SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Alaska Residents Weigh in on Statewide Energy Plan
Many Disappointed by Loss of Federal Stimulus Funds for Energy Projects


May 31, 2009

Alaska State Senators visited Interior communities last week to see firsthand the devastating effects of high fuel and energy prices and to learn about alternative and renewable energy technologies that could help solve energy challenges in both rural and urban Alaska.

"It was an eye-opening experience to talk with the community leaders in Tanana and Ruby, and meet residents who can barely afford to stay in their villages because of the exorbitantly high price of fuel oil," said Senator Lesil McGuire (R-Anchorage), Co-Chair of the Senate Resources Committee and Chair of the Senate Energy Committee. "In Fairbanks, we learned about ongoing research important for developing practical alternatives that Alaskan villages can use to reduce energy costs and survive."

The seven Senators, including members of the Energy, Resources and Finance Committees, spent Tuesday in Fairbanks and Wednesday in Tanana and Ruby. In Fairbanks, they toured the innovative geothermal power plant at Chena Hot Springs and learned about groundbreaking research being done at the Cold Climate Housing Research Center and the Alaska Center for Energy and Power on the UAF campus.

jpg The fourth in a series of field hearings on a statewide energy plan was held by the House Special Committee on Energy in Bethel Friday

The fourth in a series of field hearings on a statewide energy plan was held by the House Special Committee on Energy in Bethel Friday. Pictured are community members attending the meeting.

In Tanana, the Senators toured a ravaged community that is still digging out and beginning to rebuild after recent Yukon River flooding destroyed dozens of homes and displaced almost half the village's population. Tanana residents are seeking energy efficiency upgrades for their school, the cornerstone of their community, which cost over $100K in energy costs last June alone.

In Ruby, the Senate Energy/Resources group saw an innovative prototype of an electrical generation system that has the potential to produce significant amounts of electricity from the flow of the river.

"The people of Tanana need state and federal help immediately; they have really come together as a community to clean up much of the flood damage, but they can not do it alone," said Senator Bill Wielechowski, Co-Chair of the Senate Resources Committee. "They impressed upon us the importance of the fact that they have only a few months of summer in which to repair and replace dozens of homes and other structures. They are seeking energy efficient repairs and replacements and can't wait for a slow bureaucracy."

Travelling with the group ot these communities were Senate President Gary Stevens (R-Kodiak), Senators Joe Thomas (D-Fairbanks), Joe Paskvan (D-Fairbanks), Hollis French (D-Anchorage), Tom Wagoner (R-Kenai), Lesil McGuire and Bill Wielechowski.

Hearings in these communities were reportedly well-attended and included thoughtful comments from community members and energy experts.

The fourth in a series of field hearings on a statewide energy plan was held by the House Special Committee on Energy in Bethel Friday. A total of ten state representatives took part in the hearing.

"Rural Alaskans are really enthusiastic that we're working on a statewide energy plan," said Energy Co-chair Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham. "Energy costs have skyrocketed across the state but in areas like Bethel, it's a choice between heat and other necessities. Rural Alaskans want a viable energy plan ­ not a handout."

"Our field hearings give rural residents the opportunity to participate directly in the legislative process," said Co-chair Charisse Millett, R-Anchorage. "140 dollar oil brought rural and urban Alaskans together to push for a statewide energy plan."

Several Bethel residents testified they were dismayed when Governor Sarah Palin vetoed $28.6 million in federal stimulus funds for weatherization and renewable energy projects. They encouraged the committee to work with the governor to accept the energy funds for the good of the entire state.

The House Special Committee on Energy will travel to Fairbanks next month and more communities throughout the year while it continues to take a leadership role in the legislature on building the framework for a statewide energy plan.

The committee also sponsored legislation to create a new state department of energy last session.

Speaker of the House Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, and House Finance Co-chair Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, attended the hearing. Representative Bob Herron, D-Bethel, also participated and welcomed his colleagues to his hometown.

Senators McGuire and Wielechowski hope to take members of the committees on several more trips before the legislature re-convenes in January, visiting Bristol Bay, the Aleutians, Southeast Alaska and other possible destinations. The Senate Resources Co-Chairs would like to talk to as many Alaskans as possible about the realities of trying to make it in rural Alaska in an era of unprecedented high fuel prices and help to identify energy solutions based on the diverse resources and needs found in communities throughout the state. McGuire said the Senate wants to begin work as soon as possible with the Governor and members of the House on formulating a State Energy Plan to guide the state for decades to come.


Source of News & Photograph:

House Special Committee on Energy


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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska