Solar Panel is installed for renewable energy

The Golden Valley Electric Association has paused plans to solicit proposals for renewable energy projects. This 2012 photo demonstrates solar panel installation. In the top photo, an aerial view of the ConocoPhillips' Willow exploration project is shown during the 2018 winter season.

ConocoPhillips affirms its commitment to the Willow oil project. Golden Valley Energy Association’s request for renewable energy proposals loses power.

And the Defense Department warns civilian employees to get the Covid shot or face the consequences. There’s more news in “Five Things to Know.”

ConocoPhillips ‘committed’ to Willow Project

ConocoPhillips remains committed to the Willow oil project, a company spokeswoman told the News-Miner this week, after an Oct. 19 deadline passed to appeal a court order invalidating the environmental review.

“ConocoPhillips is not appealing the court’s earlier decision, because we believe the best path forward is to engage directly with the relevant agencies to address the matters described in the decision,” said Rebecca A. Boys, media and advertising director at ConocoPhillips Alaska.

“We, and many important stakeholders, remain committed to Willow as the next significant North Slope project,” Boys said in an email to the News-Miner.

“The merits of the project represent a strong example of environmentally responsible, low cost of supply development that offers extensive benefit to the public and to the residents of the North Slope,” Boys said.

The project’s value includes union and non-union Alaska jobs as well as government revenue, she said.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy said Friday that ConocoPhillips’ continued interest in the Willow oil project “helps all of us.”

“It’s nonsensical to think you can stop carbon right now today. We do not have the renewable systems in place,” Dunleavy said. “A transition makes perfect sense. What we want to do in Alaska is produce more oil and gas and take a portion of that and start to transition Alaska to renewables.”

The Willow oil project is stalled for now. The Justice Department and ConocoPhillips had a deadline this week to appeal Alaska District Court Judge Sharon Gleason’s decision to invalidate federal approval of the Willow Master Plan environmental impact statement. But they did not take action.

The federal Bureau of Land Management was sued by environmental groups and Alaska Native tribes after it approved the environmental review for the oil development.

While the plaintiffs said they are pleased by the outcome, they pledged to keep fighting the project.

“We know that ConocoPhillips will continue to pursue this harmful extraction project on Iñupiat lands,” said Siqiñiq Maupin, executive director of the Sovereign Iñupiat for a Living Arctic. “We will, alongside our climate and human rights allies everywhere, continue to protect the lands and waters our ancestors protected for us.”

Lights out on renewable energy project

Golden Valley Energy Association (GVEA) has decided not to move ahead with a request for proposals for a renewable energy project, the utility announced this week.

A little under 10% of GVEA’s power generation comes from renewables, according to 2020 figures the utility provided.

In January 2021, GVEA solicited proposals for a project that would supply 15-30 megawatts of renewable energy.

“The intent of the [request for information] was to solicit proposals for renewable energy projects that would advance GVEA’s carbon reduction goal without adverse long-term effects on either rates or reliability,” the utility said.

GVEA received eight proposals for renewable power projects. Some of the projects were paired with battery storage.

They included a pumped hydro project, two wind power projects coupled with energy storage, two solar/energy storage projects, a solar project, a project with options for wind and solar power with energy storage, and a coal gasification and biomass project.

But the utility opted not to advance any of the projects.

“After thorough analysis it was determined that the projects as proposed would not provide enough of a reduction in carbon to justify the economic investment,” Meadow P. Bailey, company spokeswoman, told the News-Miner.

Bailey said that GVEA may issue a request for proposals in the future. In addition, the process gives GVEA “the option to continue evaluating proposed projects for up to two years.”

The utility also released a prepared statement in announcing its decision. The utility concluded that “small-scale renewable projects are not economic on GVEA’s system and do not substantially reduce GVEA’s emissions,” the statement said.

The utility instead will partner with other utilities and independent power producers to facilitate the development and integration of large renewable projects along the Railbelt corridor, coupled with expanded battery storage capacity, the utility said.

“GVEA is committed to adding renewables to our system, but only without adverse long-term effects on either rates or reliability — this means that projects can’t result in an increase in rates, or a decrease in reliability for members,” Bailey said.

Will Gov. Dunleavy choose a new running mate?

Gov. Mike Dunleavy acknowledged Friday there is talk and curiosity about whether he will tap a new running mate as he seeks a second term.

“Governors are allowed to select the lieutenant governor candidate. There’s speculation I am looking for somebody. Kevin Meyer and I have conversations about this like every other day,” said Dunleavy referring to the lieutenant governor.

“Kevin has done a pretty good job as lieutenant governor,” Dunleavy added. “But I get calls constantly asking, ‘Hey, have you thought about this person for lieutenant governor?’ So, we’ll see.’’

“Maybe Kevin doesn’t want to do it here in three or four months,” Dunleavy said. “It hasn’t been the easiest couple years for some of us.”

Covid shot or consequences for Defense employees

The Department of Defense is warning civilian employees they will be fired if they do not comply with the federal government’s coronavirus vaccine requirement, according to the Pentagon.

The order also applies to defense contractors and civilian employees who work remotely.

Employees not fully vaccinated after Nov. 22 will be terminated, the Pentagon said in an announcement this week. The order does not affect civilian employees with an exemption or pending exemption.

New employees must be fully vaccinated by their start date or by Nov. 22, “whichever is later,” according to the memo.

The Pentagon considers a person fully vaccinated two weeks after the last shot in the series. That means the final day to receive the last injection is Nov. 8.

Moderna and Pfizer each require two shots spaced apart. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is given in a single dose.

Employees who refuse to get vaccinated will face “progressive enforcement actions” prior to termination. The actions are to encourage workers to get the vaccine and to ensure they understand the consequences of refusal.

Russian jets in Alaska airspace

The Alaska military reported that five Russian jets encroached Alaska airspace this week.

The Alaskan North American Aerospace Defense Region identified, tracked and monitored the Russian aircraft Thursday evening entering the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone.

The zone is around the shores of the U.S. and Canada. Both countries monitor the area through the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)

The jets flew too close to Alaska, without entering U.S. or Canadian airspace.

“We remain vigilant in our execution of aerospace warning and aerospace control for North America in order to deter strategic competitors from threatening the shared interest of the U.S., our allies and partners,” said Air Force Lt. Gen David Krumm, commander, of the Alaskan NORAD Region, Alaskan Command and 11th Air Force.

According to a public statement issued by Joint Elmendorf Richardson, NORAD uses satellites, ground-based radars, airborne radar and fighter aircraft “to track and identify aircraft and inform the appropriate response.”

“We remain ready to employ a number of response options in defense of North America and Arctic sovereignty,” according to the statement.

Contact Linda F. Hersey at 907-459-7575 or at lhersey@newsminer.com. Follow her at twitter.com/FDNMpolitics.

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