Senate panel endorses Alaska park land swap for small hydro project

WASHINGTON 11/17/11 (PennWell) — A Senate committee has endorsed legislation that would authorize a national park land exchange and construction of a 100-kW hydroelectric project in a non-wilderness area of Denali National Park in Alaska.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed Nov. 10 and sent the full Senate the Kantishna Hills Renewable Energy Act of 2011 (H.R. 441). The House passed the bill Oct. 24. (HydroWorld 11/1/11)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, the ranking minority member of the energy committee, welcomed passage of the bill, which is similar to S. 313, which she introduced in the Senate with Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, sponsored the House bill.

“Not only does it promote the use of clean hydroelectric energy, it will reduce the traffic of fuel trucks on the Denali Park Road, which will provide for a better park experience for all visitors to one of Alaska’s premier attractions,” Murkowski said.

If passed by the full Senate, the bill would allow the Interior Department secretary to authorize micro-hydropower projects of no more than 100 kW in the park. That would allow Doyon Tourism Inc., a Fairbanks-based native corporation, to build a project on Eureka Creek to power Katishna Roadhouse, a back-country lodge that Doyon owns 100 miles inside the park. The lodge currently is powered by diesel generation.

It also would allow for a land exchange within the Katishna Hills area, defined as the area of the park within two miles of Moose Creek. The land exchange is to consolidate ownership of park and Doyon Tourism lands, including those affected solely by the Doyon hydro project. Park land near Doyon land at the mouth of Eureka Creek would be exchanged by February 2015 for 18 acres of land owned by Doyon within the Galena patented mining claim.

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Senate panel endorses John Norris nomination to FERC

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has endorsed President Obama’s nomination of Iowa Democrat John R. Norris to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The committee action on Oct. 8, 2009, sends the nomination to the full Senate to consider confirmation of Norris to fill a commission seat vacated by the resignation of former Chairman Joseph Kelliher, a Republican. (HydroWorld 6/11/09)

Norris, most recently chief of staff to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, is former chief of staff to then Iowa Gov. Vilsack, a former chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, and chairman of the Iowa Utilities Board from 2005-2009.

In a confirmation hearing Aug. 6, Norris told the committee that new hydropower projects would be crucial to meet the nation’s demand for clean, renewable power. (HydroWorld 8/7/09)

“Investments in such capital-intensive industries as electric generation and transmission, hydroelectric power, natural gas infrastructure, and more are jeopardized by an uncertain future,” Norris said. “There is a need to address such concerns.”

If the Senate confirms Norris’ nomination, it would give Democrats three seats on the five-member commission, including Jon Wellinghoff of Nevada, who was designated chairman in March by Obama, succeeding Kelliher in that position.

The third Democrat, Suedeen Kelly of New Mexico, announced in September she would not accept nomination to a third term. (HydroWorld 9/22/09) Although Kelly’s current term expired in June, she will continue to serve on the commission until the Senate confirms a replacement.

The Republicans on the commission are Philip Moeller of Washington and Marc Spitzer of Arizona.

Norris is a 1995 graduate of the University of Iowa College of Law, after receiving an undergraduate degree from Simpson College in Iowa. He served as chief of staff to Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa, from 1997-1998, and from 1989-2003 owned a restaurant in Iowa.

Norris was co-chairman of the National Electricity Delivery Forum of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, president of the Organization of Midwest Independent System Operator States, and has held other regulatory agency memberships and positions.