Trump relaxes EPA emission regulations on generators in rural Alaska

Power plant in Adak, Alaska (Photo from Alaska Dept. of Commerce)
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The White House Press Office says President Trump signed into law a rule to exempt rural Alaska from emissions requirements for diesel generators.

The bill, "Alaska Remote Generator Reliability and Protection Act," rolls back some Obama-era regulations on diesel generators.

But according to Dave Messier, the rural energy coordinator for Tanana Chiefs Conference, the new rules could actually decrease emissions, as the previous requirements made purchasing newer generators cost-prohibitive.

"So the real result of this law that was just signed is rural communities will be able to install cleaner burning, more fuel efficient diesel engines that don’t increase the cost to rural rate payers and reduce emissions in village powerplants," Messier wrote to KTUU.

That's because the previous law required newly-installed diesel generators to have a Diesel Particulate Filter that could increase the cost of a new generator by over 50% while making them less reliable, something the marine industry has already discovered. They have already got an exemption to the rule.

"Similar to boats, if rural Alaskan communities have generators that go down clinics, water plants and schools all freeze up, runway lights don’t work and human life and safety is just as significant a factor," wrote Messier.

Messier gave an example of the village of Nikolai, which had to pay $4,000 in 2017 just to fly in a technicians who could read the error codes when the engine failed, an operation that took just 30 minutes. Then they had to pay for the repairs on top of that.

The legislation was introduced by U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Alaska Congressman Don Young (R-AK) and co-sponsored by Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

Both Sen. Sullivan and Congressman Young released statements after the signing.

“Prior to this bill being signed into law, rural communities in Alaska that were isolated from the power grid were shouldered with overly burdensome federal rules that jeopardized access to reliable and cost-effective electricity,” said Senator Sullivan. “I want to thank the President for signing this bill into law to help ensure that rural Alaskans can safely heat and power their homes in time for the quickly approaching winter season.”

“Passage of the Alaska Remote Generator Reliability and Protection Act was a great victory for our remote Alaskan communities, and I am very pleased to see it signed into law,” said Rep. Young in his statement.

A news release from Congressman Young’s office says nearly 100 percent of the electricity used in villages is supplied by diesel fuel and current regulations require certain emissions controls that may have "difficulties working in remote areas of Alaska."

The bill also would require EPA to report to Congress on options for the federal government to assist remote areas in Alaska with meeting their energy needs in an affordable and reliable manner. According to Messier of Tanana Chiefs Conference, the price of energy in Arctic Village is $1/kWh, five times more than what Anchorage pays.

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