U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski is pushing for federal assistance to Southeast communities affected by drought. Ketchikan, Petersburg and Wrangell have been burning expensive diesel as dwindling lake levels keep hydro electric plants offline.
Ketchikan has been burning diesel the longest — since the normally wet month of September. The ongoing diesel power generation is causing the city to butt up against federal air quality guidelines.
At an Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Wednesday, Murkowski said Title V permits limit the number of hours operators can run their generators. These permits are issued by the Environmental Protection Agency in accordance with the Clean Air Act.
“Many of these plants in Southeast Alaska normally only use a fraction of these permitted operating hours in a year, but because of what we’ve seen in this drought and our water reservoir levels so low we’re seeing increased diesel generation use,” Murkowski said.
Murkowski requested air quality regulators issue waivers for Southeast power providers. EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler said his agency hopes to tackle this concern across the state.
“We do plan to take action shortly to amend the regulations to remove the problematic Tier 4 requirements that apply for remote areas of Alaska,” Wheeler said.
Tier 4 requirements curb emissions such as nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.
The EPA says it could relax air pollution standards as early as June for all of remote Alaska.