Happy Friday Alaska! It looks like it will be a beautiful weekend here in Anchorage but before you get out and enjoy it catch up on the conservation news making headlines across the state:
Happy Friday Alaska! It looks like it will be a beautiful weekend here in Anchorage but before you get out and enjoy it catch up on the conservation news making headlines across the state:
Preparing for the Future
Since 1997, the Alliance has helped the conservation community speak with one voice when working with Alaskan decision makers. We’ve brought groups together with the understanding that, when we work collectively, we get more done. We’ve gotten our strength through partnerships, and we’ve won victories because of your help.
This past week, we’ve set the stage to take that collaborative work to the next level.
For the last three years the Alliance has been a part of the transformers project, working with partner groups to improve how we connect with each other and connect with Alaskans. To change how we operate, the Alliance entered into formal merger negotiations with the Alaska Center for the Environment, a member group since the beginning and a grassroots force to be reckoned with. A year of merger negotiations led to the construction of a business plan that increases our investment in grassroots, communications, leadership development, and collaborative conservation work. I’m pleased to announce that two weeks ago, both the ACE and Alliance boards unanimously approved a merger to implement this business plan , and Alliance member groups approved the package on Monday, October 1. The Alaska Youth for Environmental Action program is expected to transfer to this new organization during the winter of 2012.
Now the fun begins.
The business plan that many of you helped to create provides direction and vision for our next steps, but continued collaboration requires you. We need to strengthen our partnerships, and work with you to ensure that business plan implementation truly builds our collective power. We’ll be reaching out in the weeks ahead to ensure that our November member group meeting provides more value to all of our organizational partners. We plan to maintain what we’ve done well, while using this chance to redefine what our partnerships mean, and improve what we have to offer you. Let’s continue to think strategically together, while dreaming bigger about what we can accomplish. Let’s get more people to the table. Let’s connect with more Alaskans, and ensure that member group status builds each organization’s individual capacity to produce conservation wins!
If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, don’t hesitate to contact me at 907-258-6175 or by email at email@example.com. Thanks for all the work you do for conservation in Alaska, and collectively let’s take our work to the next level!
It’s that time of the year again…Back-to-School time! Last year, as the kids were heading back to school, we told you about energy efficiency, renewable energy and other ‘green’ programs in school districts across Alaska. Today, I wanted to pass on the details of a few other great ‘green’ school programs benefitting students here in Alaska.
The Fish for Kids program, run by Peter Pan Seafoods in Dillingham, was created six years ago to allow fishermen to donate fresh fish (salmon) to be processed by Peter Pan and then sent to local schools. The company strives to bring in 12,000 lbs of fish each year which ends up in area school cafeterias, the Head Start program and even the local senior center. The salmon is healthier than the previously served processed fish product and the savings to the school district for one year was $14,500! The success of the program in Dillingham is catching the attention of people in places like Sitka and Kodiak. Hopefully we will see the expansion of this program to fishing communities across Alaska.
UAF’s new Sustainable Village will be open for residents this fall. The
village consists of 4 buildings that will hold 16 students. The ‘green’ features of the buildings include super-insulation, integrated heating and ventilation systems, solar hydronic systems, green roofs, balcony gardens, low flow showers, and biomass stoves. One innovative feature is the Living Machine, a system that uses natural processes such as bacteria, plants, snail, clams and other organisms to treat wastewater so it can be used in flush toilets and garden irrigation. The project relies heavily on the student-residents, with the students documenting successes and flaws. It promotes community among the residents since they are responsible for deciding what other aspects of sustainability they want to focus on. Possibilities include recycling, car-pooling, and low impact transportation. Jack Hebert, CEO of the Cold Climate Housing Research Center, dreamed up the idea hoping to develop a model for rural housing that promotes energy efficiency and sustainability. To learn more about this exciting project click here or here.
Does your local school implement other environmentally friendly programs? If so, let us know by commenting or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
By Cliff Eames, Board Member, Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition
Is Silence Going Extinct? The good news is that this disturbing question was asked in a recent feature article of the same name in the online edition of the influential New York Times Magazine (called
Whisper of the Wild in the print edition) . Concerns about maintaining and restoring natural sounds and natural quiet for the benefit of both people and wildlife are going mainstream. The Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition is delighted. Natural sound, author Kim Tingley says, is an “intangible, invisible and–increasingly–endangered
resource.” Bryan Pijanowski, an ecologist at Purdue University, notes that “the engineless hour is all but extinct.”
This article should be of special interest to Alaskans since it focuses on Davyd Betchkal’s soundscape research in Denali National Park and Preserve. But at the same time it explores the increasing worldwide evidence of the damaging effects on wildlife of artificial human- generated noise. The “human din…is imperiling habitat–in Denali as well as wilderness areas around the world–as surely as a bulldozer or oil spill.” Increasing interest in these issues has led to “a new field of science: soundscape ecology.”
To learn more about the the effects on wildlife of humankind’s din–and concerns about noise dating back as long ago as 3000 B.C., in the epic of Gilgamesh–click on http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/magazine/is-silence-going-extinct.html?pagewanted=all
Happy Friday Alaska! Here are some news articles from this week that you shouldn’t miss!
**The Alaska Conservation Blog is excited to announce that we will be featuring guest bloggers in our weekly Energy Update! Please note that the opinions and views expressed by guest bloggers are not the opinions and views of Alaska Conservation Alliance.**
When I was invited to be the first guest blogger on Alaska Conservation Blog’s weekly Energy Update, I jumped at the chance. I decided to focus on the last 40 years of Alaska Center for the Environment’s (ACE) work in the energy arena in honor of our upcoming 40th Anniversary Celebration. When I sat down to go through the past 40 years of newsletters to get a feel for how our energy program has evolved, I couldn’t help but wonder if I had bitten off more than I could chew. But in the hours of research that followed, I was captivated by “watching” Alaska’s growth (starting a mere 15 years out from statehood) through the eyes of ACE conservationists. First volunteers then paid staff faithfully documented the rise and fall of proposed strip mines and oil and gas exploration wells, the building of Seward Highway and the Trans Alaska pipeline, the opening of Alyeska resort, the Exxon Valdez disaster, and our continuing dedication to renewable energy in this state.
What struck me most as I read through these newsletters was the spirit of self-reliance and innovativeness that marked Alaska’s and ACE’s first forays into the realm of renewable energy. Fueled by the 1970’s energy crisis, interest in renewable energy soared, and we jumped headfirst into Alaska’s push for renewable energy. ACE newsletters from this era report with excitement the many renewable possibilities in store for Alaskans.
In 1977, the state was conducting a wind feasibility study and staff members were helping develop energy efficiency attractions at the state fair. In 1979, ACE started its Energy Update portion of its newsletter. Staff wrote about national and state programs, the ins and outs of biomass, how to insulate cold-weather homes, and connected home owners interested in installing solar energy with the necessary organizations and programs, just to name a few. In June 1979, we reported that Alaska had received $151,000 in small grants from the Department of Energy (DOE) Appropriate Technology Small Grants Office, the most out of any state, for individuals to develop regionally appropriate renewable energy projects. Projects included the building of an underground solar home, turning crab shells into bio-gas, and a myriad of solar and thermal heated greenhouses.
ACE itself received a grant from the DOE to put together an alternative energy resource library. At this same time, we spearheaded an effort to establish a directory of existing energy conservation and alternative energy applications in Alaska. We also helped organize the first Alternative Energy Conference that was held at UAA. This conference was a resounding success with over 750 participants. In fact, so many attendees participated in policy caucuses that they helped formulate policy directions for 1980’s legislative session calling for greater self-reliance in energy and food. Alaskans for Alternative Energy, a state-wide lobbying group, was also formed at this conference. In 1980, the DOE Appropriate Technology Small Grants Office again reported that Alaska led the country in requests for grant applications. Of these thousands of applications, Alaska received 112 grants, second only to Washington state. Projects again included many cutting-edge greenhouse designs and innovative heating initiatives.
The late ‘80s and the ‘90s saw renewable energy fade a little to the background as concerns about toxic waste and the Exxon Valdez aftermath took precedent. However, ACE once again jumped to the front of the renewable energy discussion in the early years of the 2000’s as climate change fueled a surge of interest in renewable energy. This time, with over 30 years of lobbying and grassroots experience, we helped pass multiple Senate and House bills establishing renewable energy grants, funds, and efficiency measures. With the upcoming Regulatory Commission of Alaska (RCA) hearings for Fire Island Wind beginning this week (9/27 – 9/29) and Energy Awareness Month in October, it is evident that the same energy concerns Alaska residents had in the 1970s are still around today. What is also clear is that Alaskans still have the same self-reliant streak and innovative attitude that ACE helped foster in its first years.
ACE is excited and proud to have worked with so many wonderful residents for the past 40 years and is looking forward to 40 more years of educating and activating Alaskans. Please join us in celebrating 40 years of protecting Alaska’s wild places and resources by stopping by our open house 40th Anniversary Celebration Thursday, September 29 from 5-8 at the our office, 807 G Street, Suite 100.
Alaska is the world’s next frontier in the fight against coal, mercury pollution and climate change. Current estimates show that Alaska has up to 5.5 trillion tons of coal reserves, representing up to 1/8 of the world’s coal, which until recently has remained largely un-mined. However, rising international demand for coal could change that quickly. The U.S., on average relies on coal for about 44% of its electricity generation. Alaska, ever defiant of ‘average’, only uses coal for about 10% of our generation. We currently have only one active coal mine, Usibelli Coal Mine, but there are SIX coal-fired plants just between Healy and Fairbanks. At least 8 new coal mining projects are currently in various stages of permitting throughout Alaska. The sheer size of the coal resources puts Alaska at risk of becoming among the world’s top coal exporters and a major contributor to global climate change. In addition to the enormous consequences the consumption of these coal reserves would have on Alaska’s climate and the mercury that will be produced from consuming this coal, extracting coal on a significant scale would also put some of Alaska’s most precious natural resources at risk.
Before we move into the proposed projects themselves, a quick word about mercury pollution. While emerging science still has yet to paint a picture of the full effects of mercury on human health, the information so far is still pretty scary. Emerging science suggests that there is no ‘safe’ level of mercury exposure. It is already known that mercury is a potent neurotoxin that causes a variety of adverse health effects, an agent that mutates genetic material and disrupts fetal or embryonic development. Mercury is also a suspected carcinogen. For more information on the effects of mercury please click here.
Chuitna Coal Strip Mine- PacRim Coal, LLC is proposing a strip mine that would mine through 11 miles of productive salmon streams in the Chuitna River, 45 miles west of Anchorage. In addition to damaging a healthy wild Alaska salmon population, the proposed mine would also dump 7 million gallons a day of mine waste water and runoff daily into the Cook Inlet. The strip mine itself wouldn’t be the only development with this project either. The mine complex would also include a two mile long trestle into Cook Inlet, housing facilities, and coal crushing facilities. In the past, DNR has not permitted the removal of a salmon stream, this would be the first. DNR’s websites states that ‘at this time a complete permit application package for the Chuitna Coal Project has not been submitted’. A Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement is expected in late 2011 or early 2012. Opponents to the mine have asked the Governor and the Alaska DNR to declare the region and the river an unsuitable location for a mine due to the devastating impact the project will have on Alaska’s wild salmon resources. Cook Inlet Keeper and the Chuitna Citizens Coalition are leading the efforts to fight this project. For more info, check out www.chuitna.org.
Wishbone Hill- The site of this proposed mine is approximately 5 miles west of Sutton, AK and is surrounded by residential areas. Usibelli Coal Mining Company holds many of the necessary permits to mine in the region and recently began exploratory drilling at the site with the goal of shipping coal to Asian markets as early as 2012. The local impacts associated with the dust, traffic and blasting and threats from groundwater contamination are raising concerns in the region about the effects the mine will have on public health as well as on property values. Much of the information currently being used by Usibelli and the State is more than 25 years old and fails to consider the rapidly growing communities in the Matanuska Valley. The Mat-Valley Coalition is leading the efforts to oppose the remaining permits and force the State to use modern research in the permitting process. Additionally, the Chickaloon Village Traditional Council has appealed to the UN Independent Expert on the human right to water and sanitation to protect local residents from the impacts of the mine. For more information visit: www.matvalley.org.
Jonesville Mine- Black Range Minerals, an Australian company, purchased the Jonesville Coal Mine in Sutton, AK with the intention to sell its coal to South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and China. The coal mine was operational between 1920 and 1968 but is currently closed and under various stages of reclamation. Black Range purchased rights to the mine in 2008 and sought to extend the mining permit in 2010. DNR hosted an informal conference which attracted many residents. The chief complaint was for the health of the people in the residential areas surround the mine and transportation routes. For more info, check out the Castle Mountain Coalition.
In addition to Jonesville and Wishbone Hill in the Mat-Su Valley, the Mental Health Trust Authority is currently in the process of leasing a thousand acres of land in Chickaloon for coal exploration and development.
There are also several active coal mining proposals in the Arctic. One of the world’s largest mining companies, BHP Billiton, is proposing a project in the Western Arctic and several developers are looking at the Nanushuk coal prospects just north of Anaktuvuk Pass. These projects would have significant impacts on local caribou and other wildlife essential to the subsistence lifestyles of Arctic communities. The Nanushuk project has been met with stiff resistance from the Village of Anaktuvuk Pass and opposition in other communities throughout the region is growing. For more information on the Nanushuk prospects, click here.
With the rising costs of fuel, proposals to turn coal into liquids (for more information on this technology click here) to replace oil consumption in the U.S. are popping up. To replace only 10% of U.S. oil consumption with coal liquids, mining would need to increase by 42%. That is pretty substantial. Proposed sites for coal-to-liquid facilities include Healy, Beluga, Tyonek, and Fairbanks.
Seward Coal Loading Facility- This operational facility has been the target of complaints from residents of the Seward community since 1987 when it opened its doors. Residents claim that coal dust is released during loading at the facility and covers nearly everything in Seward; seeping into the harbor and bay and being inhaled by residents. A few conservation groups have filed suit, alleging that the facility is violating the Clean Water Act for discharging coal into the Resurrection Bay. The Alaska Railroad Corporation has been unwilling to contain the dust even with residents’ ongoing complaints. The Alaska Department of Environmental Quality has recently begun to examine the possibility of drafting fugitive dust standards that could potentially help clean up the Seward facility as well as other sources of fugitive dust throughout the state. For more information on coal dust, please click here.
Healy Coal Plant #2- This now defunct 50-megawatt coal plant was never fully functional but Golden Valley Electric Association (GVEA), the Fairbanks area utility is proposing to reopen the facility, is moving forward despite concerns, both fiscal and environmental. After a few test runs in the late 90’s, the Healy #2 plan was shut down due to operational problems and legal disputes. Healy #2 is located less than five miles from Denali National Park. Also known as the so called ‘Healy Clean Coal Plant’, this experimental project was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the state of AK, AIDEA, Usibelli and GVEA to burn ‘waste coal’ as part of the Clean Coal Technology Program. In 2009, GVEA purchased the plant with the intent of reopening it by 2011. In September of 2010, the state revoked the draft air quality permit it had previously issued the plant and it is unclear when the permitting process will be re-started. A study commissioned by the Alaska Conservation Alliance, ‘Fairbanks First Fuel Analysis’ showed that an equivalent investment in energy efficiency upgrades would make the need for Healy #2 virtually non-existent. If the one hundred million dollars necessary to reopen Healy #2 were instead put towards energy efficiency measures, Fairbanks could reduce its demand by as much as 96 MW, meeting all of Fairbanks’ real needs using half the electricity supplied in 2009.