Mayor’s Report: Speaking up on challenges of regulatory requirements

Senate committee encouraged to hold a field hearing in Cordova

By Cordova Mayor Clay Koplin

For The Cordova Times

Here is a summary of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on March 14, which I attended representing Cordova as the mayor, and the chief executive officer of Cordova Electric Cooperative:

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing was held to receive testimony on opportunities to improve American energy infrastructure. I was invited to testify by the Senate Energy staff to the Republican members, Kellie Donnelly, to share Alaskan stories, and suggestions for infrastructure development in Alaska and in general. I emphasized the challenge that regulatory requirements can place on a small project, and used reconstruction of the Humpback Creek Hydroelectric Plant after the 2006 flooding. I used some football analogies, such as Cordova ending up at the bottom of a regulatory dogpile holding the football, and wondering why we had been tackled by our own team. The “regulatory dogpile” was a sound bite in the Washington, DC press the next day.

I also touched on the positive aspects of Cordova, our No. 1-ranked high school in the state, and our “safest community” rating in the state. I then talked about Crater Lake, and how projects that can share cost between several organizations, like Cordova Electric Cooperative and the city of Cordova, and can provide multiple benefits, like water, renewable energy, business opportunities, recreational opportunities, and educational opportunities, then you have the kind of “shared cost – shared benefit” project that delivers the economic, social, and environmental benefits that we all want from our infrastructure investments.

I concluded my testimony by strongly encouraging them to hold a field hearing in Cordova, where we could show them these successes and opportunities, rather than just telling them.

Later in the testimony, I gave Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, some suggestions for streamlining the license renewals for small hydro projects in his state, and used the example of an NGO in Cordova that initially opposed Power Creek, but then later supported it once they saw the benefits of the project, and suggested that organizations opposed to projects need to be accountable to the process, i.e. conduct site visits or plan reviews so that they can make specific objections or suggestions for how to improve the project.

I was very humbled and appreciative of the opportunity to represent the state of Alaska and the amazing community of Cordova before the committee.