Category Archives: Legislation and Policy

The Battle of the Bulbs

From The New York Times, Thursday, September 23, 2010:

Three House Republicans, Joe Barton and Michael Burgess of Texas and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, have introduced the Better Use of Light Bulbs Act, which would repeal the section of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 that sets minimum energy efficiency standards for light bulbs and would effectively phase out most ordinary incandescents.

While the new standards won’t take effect until 2012, the authors argue that they are having a negative impact. Specifically, they say the standards have led lighting companies to close several incandescent light bulb factories in the United States and send jobs overseas — particularly to China, where most compact fluorescent light bulbs, which are more efficient than incandescents, are manufactured.

Compact fluorescents are likely to be the cheapest bulbs on store shelves after retailers stop selling ordinary incandescents.

“The unanticipated consequences of the ’07 act — Washington-mandated layoffs in the middle of a desperate recession — is one of the many examples of what happens when politicians and activists think they know better than consumers and workers,” Mr. Barton, the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a statement. “Washington is making too many decisions that are better left to people who work for their own paychecks and earn their own living.”

Continue reading: The Battle of the Bulbs

Alaska agency pulls clean coal permit for Healy

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Wednesday, September 22, 2010:

The state’s environmental agency has delayed a request to the federal government for permits for the Healy Clean Coal project.

The decision came Tuesday, the next-to-last day of federal regulators’ 45-day review of the plan. Golden Valley Electric Association needs the permit to restart and operate the dormant experimental coal plant.

The state will resubmit the proposal, which would cover operations of the 50-megawatt coal plant, within a couple of months, state Division of Air Quality manager Jim Baumgartner wrote to federal regulators.

The state Division of Air Quality withdrew the proposed permit Tuesday from the Environmental Protection Agency’s review list. EPA managers had suggested last winter they might call for a rigorous redo of permit reviews, given the plant’s lack of action during the past 10 years. That, given the tightening of emissions standards since the plant’s construction, could doom the project.

How Marketplace Economics Can Help Build a Greener World

From Yale Environment 360, Thursday, August 19, 2010:

With climate legislation dead in Congress and the fizzled hopes for a breakthrough in Copenhagen fading into distant memory, the time seems ripe for fresh strategies — especially ones that do not depend on government action.

Here’s a modest proposal: radical transparency, the laying bare of a product’s ecological impacts for all to see.

Economic theory applied to ecological metrics offers a novel way to ameliorate our collective assault on the global systems that sustain life. There are two fundamental economic principles that, if applied well, might just accelerate the trend toward a more sustainable planet: marketplace transparency about the ecological impacts of consumer goods and their supply chains, and lowering the cost of that information to zero.

Continue reading: How Marketplace Economics Can Help Build a Greener World

Parnell signals support for large-scale hydro option

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Saturday, September 11, 2010:

Gov. Sean Parnell says that if Alaska is to meet the ambitious goal of getting half of its electricity from renewable sources some day, it will have to make a major commitment to big hydroelectric project, such as the Susitna project.

On a visit to Fairbanks today with running mate Mead Treadwell, Parnell said that he is putting a group together to see how a major hydro project could be financed. He said he wants to send a “strong signal” of his support of hydro power as a long-range option.

He also is looking for answers on ways to reduce the cost.

The Legislature and the governor approved $10 million earlier this year to update studies on Susitna and the proposed Chakachamna project.

The state now has an official policy that it will be getting 50 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2025, according to a law approved by the Legislature and governor earlier this year.

It may be impossible to reach that target in 15 years. It will be impossible unless decisions are made soon to get something underway.

Alaska getting $700,000 for energy efficiency

From The Associated Press, Friday, September 10, 2010:

The federal government is giving Alaska $700,000 to take steps to improve energy efficiency in the state by 2020.

The U.S. Department of Energy funding is intended to go toward efforts such as expanding current energy efficiency programs and outreach and creating necessary policy to lead to a 15-percent improvement in efficiency over the next decade.

The department says this is part of nearly $30 million going to 12 states and territories.

State works with villages to keep them warm

From Alaska Dispatch, Tuesday, September 7, 2010:

A state program designed to ensure that rural Alaska communities have an adequate supply of home-heating fuel is headed into its second successful year, the state reported in a press release.

The Fuel Watch program is an initiative of Gov. Sean Parnell that was implemented by the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development through its Division of Community and Regional Affairs.

Fuel Watch came about as a proactive approach to preventing the kind of seasonal hardship that fuel shortages caused in many rural communities in the winter and early spring of 2009.

To date, DCRA staff have made hundreds of phone calls to communities around the state to verify that fuel supplies are in order for the upcoming winter. In the program’s first year, DCRA staff made more than 1,500 phone calls and assisted 200 communities prior to the onset of winter. Alaska villages saw a significantly reduced number of fuel shortages than were experienced a year earlier.

“Fuel Watch is an excellent example of the proactive and supportive relationship our department strives to develop with communities throughout Alaska. Working to prevent another crisis situation is a much better use of state resources than responding to an actual crisis,” said Susan Bell, commissioner of the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development. “Alaskans will be better prepared this winter because of the dedication of Division of Community and Regional Affairs staff.”

DCRA officials are also working with fuel delivery companies and rural communities to identify where assistance may be needed. Communities with limited financial resources are being encouraged to apply for financing through state loan programs.

“Ensuring that rural families stay warm in the winter is part of our division’s mission to promote healthy and safe communities,” said DCRA Director Tara Jollie. “It is not too early to start thinking about the coming winter. When we take steps to avoid an emergency, it is a win-win situation for everyone involved.”

Finding energy at the ballot box

From The Tundra Drums, Friday, August 20, 2010:

If Alaskans aren’t at a crossroads politically, we’re drawing close. Most all candidates running for statewide offices this year have given due time to talk about the state’s energy future, since we’ve been living off of our energy past for so long and change is coming. A dwindling flow of oil down the pipeline makes it impossible to ignore. It’s the way the state pays for much of what it does, so it impacts nearly everyone. Two of the five questions posed to candidates by Alaska Newspapers Inc. deal directly with energy and how we acquire it.

We also asked them about other issues important to rural Alaskans: subsistence, fisheries, jobs. Every candidate running for the U.S. House, U.S. Senate, governor’s office and lieutenant governor’s office was sent the same questions. Below are answers from those who responded.

Continue reading: Finding energy at the ballot box

Energy Funds Went Unspent, U.S. Auditor Says

From The New York Times, Friday, August 13, 2010:

The recession is lingering, and so is the unspent stimulus money that was meant to help end it.

The latest example is the $3.2 billion that Congress voted in February 2009 as part of an economic stimulus package to simultaneously provide jobs and improve energy efficiency through block grants to states and cities.

Only about 8.4 percent of the money had been spent by the beginning of this month, according to an audit released on Friday by the inspector general of the Energy Department, and it has produced or saved only about 2,300 jobs as of the second quarter of this year.

The program was to provide money for the purchase of better lighting or heating and cooling equipment for buildings like city halls and schools. But it is off to the same slow start as a bigger program that was initiated at the same time to weatherize the homes of low-income people around the country. An audit of that program in February, also by the  inspector general, found that only $368.2 million of $4.73 billion, or less than 8 percent, had been spent.

Continue reading: Energy Funds Went Unspent, U.S. Auditor Says

Know your home rebates



The “Ask a Builder” series is dedicated to answering some of the many questions Fairbanks residents have about building, energy and the many other parts of home life.

Q: Many people are fixing their old home and getting a rebate from the state. Is there still rebate money available for building a new home?

The statesponsored Energy Rebate Program for new construction is still active, although continuous longterm funding is uncertain. Any homeowner who builds a home that meets the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC) 5Star Plus energy standards is eligible for a $7,500 rebate, however there are some important details that determine who qualifies and a specific process that must be followed.

The program operates from a statewide waiting list on a firstcome, firstserved basis. So the sooner you sign up, the better your chances are for benefiting from the program. The first step is to get on the waiting list. Locally, the staff of CCHRC’s Portal on Retrofits Training and Loans (PORTAL) can guide you every step of the way.

Call 455HEAT (4-328) or contact the AK Rebate Call Center tollfree at1-877AKREBATE (1-877-257-3-228). Once your name reaches the top of the list, AHFC sends out two forms: “5 Star Plus New Construction Energy Rebate Encumbrance Request” and the “5 Star Plus New Construction Energy Rebate Form.” As an ownerbuilder, when you submit the completed forms, you must also include a copy of an energy rating taken from the building plans that validates that the home will meet 5 Star Plus standards, which can be found on the AHFC website: www. ahfc. state.

ak. us. Once AHFC receives and approves the forms, $7,500 is set aside for one year during which the house must be completed.

There are several criteria to meet to be eligible for the program.

Only the original owner qualifies for the rebate, and the home must serve as the primary residence.

If the home is purchased from a builder, it cannot be more than one year old at the time of the first sale. Ownerbuilders can qualify too, however the home cannot be occupied for more than one year from the date of completion.

To qualify if you are an ownerbuilder , you will have to submit the right forms to the state once the home has been completed. These forms include the “Building Energy Efficiency Standard Certification (BEES),” which certifies that the home was built to meet the 5 star Plus thermal and ventilation standards. The form can be signed by a certified home inspector , engineer , energy rater , architect, or the builder if he/ she is approved to certify and has met the current BEES training and testing requirements.

A “Summary of Building Inspection” form must also be submitted, which validates that the home was built in compliance with local building codes. This form must be signed by a statecertified building inspector who has conducted all the inspections during the construction process, starting with the building’s footings. For this reason, it is important to begin the rebate process and hire an inspector before breaking ground on the home. Finally , the finished home must also have an energy audit.

These three forms must be completed, signed by the appropriate authorities, and submitted to AHFC with the reimbursement form. Although this process may sound complicated, the new home construction rebate is a great opportunity for an ownerbuilder or new homebuyer to offset a significant portion of the construction costs, and ultimately enjoy the long term financial and environmental benefits of building an energy efficient home.

Alaska HomeWise articles promote home awareness for the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC). If you have a question, email us at can also call the CCHRC at (9-07) 457-3-454.

E.P.A. Cracks Down on Cement Pollution

From The New York Times, Tuesday, August 10, 2010:

Congress focuses on whether the Environmental Protection Agency should go where no federal regulators have gone before and regulate greenhouse gases. But the agency did something more prosaic on Monday, albeit something it has not done effectively for the last 15 years or so: it put more than 100 cement kilns on notice that they will have to spend almost $1 billion annually to clean up the pollution they put into the atmosphere.

That’s the agency’s estimate. A statement by the Portland Cement Association, a trade group, put the cost at “several billion dollars.”

The E.P.A. estimates that the new rules will eliminate 92 percent of the mercury and fine-particulate emissions from cement kilns (more than 10 percent of the national total). The rule will also save 960 to 2,500 lives annually starting in 2013, not to mention avert hundreds of cases of bronchitis and 1,500 heart attacks, the agency said.

Continue reading: E.P.A. Cracks Down on Cement Pollution