Petersburg Pilot -


Letters to the Editor


Issues with

biomass use

To the Editor:

The Southeast Integrated Resource Plan comment period ends March 19. The SEIRP lays out various scenarios for conversion to alternative sources of heat energy for the region. We believe the plan wrongly favors conversion to biomass sources of heat energy while ignoring or downplaying the effectiveness of other alternatives. The plan calls for an 80% conversion from oil and electric heat across the region to wood pellet stoves and boilers. It largely ignored the use of heat pumps as a highly effective and economical source of heat.

There are several issues with the use of biomass that the plan failed to address. For instance, while pellets are burned at much higher temperatures than ordinary wood stoves, the emissions still contribute to overall carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. This is a significant lost opportunity cost in terms of allocating public resources to an energy source that is neither clean nor carbon neutral. It is true that biomass heat advocates tend to describe their programs as “carbon neutral” which would mean that there is no change in the amount of carbon emitted to the atmosphere. These statements are not accurate. It is now widely recognized that utilizing biomass for heat or energy will never achieve carbon reductions in the next few decades that are meaningful for climate change purposes.

There are serious questions regarding the potential health consequences of emissions from biomass burning. While the emissions cannot be seen, there are questions regarding health risks. For instance, emission particles from wood pellet stoves are believed to be nanoparticle size and can penetrate directly across lung membranes to the blood. These risks are thought to be higher for children and senior citizens

We also have serious concerns regarding the economic feasibility of the SEIRP’s biomass program. The enormous cost it recommends – half a billion dollars – does not even include the costs of infrastructure needed to develop a local supply. Moreover, because of an arithmetic error, the SEIRMP makes heat pumps appear to be twice as expensive to operate as pellet stoves. But in fact, pellet stoves are 60% to 160% more expensive than heat pumps under various assumptions in the plan. This is particularly disturbing since the contractor who produced the plan has a conflict of interest in promoting global scale biomass development.

GSACC submits that a better program would allocate public resources to heat pumps rather than to biomass heat. Residents of southeast Alaska should ask that the Alaska Energy Authority (AEA) rescind the current draft and go back to the drawing board and seek out honest energy solutions that are affordable for our communities and genuinely carbon neutral. The address is Alaska Energy Authority, 813 West Northern Lights Boulevard, Anchorage, AK 99503.

Paul Olson

Board President, Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community


services plan

To the Editor:

Dear Mayor Dwyer,

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you, the city council and the Petersburg community this week. As we discussed, the criminal justice system is one which is very complex with statutory law, procedure rules, evidence, police practices, desires of the community, victim's rights, costs and other practical problems all combining with the overall obligation to do justice. To work in this system takes a substantial amount of time, effort and cost.

The town meeting identified these complexities and the Department of Law recognizes that in balancing these considerations the citizens of Petersburg believe strongly that insufficient resources have been focused on their community. It is productive to have these public discussions so that problems can be recognized and resources can be reallocated for a better balance. As you know, Mr. Brower was unable to attend the town meeting with me because he was out of state. Ms. Kemp, the assistant district attorney assigned to Petersburg was in attendance and heard the concerns of Petersburg. Upon Mr. Brower's return to Alaska, he and Ms. Kemp will be putting together a plan to provide increased services to Petersburg.

Two way communications will be the most important element of this plan. There needs to be constant communication with officers assigned a particular case. There needs to be communication so there can be appropriate community input on dispositions. There needs to be discussion with police supervisors to determine what additional investigation needs to be done to make a case better. The police and DAs need to be talking so they know what witnesses are and are not available for trial. This plan should also contain a provision for DA staff to spend sufficient time in Petersburg to meet and train police officers.

Once the plan is completed by the District Attorney's Office I will be requesting your input before implementing the plan.




Richard A. Svobodny

Deputy Attorney General


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