Legislature(2009 - 2010)BUTROVICH 205
04/15/2009 03:30 PM RESOURCES
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HJR 25-HYDROELECTRIC POWER; RENEWABLE ENERGY CHAIR MCGUIRE announced the consideration of HJR 25. [CSHJR 25(ENE) AM was before the committee.] 4:26:43 PM KACI SCHROEDER-HOTCH, staff to Representative Bill Thomas, said HJR 25 asks Congress to include hydroelectric power in the definition of renewable power. 4:27:26 PM HAP SYMMONDS, Chair, Cordova Electric Coop, and representing Cordova - Ocean Beauty Seafoods, said the coop has been trying to get the federal government to classify hydroelectric facilities as renewable for a number of years. The National Rural Coop Association has classified hydro as a renewable resource and will lobby congressional delegations of all 50 states. It has been impossible to get federal funding for hydro unless it was by specific earmark and was virtually excluded from the stimulus package. There should be no exceptions in this resolution. Every hydro project is cited for a specific watershed and each must be reviewed individually for the environmental impact if there is any. Hydro projects are not cookie-cutter projects like a coal or nuclear plant. JODI MITCHELL, general manager and chief executive officer, Inside Passage Electric Cooperative (IPEC), said IPEC provides the Southeast Alaska villages of Angoon Hoonah, Kake, Klukwan and the Chilkat Valley with diesel generation. Every year IPEC seeks federal funding for projects to reduce the cost of power for member owners. Recently Senator Murkowski's energy staff said they had been unsuccessful in amending the stimulus bill with respect to renewable energy for the benefit of Alaskans. Had those amendments passed, Alaska may have been eligible for millions of dollars for hydroelectric infrastructure. IPEC rates last year peaked at more than 67 cents per kilowatt power. "Obviously, federal stimulus funds could have meant long-term clean and lower cost power for IPEC customers." This affects the entire state. 4:30:38 PM SENATOR WAGONER asked if the congressional delegation ran into problems getting hydro approved as renewable because there wasn't any interest or because hydro dams are not renewable. MS. MITCHELL said she isn't sure, but there have been changes in federal law that affects hydro classification. She believes it relates to the types of dams that have been constructed and the affect on fish habitat. In Alaska precautions are taken in permitting projects to avoid those problems. SENATOR WAGONER said he is not sure there is an answer. CHAIR MCGUIRE said hydroelectric power generation is either renewable or it's not. There may be political reasons for it not passing, but that still doesn't clarify how it is not renewable energy. 4:32:46 PM TIM MCCLEOD, President and General Manager, Alaska Electric Light and Power (AEL&P), Juneau, said AEL&P has been providing hydroelectric power to Juneau since 1893. Some of the hydro projects have been operating for over 100 years, fueled solely by rain and snow, and are expected to continue to function for the next century. Conditions in Alaska are favorable for hydro projects. The environmental impacts are low compared to any other resource. Hydro is excluded from the federal definition of renewable energy for the purpose of discouraging further development of new hydro resources. There may be locations throughout the country where hydro should be discouraged, but those concerns should be addressed individually during the permitting process rather than the broad scope approach discouraging hydro development nationwide. It's clear that no consideration was given to Alaska when the federal government chose to exclude hydro from the benefits that are given to other renewable resources. Hydro projects in Alaska are some of the cleanest and most environmentally friendly energy resources in the world. In Southeast Alaska there are no alternative resources with a lower environmental impact than hydro. In many Alaska cases the only reasonable alternative to hydro is diesel. Alaskans are currently deprived of the funding opportunities for other renewable resources. The current status may jeopardize Alaska's ability to comply with future renewable resource portfolios, increasing costs to Alaska residents. AEL&P supports HJR 25. CHAIR MCGUIRE said it would be a cruel irony for Alaska to pay penalties for not meeting a portfolio standard even though it had renewable energy in the form of hydro. 4:35:35 PM THOMAS BOLEN, Manager, Haines Borough, said the Haines Borough and Skagway live on hydropower. At times hydropower is insufficient so there is need for additional hydropower development. Hydro resources are available but limitations on federal funding hamper efforts to develop that hydropower. He noted that hydropower has a bad reputation to some in the Lower 48 because it impedes river travel, disrupts fish migration, and floods productive land. But the federal government needs to understand that many hydro resources in Alaska are alpine lakes. Usable lands are not flooded, fish migration is not impacted and stream navigability is not interrupted. The fact that the federal government does not recognize hydropower as a renewable energy source curtails the ability to get funding to take advantage of this free resource. The Haines Borough endorses sending a resolution to the federal government to make a special exemption for alpine lake hydropower development. KATHLEEN MENKE, representing herself, Haines, said she has equivalent to a master's degree in fisheries. She has followed fishery and watershed projects for the last 30 years. Currently she is in the uncomfortable position of contradicting some in the Haines Borough but she feels there is need to give a heads up to legislators about the controversy over local hydro proposals. There are high alpine lakes in the upper Lynn Canal that could have serious negative impacts to Alaska's wild fish stocks. Her concern with HJR 25 is the lack of recognition of wild fish stocks in Alaska. She proposed amendments to ensure that there are few or no environmental impacts to wild fish stocks. Clarify that hydroelectric projects are appropriate in some, not all, areas. She pointed out that it is dangerous to say that hydropower projects should be developed without restriction. Development should occur when it can be shown that negative impacts to wild stocks will not occur. She cited a proposal in the Chilkoot watershed that is strongly opposed by many in the community. There is a better alternative. She cautioned the committee to exercise caution with the language in the resolution. She strongly supports hydropower; it's an excellent choice in numerous locations. However, HJR 25 does not acknowledge that it's not appropriate in all locations. 4:44:05 PM CHAIR MCGUIRE closed public testimony. At-ease from 4:44 p.m. to 4:51 p.m. CHAIR MCGUIRE noted that the congressional delegation is looking for this resolution. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI moved to report HJR 25 from committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal note(s). There being no objection, CSHJR 25(ENE) AM moved from committee.