BEN BOETTGER

HEA briefs members on hot topics

Issues discussed in Homer Electric Association’s annual members meeting, held May 4 at Kenai Central High School, include what the electric cooperative is doing to reduce the electric bills of its members, a proposal to withdraw from regulation by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska — a state utilities oversight agency — and a possible settlement of HEA’s dispute with six other utilities over the cost of transmitting electricity over HEA’s powerlines.

 Power costs and gas supply

Warm winters fuel outbreak of aphids

Last spring, homeowners near Halibut Cove and Homer began to see needles on their spruces turning yellow and brown.

Naturalists from the Alaska Division of Forestry, the Kenai Wildlife Refuge, and the University of Alaska’s Cooperative Extension Service examined the trees on trips in June 2015 and late March of this year. 

Alaska LNG Project still moves forward

Local representatives of the Alaska Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Project said that although their leaders have spoken of possible delays, employees of the project remain set on smaller steps before them.

These steps include creating final drafts of impact reports and completing property acquisitions for the prospective pipeline’s liquefaction facility and export terminal in Nikiski.

HEA scheduled to raise rates beginning Feb. 1

Rates paid by Homer Electric Association users will rise by 3.25 percent beginning Feb. 1. The Alaska Regulatory Commission, which permits rates charged by public utilities, allowed the rate raise on Friday.

HEA Manager of Regulatory Affairs John Draves said the temporary increase will be in effect until HEA can negotiate other ways of recovering costs — either with the permanent 1.8 percent rate increase that HEA is currently proposing to the Regulatory Commission, or by charging other utilities that transmit power over HEA lines.

Kenai may get unlikely million to upgrade its wastewater plant

Despite the scanty state spending expected in 2016, this year’s state capital budget may provide funding for long-deferred upgrades to Kenai’s wastewater treatment plant.

Built in 1981, Kenai’s wastewater plant discharges into Cook Inlet from an outlet in the Kenai beach mudflats. The ammonia in this discharge exceeds the plant’s August 2015 permit from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, which allows Kenai five years to bring the plant to the ammonia emission limits.

HEA prices dropped at beginning of 2016

Homer Electric Association decreased its rates starting Jan. 1, while an unresolved proposal that may raise them remains suspended until July.

The cost of power adjustment price that HEA members pay for a kilowatt-hour of electricity was about 7 cents. On Jan. 1 it dropped to about 6 cents. For a member using 550 kilowatt hours a month (the average, according to an HEA press release), the decrease will save around $6.88 each month.

Kenai considers marijuana setbacks

KENAI — Setbacks for commercial marijuana establishments may become more tightly regulated in Kenai than they are at the state level.

Alaska’s regulations for commercial marijuana require establishments to be be 500 feet away from schools, youth centers, churches and correctional facilities. In Kenai, a proposal from the Planning and Zoning Commission would add setback requirements for seven additional facility types and would create a system of measuring setbacks. The Kenai City Council may reduce this list when its members debate and vote on the proposal.

CINGSA to sell newly discovered gas

On Friday, the Regulatory Commission of Alaska ruled that Cook Inlet Natural Gas Storage Alaska can sell 2 billion cubic feet of gas unexpectedly discovered in its underground storage facility, and that the profit will be divided between CINGSA and the four utility companies that use it for storage.

Permit opens up markets for Alaska LNG

The pipeline proposed by the Alaska LNG project would bring North Slope natural gas to liquefaction and export facilities being considered for construction in Nikiski.

Where the liquefied natural gas, LNG, could go from Nikiski is still to be determined, but its potential destinations increased on Friday when the Alaska LNG project was given a permit by the U.S. Department of Energy to export a maximum of 20 million metric tons of LNG per year to countries lacking a free-trade agreement with the United States.

Kenai refuge’s new visitor center opens

SOLDOTNA — Kenai National Wildlife Refuge staff said that their new visitor center, which began construction in 2013 and opened to the public for the first time on Friday, is not only larger than their previous center but more interactive.

Matt Connor, the refuge’s chief of visitor services, said that the old visitor center was “just kind of a little cubby-hole area with some exhibits around the corner. It was 30 years old. The exhibits didn’t really tell quite the same story.”

Alaska LNG talks to area businesses

Although few specifics of the Alaska Liquid Natural Gas Project’s contracting procedures have been worked out, Alaska LNG contracting engineer Dan DeVries felt confident telling a diverse gathering of Kenai Peninsula contractors, service-providers and business owners that “for this project, we (Alaska LNG) will need basically everything.”

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