Palin: State needs energy projects

Renewable resources will keep money in Alaska, says governor

Posted: Friday, January 30, 2009

Gov. Sarah Palin spoke to the Alaska Municipal League Thursday in Juneau, giving a well-received message about the need for more transportation and energy projects in the state.

Brian Wallace /Juneau Empire
Brian Wallace /Juneau Empire

Palin, a former mayor herself, has a legislative agenda focusing on those issues, closely mirroring the agenda of many cities and boroughs. Today she will head for Washington, D.C., where she'll work with the state's delegation on getting the most from the $815 billion federal stimulus package.

Moving to renewable resources will enable dollars now being spent on expansive energy, especially on diesel in villages, be spent in local economies, she said.

Despite what Palin called a "crash" in the price of oil, down nearly $100 a barrel from last summer's prices, she said she was maintaining her support for new energy and transportation projects.

That may put Palin in conflict with some legislators who want to scale those back.

She also endorsed the state's Power Cost Equalization Program, which won funding increases last year when fuel prices were rising, but when the state was flush with cash as well. Palin said she wants to continue with that.

"We need to ensure that this critical safety net remains in place for those who need it," she said.

The state's long-term plan is to develop its own energy sources, including renewables and traditional fuels such as natural gas, she said. Her energy plan, just recently released, calls for developing many of those sources.

"The question now is which projects are going to get built and how are we going to finance them," she said.

The energy plan is a tool to help develop those resources, with the Alaska Energy Authority staff available to assist communities.

"The Alaska Energy Authority will be there for you," Palin told local government leaders.

That plan will also include strong conservation efforts, she said, using Juneau's response to two avalanches as an example of what could be done.

"Juneau has been able to set a new standard in conservation," she said.

The city conserved nearly one-third of its usual energy use last April following a slide that downed five transmission towers running from the Snettisham hydro project, and was forced to cut back again earlier this month when another tower went down.

The state needs to develop its resources, and will resist federal government programs that restrict those development opportunities, Palin said.

The goal, she said, is "to create more jobs, instead of more government.

At the same time, she said the state would be conservative in its spending, and touted the actions she's taken so far.

"We've already implemented a hiring freeze," she said, proposing an operating budget for 2010 that is 7 percent less than this year's.

"You are going to see an actual reduction there," she said.

With the high oil prices there were huge revenues for the state, which helped Alaska fund a big capital budget.

Many of those projects are ready to go, and will help the state get through the recession, Palin said.

"It will hit the streets and grow the economy this year," she said.

Palin has long warned that Alaska's congressional delegation will no longer be able to provide the kind of funding that it did when former Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young were in positions of power.

"We can't keep relying on the federal government pouring dollars into Alaska," she said. "That's just reality, that's just the changes politically."

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 586-4816 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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