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Groups blocking Healy coal plant permit need to hear from us

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Posted: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 12:05 am

Community Perspective

Would you be willing to pay a much higher electric bill so an environmentalist can sleep better at night?

You already are.

Your bill is at least 10 percent higher thanks to the Sierra Club and its fellow travelers.

Golden Valley Electric Association has been trying to purchase and restart the Healy Clean Coal Plant for five years. We got the green light from state regulators. But then a number of environmental groups objected to our permit — essentially freezing the project. We’ve been stuck ever since.

In the meantime, world oil prices have skyrocketed.

Fairbanks is one of the most oil-dependent cities in the nation. We use it to heat our homes, to power our vehicles and to generate our electricity.

When oil prices shoot for the stratosphere, our cost of living goes along for the ride. High oil prices not only mean bigger heating and electric bills, but they also drive up the cost of groceries, building materials and services of every kind. Expensive oil fills the state treasury, but drains the bank accounts of Alaskans.

At GVEA, we have a three-step plan to kick our oil habit — and lower your electric bill. We are introducing wind power in 2012. We’re engineering a project to truck natural gas from the North Slope. But the biggest savings would come from restarting that little coal plant sitting idle in Healy.

Here’s the sad truth: If the environmental groups hadn’t used their political clout to block our permit in 2010, Healy Clean Coal would be saving you money today. Our members would have saved about $27 million in 2011. This year’s savings would have topped $30 million. We’d all be enjoying lower bills.

Why are the environmental groups holding up our permit? Ask them.

Here are the names, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses of the four entities that have objected to our permit: Northern Alaska Environmental Center, 452-5021, info@northern.org; Sierra Club, 276-4080, chair@alaska.sierraclub.org; National Parks Conservation Association, 800-NAT-PARK, npca@npca.org; and Denali Citizens Council, 683-3396, mail@denalicitizens.org.

I’d encourage you to give them a call or send them an email. Ask them: Will restarting HCCP really increase the temperature of the globe? Can they justify the higher cost we’re paying for electricity by keeping HCCP offline?

They can’t. HCCP will increase Alaska’s carbon footprint by less than one percent. And our entire state produces less than two-tenths-of-one-percent of U.S. carbon emissions. HCCP’s contribution to global warming will be so insignificant as to be undetectable.

Let’s think globally. HCCP is 50 megawatts. Meanwhile, China brings 95 megawatts of new, coal-fired power online each day, 365 days a year. Every 24 hours, the Chinese add the equivalent of two HCCPs to their power grid.

Environmentalists fail to mention that when we turn HCCP on, we turn off 50 megawatts of oil-fired generation. We’re simply trading an expensive fossil fuel for a cheaper one. The net increase of carbon emissions will be imperceptible.

Any honest scientist or environmentalist must admit that restarting HCCP will have no measurable impact on the temperature of the globe. But it could have a big impact when it comes to lowering your electric bill.

Environmental groups can’t control China, so they’re controlling what they can — you and me. They’re locking up our energy resources and forcing us all to pay more so they can pat themselves on the back and say they’ve done their part for the planet.

During the member comment period at GVEA’s recent annual meeting, one person after another told us how high energy prices are crushing our families and businesses. Several members encouraged GVEA to break through the logjam and get HCCP fired up. We can’t do this without community support.

Therefore, GVEA is participating in a rally for HCCP at 2 p.m. Wednesday outside the headquarters of the Northern Alaska Environmental Center, 830 College Road. Please join us. Make your voice heard, as we demand that these environmental groups drop their challenge to HCCP.

Even if you can’t join us at the rally, please take five minutes to call or email one of the groups listed above and tell them to drop their objections to HCCP. You have the power — use it.

Bill Nordmark of Healy has served on the GVEA board since 1995 and presently serves as chairman.

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