Legislature(2009 - 2010)BUTROVICH 205

04/15/2009 03:30 PM RESOURCES

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Confirmation Hearing: TELECONFERENCED
Teresa Sager-Albaugh - Board of Game
Moved CSSJR 22(RES) Out of Committee
Heard & Held
Scheduled But Not Heard
Heard & Held
Moved CSHJR 25(ENE) AM Out of Committee
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
          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                                                               
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.                                                                      

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