We appreciate former Alaska Federation of Natives President Byron Mallott's statement that regional corporations need to take a leadership role in solving the energy crisis in rural Alaska.
The Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska recognizes the energy crisis now before our state and has taken the initiative to help our rural communities find ways to reduce the cost of energy and increase the availability of alternative fuels. Tribal leaders throughout Southeast Alaska, having responded to the cost concerns coming from rural communities, brought forth a resolution during our annual general assembly declaring an energy emergency and calling for an immediate response. The resolution adopted during the general assembly specifically called for the following actions:
Develop an energy policy at the community, state and federal levels.
Undertake programs to reduce costs, develop new energy sources through partnerships, joint ventures and alliances.
Support specific projects already identified: Swan to Tyee intertie, Reynolds Creek, Mahoney Lake, Thayer Creek and Dorothy Lake.
Implement a "now" strategy to improve conservation through improved weatherization.
Support "net metering" legislation.
Support a "one state, one rate" plan.
In response to the resolution, the central council has allocated tribal resources to create an Energy Department. Our new Energy Department promptly formed a working group of remarkable individuals with diverse skills and knowledge and has been working with communities, local IRA's and village corporations on ways to solve each community's energy issues.
One of the main topics at the Alaska Legislature's historical special session is short-term energy solutions with long-term commitments. From the beginning of this special session, the central council staff has been in attendance at the committee meetings and have provided substantive comments.
Although we were invited to participate in the round-table meeting held between state officials, Alaska Federation of Natives and several regional Native groups, we felt that our presence here in Juneau was more important with the legislative session being so close to wrapping up. The central council questions why the round-table discussion wasn't held in the capital during this legislative session.
AFN and the Energy Committee were here for a couple of days, but more time and attention needs to be invested for us to create viable solutions for our rural communities. Our commitment at the central council is long term as we have made this one of our top priorities. Economic development cannot occur until we have affordable energy in our rural communities and in the State.
Central Council asks for Mallott, AFN, and Sealaska to join us in the effort to secure affordable energy. It is our understanding that the Sealaska board of directors made a commitment during its annual meeting to help our villages. One thing we have learned in our working group is that the solution for our communities' energy crisis is a regional one, and as Southeast Alaska's largest private land owner, Sealaska needs to be a part of the solution.
Bill Martin is president of the Central Council Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska.