AEL&P not the hero

Posted: Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Murray Walsh's cartoonesque depiction, in his June 3 My Turn, of the mighty Alaska Electric Light & Power Co. coming to the aid of the "gentle people" of Juneau vs. the evil Albert Petrarca smacks of obsequiousness and of expert lobbying.

Reality is often rude when the facts don't support prevailing conceptions.

Here are some facts he seems to have skewed. Avalanche monitoring, as promised in the AEL&P promotional brochures, was not in place. Diverters were recommended to protect the towers by an Alberta engineer. Insurance or a rainy day fund is standard corporate practice to defray the cost of just such an emergency.

Apparently, Walsh just hasn't kept pace with the recent flow of information concerning AEL&P's responsibility to its consumers. As to the intent of city code 42.15.070, it is meant to prosecute those who willfully steal public services by installing illegal lines or skipping out on past due bills. It is not applicable to a group of concerned citizens protesting an exorbitant hike in utility rates due to faulty management. Additionally, our state regulatory commission is at fault for allowing the rate hike instead of holding AEL&P fiscally accountable.

Objections to AEL&P as the provider of power date back to 1998 and have been periodically expressed by various council members. An example is a statement by Kurt Dzinich, a member of the city's Energy Advisory Committee and a former Snettisham engineer referring to the take-over of Snettisham by AEL&P as reported by the Juneau Empire in March of 1998.

"That's a sweetheart deal, a steal, a super deal, anyway you want to term it, for AEL&P," Dzinich said. "I think it is not such a good deal for the ratepayers of Juneau."

Collectively the citizens of Juneau have conserved energy and paid higher local prices for goods and services so that AEL&P's shareholders can see a profit. Stanford University, a high profile shareholder has maintained a deafening silence.

It is only prudent to question why we are paying for corporate mismanagement and will continue to do so unless something changes. Most Alaskan public utilities are municipal because they are better able to absorb insurance costs and posses more resources to meet emergency situations.

The last month has cost the consumers roughly $1.5 million, using the Empire's daily reports of kilowatt usage. Perhaps the demonizing black hat Walsh placed on Pertarca's head should be passed to AEL&P.

Judith Larochelle


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