ALASKA VILLAGES GET EXEMPTION FROM EPA RULES
The U.S. House of Representatives this week unanimously passed legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan and Alaska Congressman Don Young, easing stringent Environmental Protection Agency emission regulations for generators in remote Alaska communities.
The legislation, heading to the president’s desk for his signature, paves the way for more affordable and reliable power for rural Alaska and may prevent a life-threatening crisis.
S. 163, the Alaska Remote Generator Reliability and Protection Act was cosponsored by U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski.
“Currently, rural communities in Alaska that are isolated from the power grid are subject to a federal regulation that just doesn’t work for them,” said Sullivan. “This bill changes that, and is a huge step forward in ensuring rural Alaskans have access to safe and reliable electricity without having to bear the burden of expensive costs or worry about whether the heat and lights will stay on. I urge the EPA to quickly implement these new standards so that rural Alaskans can power and heat their homes in the coming winter months.”
“New generators are very costly, and families shouldn’t be burdened by an arbitrary ban made by EPA bureaucrats four thousand miles away,” Young said. “Many Alaskans depend on diesel generators to heat their homes, run their appliances, and keep their lights on, and Washington D.C. shouldn’t be getting in the way of their everyday lives. I am proud to have worked with Senator Sullivan on this issue that affects so many rural families. I have been working on a legislative solution in the House for quite some time, and pleased to see this critical bill finally reach the finish line.”
In remote areas of Alaska, nearly 100 percent of the electricity used in villages is supplied by diesel fuel. Villages rely on diesel generators that are between 10 and 30 years old. These systems do not last forever and many small utilities are looking for ways they can purchase new generator sets to improve efficiency and reduce the maintenance costs of worn out engines. Under the current regulations, which set specific standards for diesel generators in “remote Alaska,” all new generator sets that are not connected to the federal highway system must install certain emissions controls on their new engines.
Credible reports indicate these emission control technologies are having difficulties working in remote areas of Alaska. If anything goes wrong with certain control devices, the generator shuts down. Only a factory-trained service technician with the proper codes can fix the problem.
In remote Alaska, those technicians are at least one to two days away and extremely expensive. It is not uncommon, especially in the fall and winter, for villages to be without flights due to weather or extreme cold for multiple days or weeks. If a failure in the powerhouse occurs during one of these times, the village could suffer significant damage to its infrastructure and potentially lead to the loss of life.
Congressman Young sponsored H.R. 422, companion legislation to S. 136.