay the disputed fee until the fee review is completed and DEC may not charge you interest on the fee while the director is considering your request.
DEC often charges fees for services such as developing and monitoring compliance with permits and reviewing and approving plans. Fees are not the same as fines or penalties arising from enforcement actions. Fines are not subject to the fee review process, but can often be appealed using either the informal review or adjudicatory hearing processes, and when those administrative appeal processes have been completed by appealing to the courts.
In conducting a fee review, the director looks at whether staff followed the regulations that prescribe how a fee is to be calculated. The director may modify the fee if they disagree with how their staff applied the regulations. Once the director issues a fee review decision, that decision is the final agency decision and any further appeal must be to the courts.
The following is intended to introduce and guide you through the fee review process.
Fee decisions subject to the fee review process
As a general rule, fees charged by the following DEC programs can be appealed using the fee review process:
- Food Service
- Seafood Processing and Inspection
- Air Quality Control
- Solid Waste Management
- Wastewater Disposal
- Drinking Water
- Alaska Pollutant Discharge Elimination System
The types of fees charged by these programs include those listed below. (Shown in parentheses after each type of fee is the citation for the regulation that authorizes and establishes the amount of the fee or prescribes how it is to be calculated.)
Food service fees, including:
- Annual permit fees for food establishments (18 AAC 31.050(a))
- Temporary food service permit fees (18 AAC 31.050(b))
- Plan review fees for food establishments (18 AAC 31.050(c))
- Annual permit fees for reindeer facilities (18 AAC 32.610(a))
- Plan review fees for reindeer facilities (18 AAC 32.610(c))
- Fees for additional ante- and post-mortem reindeer inspection services
(18 AAC 32.610(d))
Seafood processing and inspection fees, including:
- Annual seafood permit fees (18 AAC 34.900(a))
- Fees for approval and re-approval of shellfish growing areas (18 AAC 34.900(c))
- Application fees for the seafood processing recognition program (18 AAC 34.900(d))
- Fees based on hourly rates for seafood re-inspection and other services (18 AAC 34.900(e))
- Fees for providing seafood certificates of origin (18 AAC 34.900(e)(3)(E))
- Fees for waivers of provisions of the seafood processing and inspection regulations
(18 AAC 34.900(e)(3)(F))
- Seafood laboratory fees (18 AAC 34.905)
Air quality control fees, including:
- Air permit administration fees (18 AAC 50.400 and .403)
- Air emission fees (18 AAC 50.410)
Solid waste management fees, including:
- Solid waste landfill fees (18 AAC 60.700(a)(Tables I-1 through I-4))
- Solid waste general permit fees (18 AAC 60.700(a)(Table I-5)
- Solid waste fees based on direct department or negotiated costs (18 AAC 60.700(f)
Wastewater disposal fees, including:
- On-site wastewater disposal homeowner training and certified installer fees
(18 AAC 72.440(a))
- Wastewater inspection fees (18 AAC 72.945)
- Wastewater and stormwater plan review fees (18 AAC 72.955)
- Wastewater general permit authorization fees (18 AAC 72.956)
- Individual wastewater permit fees (18 AAC 72.957)
- Wastewater fees based on direct department or negotiated costs (18 AAC 72.959)
Drinking water fees, including:
- Fees for public drinking water system inspections, sanitary surveys, waivers, variances, exemptions, and other determinations and services (18 AAC 80.1910(b -- except (7) and (8)), (e) and (g))
- Sanitary survey inspector approval and renewal fees (18 AAC 80.1910(b)(7) and (8))
- Fees for review and approval of plans for public water systems (18 AAC 80.1910(c) and (d))
- Fees for laboratory analysis of drinking water (18 AAC 80.1910(f))
Alaska Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (APDES) fees, including:
- General and individual APDES permit fees (18 AAC 83.905(a) and (b))
- Hourly and negotiated APDES fees (18 AAC 83.905(c))
If in doubt as to whether a particular fee can be appealed through the fee review process, you can ask DEC staff or the director, or you may just want to submit a request for review and let the agency respond.
Who can request a fee review?
Applicants for the permits or approvals listed in the previous section may request a fee review.
You are not required to be represented by an attorney. The informal nature of the process allows you to represent yourself if you choose not to have an attorney represent you. Of course, you are welcome to have an attorney represent you if that is your preference.
When and where to request a fee review
A request for a fee review must be made within 30 days after you receive the fee invoice. Requests must be in writing, but can be made by mail, email or facsimile. For the sake of ease and expediency, if you have access to email you may want to consider making your request that way, but any of the three ways will work.
Requests for review are made to the director of the DEC division that issued the fee decision.
- Names and areas of responsibility of the DEC divisions, director names, mailing addresses, email addresses, and facsimile numbers
What to include in a request for a fee review
As mentioned, a request for a fee review can simply be a letter, mailed or faxed, or an email to the director of the DEC division that issued the decision. The regulation just requires
"…a written discussion that sets out the reasons why the fee or computation is disputed and how it should be adjusted." (18 AAC 15.190(b))
You will want to include your name and contact information of course. We also recommend that you try to be clear and concise in describing exactly why the fee does not comply with regulations (or is erroneous for other reasons), what you believe the fee should be, and how you calculated the adjusted fee. You should include copies of any documents or data that support your case or that you think would help the director in their review.
The fee review process and timeframes
Within 30 days of receiving your request, the director (or designee) must issue a written decision on the disputed invoice. The director may contact you for additional information.
The director's decision will be in writing, typically in the form of a letter. If your request indicates that you have email or facsimile capability, an advance copy of the letter is usually provided to you that way with the official letter following in the mail.
Appealing a fee review decision by a director
When a director makes a decision upon concluding a fee review, the director's decision is the final agency decision and you cannot request a formal adjudicatory hearing on the decision. Appeals of fee review decisions may be appealed to the superior court following judicial appeal procedures.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Should I be concerned about DEC staff reacting negatively to my appealing their decision?
- No. Appeals of staff decisions are routine and staff understand that their decisions are subject to review, modification or reversal by DEC managers and appeal processes.
- Am I required to have an attorney?
- No. The informal nature of the process is intended to allow a person to represent themselves if they choose not to have an attorney represent them. Of course, you are welcome to have an attorney represent you if you would like.
- Will there be a hearing?
- No. The process relies on information provided by you and DEC staff. No hearings are held for purposes of providing information or arguing the case.
- Will I have to travel?
- No. The entire process can be accomplished by mail, email, facsimile or over the phone.
- Where can I get additional information?
- You can call or email the director of the division that issued the decision.
- Alternatively, you can contact Gary Mendivil, Hearing Liaison, with the DEC commissioner's office by emailing email@example.com or calling Mr. Mendivil at (907) 465-5065.