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Energy Assistance, Rural Justice Top Governor's AFN Speech


October 21, 2005

Fairbanks, Alaska - Rural energy initiatives, including full funding for Power Cost Equalization, will top Governor Frank H. Murkowski's rural legislative agenda next session along with substance abuse and law enforcement measures and state assistance to communities, the governor said during his speech to the Alaska Federation of Natives.

The governor pledged to ask for a supplemental appropriation to fully fund PCE in this fiscal year in addition to including full funding in the next budget cycle. The governor will also seek $6.5 million for Small Municipality Energy Assistance and $9 million to supplement the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance program.

"Without a doubt, the number one concern in Rural Alaska right now is the high cost of energy," Murkowski said. "Full funding of the PCE program will mean about $200 more for each household. This, along with the other initiatives I am pursuing should provide some relief."

The governor also outlined several rural justice measures that the state will pursue in the coming year, including legislation to make bootlegging laws on property seizures more closely mirror those for drug dealers and a bill to ban written order sales of alcohol to residents of dry villages. The administration will also ask for congressional approval to give Alaska State Troopers postal inspector powers.

The administration will also seek a $4 million increase in state funding to return more Alaska children to in-state residential treatment and to provide for more mental health counselors in rural villages.

The administration will again seek legislative support for funding to directly assist communities, Murkowski said. Two years ago, the state Senate rejected a Percent of Market Value proposal that would have provided millions to communities.

"We're looking to introduce legislation that addresses how to fund local governments with a stable source of funding. I need your help in supporting a solution. We have to address it and we have to address it in this session of the legislature." Murkowski said.

In the area of rural energy, Murkowski said his administration has done extensive work in researching the short-term and long-term solutions to making energy costs on rural Alaska less of a barrier on economic development.

Recommendations from the Rural Energy Action Council, and the state's comprehensive AEA Rural Energy Plan created a year ago, provide good guidance for policymakers, Murkowski said.

The administration is investing in supporting energy efficiency and conservation projects. The University of Alaska Fairbanks Arctic Energy Technology Lab is working to standardize the design of heat recovery systems for diesel generators in village power houses. The Department of Health and Social Services has set aside $60,000 to advance technology proposals that aid rural Alaska.

"There are numerous stories of rural communities that were able to reduce energy costs by making small investments in new technology," Murkowski said.

The governor will seek approximately $3 million supplemental budget request when the Legislature returns this January that fully funds the FY06 PCE program. In addition, he will seek about $25 million for PCE in the FY07 budget and ask that the state match the five-year appropriation to the program found in the Energy Bill.

"Combined, this will increase the endowment by more than $100 million over the next decade, making PCE significantly closer to being self-supporting," Gov. Murkowski said.


Source of News:

Office of the Governor


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Ketchikan, Alaska