4th Climate Change Report

Amazingly enough, the Trump Administration wasn’t able to stifle the 4th Climate Change report produced by a number of federal agencies because the report was mandated by law.

It follows on the 3rd report in 2014 to confirm what we should already know. Human actions are messing with the climate with dire consequences both short term and long term.

I guess extreme weather events, loss of environments, infrastructure damage isn’t yet convincing from the primarily Republican national leaders to accept responsibility to mitigate. We will be adapting at far greater cost. I’d wager (someone can check the numbers) that we spend more nationally on sports than on reducing our carbon output from primarily the burning of fossil fuels.

I say to the younger generations “I’m so sorry”.

Cannabis and Community

Fairbanks is undergoing some growing pains with the new commercial cannabis industry.

Obvious tax income is welcome. A relative handful have personal experience with odor from grows. Some are concerned for their kids. Some of this is fear of change.

The land use issue includes the long time problem of Fairbanks never really fully accepting planning and zoning.

I recall efforts to update the comprehensive land use plan in 1985. It took over a year for the Planning Commission on which I served to shepherd through to the Assembly for approval. It was the first time that the entirely of the FNSB was addressed.

Once the Comprehensive Plan was updated, we started on the zoning code – Title 18. That also took over a year. At that time, what is now known as General Use GU, was Unrestricted Use. this conflicted with the Alaska Statutes which required SOME restriction. The Planning Commission then proposed three, for which required a conditional use hearing. 1. Nuclear Power Plants 2. Petro-chemical Plants 3. Primarily storage of hazardous materials. When we referred it to the Assembly, the conservative wing dallied for several months. They then turned the entire re-write down, for this and other recommendations, particularly on public facing signage.

I took the Borough to Superior Court pro se, won by summary judgement (no trial) as during the legal filings, the Assembly gutted much of our work, then did pass Title 18. My wife and I enjoyed a lovely dinner at the Two Rivers Lodge from the legal fees reimbursement of $125.
Since that time, a few other uses requiring conditional uses for correctional institutions and most recently cannabis businesses. Think about the range of importance for adjacent landowner impacts for each on this list.

• Nuclear Power Plants
• Petrochemical Plants
• Hazardous Materials Storage
• Correctional Institutions
• Cannabis businesses

Much of the Fairbanks North Star Borough remains GU-1. It is taking a lot longer than I expected for residents and property owners to take the time and figure out what they want. And needs and expectations change, as I’ve observed during the 46 years I’ve lived in Fairbanks.
Sometimes the borough doesn’t make it easy. In the past handful of years, they appear to have embraced the Risk Averse philosophy, as exemplified by the increasing number of boards and commissions imposing a quasi-judicial hearing methodology on issues. I think there needs to be more balance with risk-aware instead. The many volunteers who serve on these boards aren’t typically legal or parliamentary experts, nor are most of the public who seek to testify. The current system stifles participation and actually creates risks of its own with continued process failures.
That being said, at least the substantial fee of $800 is waived for applying for a rezone from GU to some other appropriate zone. At which time, you and some of your neighbors will have a chance to weigh in.

I should have a conclusion to this, but really, this is just a bit of history and some musings that may be of interest to readers.

Tweet

I had considered buying Twitter and shutting down @realDTrump, but it’s been insanely (and worryingly) entertaining. Plus, I don’t want to spend down all my retirement.
Other than starting major wars thru bumbling incompetence and selecting a true Cabinet of Deplorables (not all, but thus far more than half), I’m concerned about the issue of Climate Change/Disruption.

Having people believe what is not true over what facts and science tell them is an interesting phenomenon. A recent article might explain one aspect of it, but it has been shown that trying to show through facts and science to those with strongly held faith-based opinions only makes them hang onto their opinions even more strongly.

Anyway, here’s the article. May common sense prevail. I’m not holding my breath on comity.

GVEA Annual meeting – all members invited

The annual GVEA (Golden Valley Electric Association) members meeting will take place at Hering Auditorium, Lathrop High School on May 5. Registration begins at 5 pm and the meeting will get started around 6:30 pm.

GVEA is a member owned cooperative. If you pay an electric bill to GVEA, you are a member and are cordially invited to see and hear about what your cooperative is up to and will be able to offer your own comments, questions and suggestions.

If you need an incentive besides this, 4 $250 and 4 $500 prizes as credits against your electric bill will be raffled off during the meeting. Those staying to the end of the meeting will also receive a high quality dimmable LED light bulb, one of the best ways to cut down your electric bill (one bulb at a time).

Hope to see you there!

$3 Billion Annual Budget Deficit

With falling oil prices a year ago, Alaska has developed a $3 billion annual budget Deficit. It’s pretty significant. One could lay off ALL state employees and we’d not scratch $1 billion.

The first session of the last Republican led coalition worked really hard and cut some very important services, but everything they cut was overtaken by further falling oil prices. They didn’t get far down the line of considering added revenues.

Fortunately, the governor has been working to inform Alaskans about this issue through his Building a Sustainable Future initiative and I suspect he hopes that, when we have a better understanding of the scope of the problem, we might accept some revenue enhancements or changes in our Permanent Fund dividend (NOT the purpose for which the Permanent Fund was created).

Last Wed., we heard from Alaska Commissioner of Revenue Randy Hoffbeck who laid out the scope for the 60 or people so present. He pointed everyone to a free spreadsheet you can download and play with to see how YOU might balance the budget.

Two former Alaska senators also offered their perspective.

It will be interesting to see what the Legislature comes up with this session. My guess is not much, other than reducing services – the austerity plan. It would be nice if they actually tried to work WITH the governor, but I think it will take getting some serious statesmen/women elected in 2016 to make real progress.

AIDEA purchase of FNG progress

Another piece of the puzzle came through today with the Regulatory Commission of Alaska postponing any action on Fairbanks Natural Gas’ request for a rate hike as the state agency AIDEA prepares to buy them. This is welcome news as FNG was asking for a 7% rate hike and can now expect a 14% decrease with the purchase, as returns will be 5.06% and deferred compared to a much higher rate of return being taken by FNG owners. Also, as a non-profit, corporate taxes will go down.

Here’s the RCA’s notice.

And here’s an explanation of the current state from the News-Miner.

Roundabouts at Steese and Chena Hot Springs Road?

Update Jan. 31, 2016

Over 200 people attended the DOT meeting Jan. 27, 2016, most offering less expensive suggestions that were discarded by DOT. You can read further reports of the meeting from news sources as well as the DOT Facebook page on the project. The official project page is http://dot.alaska.gov/nreg/steese-chsr/ Written comments (the only ones that count apparently) are being officially accepted to March 1, 2016 – email carl.heim@alaska.gov


Update Jan. 25, 2016

The cost of this project has swelled from $2.3 million to $4 million, with $650,000 apparently coming from state funding (but DOT probably has some slush funds from prior projects). A public meeting is planned at Weller School for Wed. Jan. 27, 2015 starting at 6:30 pm..


Originally posted July 28, 2016

The Alaska Dept. of Transportation is proposing to build two one-lane roundabouts at Steese and Chena Hot Springs Road in 2016, using $2.9 million of federal safety funds. They held a lightly attended informational session July 21 at Noel Wien Library. It seems that the word didn’t get out. It might have been effective to put a notice AT the intersection. Deadline for response is August 1. You can download the presentation at http://bit.ly/chsr-roundabout

Reading the presentation (rather sparse in numbers), we were told there were 600 rush hour cars 500 turning right (no stop required) and 100 turning left to head toward the Old Steese. Of 14 accidents from 2005-2009, there were 3 accidents from lefts off of the Steese and 6 from lefts onto the Steese. No fatalities, most with property damage only. The assertion is that the accidents have come from the lack of visibility due to the bridge underpass being higher that the approach from the Old Steese.

This project would reduce the traffic flow to one lane increasing the chance of conflict, cause all traffic to have to use more fuel to go around where there is a straight shot now, add to the challenges of maintenance of two close roundabouts and increase the chances of ice and visibility causing issues such as entering into the roundabout from the Old Steese due to an increase in grade of the western roundabout.

DOT’s option was either to build this project or do nothing. As one who has lived out there for decades, I think this project is overkill and would urge DOT to look at a few more efficient and effective safety improvements. Of little cost, let’s see if the accident goes down in the next few years.

    1. For increased visibility to the west, put a convex mirror under the bridge to help left turners from southbound exit view oncoming traffic.
    2. Have the eastbound traffic either going under the bridge or turning right onto the Steese Southbound on-ramp have the right of way vs those turning left onto that same ramp.
    3. Have that Southbound on-ramp be banked for those turning left to not slide into the snowbank in winter.
    4. Extend the left turn lane to Steese Southbound, allowing through traffic their own lane.

I have no problems with roundabouts in appropriate locations, however this proposed intersection isn’t one of them. It also seems a waste of taxpaper money. Contact DOT project manager carl.heim@alaska.gov or 451-5359.

EPA proposed rules for CO2 mitigation

So this week, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a method and a goal for reducing carbon emissions (CO2) from power plants by 30%. And it leaves it to each state to come up with their own method for doing so.

This shouldn’t be so hard once we put our efforts into it. And it’s not a conspiracy by the Obama Administration to destroy the economy. Give yourself a little credit. The U.S. CIA and other autocrats may have worked to disrupt economies so they could get power themselves, but Obama’s already the president and it’s pretty likely he’ll step down when his term runs out in Jan. 2017.

There are indeed those who don’t believe that climate disruption is happening or that man could possibly be responsible for it, but we take out insurance on smaller odds that our house will burn down, we’ll be in a car crash or that we’ll die sooner than later than it’s been asserted by 97% of climate scientists that we need to reduce our carbon emissions or risk even further costs for adapting to the changes that will occur. And it turns out that it won’t destroy the economy to use less energy, have cleaner energy, when the full cost of climate disruption is taken into account. What did the cleanup of Katrina or Sandy cost? In any case, the u.S. Supreme Court already ruled that the EPA has a mandate to treat CO2 as a pollutant.

Quoting from their website on the matter “The EPA Clean Power Plan works by setting state goals to reduce the “pollution-to-power ratio” of the covered fossil-fuel fired power plants in a given state. EPA projects that by 2030, when states meet these goals, the U.S. power sector will emit 30 percent less carbon pollution than it did in 2005. But 2005 – or any other year – is not used a “baseline” year for a fixed percentage of reductions. We are using that statistic only because people need to know how much pollution we’ll reduce by when and compared to what, so we’re just comparing where we will be in 2030 to where we were in 2005.”

So, keep your coal fired power plant but somewhere else in your state, there will be either conservation and efficiency measures or renewable energy that will reduce your CO2 to megawatt.

It’s not that hard, if we actually try to work toward the same goal.