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Alaska Delegation Successful in Push to Lower Costs Associated with Diesel-Generator Emissions for Small Alaska Communities

WASHINGTON, DC – Today the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final rule for emissions standards for stationary internal combustion engines used in power generation.  In response to calls from Alaska utilities and a united Alaska Congressional delegation, the final rule specifically exempts diesel generation in Alaska not connected to the Railbelt energy grid. 

In recognition of the challenges faced by Alaska utilities, the rule specifically references the “high energy costs, extreme weather conditions, lengthy travel times, inaccessibility, and very low population density.” Exempted utilities will be able to comply with management measures designed not to increase the already high costs of electricity in Southeast Alaska’s urban centers and rural Alaska at large.

Earlier drafts had a more narrow definition of rural Alaska that exempted many rural communities.  It would have exposed the Copper Valley and Valdez residents, who are reliant on smaller diesel generators, as well as the larger Southeast Alaska communities of Sitka, Ketchikan and Juneau, which use diesel generation as a backup to hydropower plants, to higher costs. 

The letter, signed by all three members of Alaska’s Congressional delegation, notes:

“Utilities throughout most of rural Alaska share a reliance on stationary diesel generation for base-load or backup generation. In addition, those utilities are confronted by great distances and high transportation costs for diesel fuel, goods and services; long, cold winters with low levels of light; extremely low customer density and a small number of ratepayers who can share additional costs; and a lack of connection to a major electric grid.

“... Additionally, rural generation seldom constitutes a significant source of hazardous air pollutants given the small populations served by widely geographically dispersed utility generation facilities.”

The Alaska Congressional Delegation wrote EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson about the proposed rule in December 2011.  Formally, it is called the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Reciprocating Internal Combustion Engines (NESHAP); New Source Performance Standards for Stationary Internal Combustion Engines, and is referred to as RICE (Reciprocating Internal Combustion Engines) NESHAP.

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