Governor Parnell Asks for Status Reports on Fuel Supplies in Rural Areas


From the Alaska Dispatch, September 6, 2009:

Parnell tracks fuel supplies in rural Alaska

Rena Delbridge

Sep 5, 2009

In the wake of last winter’s fuel crisis in parts of the Bush, Gov. Sean Parnell’s administration is asking more than 400 fuel distributors, local governments and regional nonprofits for status reports on fuel supplies in rural areas as winter nears.


Parnell press secretary Sharon Leighow said the Division of Community and Regional Affairs staff is making 400 calls over the next two weeks to gather updates on where fuel shipments stand. The division has also set up a toll-free number — (877) 769-4614 — for people with concerns about adequate winter fuel supplies in their communities.


Since June we’ve asked if there will be affordable fuel in place in rural villages this fall, before the rivers freeze and barge deliveries become impossible. We waited for moths for answers. This led to further questions about the new Rural Sub-Cabinet and its Advisory Panel.

On June 29, faithful contributer Jim Behlke contacted Tara Jollie, the Director of the State’s Division of Community and Regional Affairs, and asked if villages had obtained adequate fuel supplies for the upcoming winter, or if she knew of any villages that may not be able to afford fuel for delivery before freeze up.

On July 10 Behlke also contacted the rural subcabinet’s chair, the Attorney General, and encouraged the subcabinet to convene and determine if any state assistance may be available to rural residents who couldn’t afford to purchase fuel for subsistence fishing and hunting

After weeks of deafening silence he publicly asked for a little more information about what the Rural Sub-Cabinet was doing to prevent a repeat of last year’s crisis. This article was published a month ago today in the Alaska Dispatch:

How’s that subcabinet doing?

Jim Behlke

Aug 7, 2009

I’ve been especially concerned about the health of rural Alaska after last winter’s fuel crisis. Then came flooding, and now parts of rural Alaska have had another disastrous fishing season that will probably lead to significant economic hardships next winter. So, I’ve been wondering about the Alaska Rural Action Subcabinet (ARAS).

He goes on to ask a number of questions about the Sub-Cabinet’s Advisory Panel including if and when they meet, are meetings open to the public and are minutes recorded.

We received some answers on August 13 from Sub-Cabinet Advisory Panel Chair Michael Black. The Panel meets quarterly, there are no minutes but notes are taken and a notice is posted the morning of their meetings in the Atwood Building in Anchorage.

You can read more in Ann’s August 31 post in which she points out how hard it would be for rural dwellers to participate.

We could go on and on about why the administration should have take action months ago to make sure fuel is in place now in the Bush and how the Advisory Panel to the Rural-Sub-Cabinet should have made this a priority since no one else was paying attention but we won’t. At least something’s being done now.

Rena Delbridge sums up the importance of acting quickly nowl in her Dispatch article .

Alaska’s harsh winter weather and ice prevent shipments on waterways from reaching rural areas in all but a few summer months. Most of the fuel must be delivered by early October, Tornga said. But already waters on the Kuskokwim are well below normal stages for barge transport, and temperatures in McGrath, a village several days upriver from Bethel, have dropped below freezing on a number of nights. If waters freeze before levels rise, a few communities could face the added expense of flying in fuel to replenish their tanks.


6 Responses to “Governor Parnell Asks for Status Reports on Fuel Supplies in Rural Areas”

  1. Nan (aka roswellborn) Says:

    Wow. This sounds like a reason for some cautious optimism. And a salute to all who pestered the powers that be into responding!

    Crossing my fingers,

  2. KarenJ Says:

    Information about the fuel supplies and the response from the Division of Community and Regional Affairs and the Rural Sub-Cabinet has been relatively speedy, don’t you think, considering who was in charge of everything up to July 26th?

    Maybe the State instead of the individual villages should foot the bill for flying in fuel, if it comes to that, since the problem has been ignored by the State for the past 2-1/2 years.

  3. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:


    Speedy is not the word I would use! There are many people in the background putting pressure on these people now, writing letters & emails, showing up at the ARAS & Advisory Panel meeting, calling state officials repeatedly, posting and cross posting on blogs and media – it has been a concerted effort and a lot of work! The results just might be beginning to show, but our work has only begun. Hang in there with us and thank you for adding your voice and readership!

  4. alaskapi Says:

    How much or how little all our questions , calls, emails, and letters have played in getting a response from our state government is not likely to be known… ever. It is a necessary activity and should continue.
    Especially our Ann… you keep speaking right out! We KNOW people are listening to you :-D

    In light of the recent change in administration, I think we can call this speedy…
    Mr Parnell has done more in the last few weeks to get a handle on rural Alaska than the last 2 governors did in over 6 years.
    I may someday (and likely will) find myself in disagreement with Governor Parnell about other things but am encouraged by his actions to date regarding our rural neighbors.
    I just hope this is not too little, too late or that there is a plan for assistance if communities are found to be short of fuel supplies or dollars to stock up.

    Also- I am pleased as could be to see the depth and quantity of reporting coming out of rural Alaska, the state government, and so on via the Alaska Dispatch lately.
    We maybe stand a chance of knitting this huge state together…

  5. Jim Says:

    I’m beginning to wonder if the State may know good and well what the rural Alaska fuel supply situation is going into the upcoming winter. I also wonder if they have known most of these specifics for some time. We’ve asked and they haven’t disclosed anything about specific village shortages, but it seems like they almost must know if there are looming fuel shortages. With all the information they’ve got at their disposal, I’d bet my house they know a heck of a lot.

    Alaska’s Department of Community and Regional Affairs has various programs, (including one called “Fuel Watch” that employs 3 people)– seems like they would have a pretty good idea of what is happening out there.

    They have also been in contact with fuel suppliers (who probably, from their books, have a REAL good idea of the supply situation), as well as “regional non-profits.”

    We’ve asked, but they haven’t given us any specific information about individual village fuel shortages. But if we candidly talked with the folks in the loop– fuel suppliers, regional non profits, and State personnel, I bet they’ve all got a darned good idea of the situation.

    The State may be improving, but they should embrace everyone, and not just their preferred “in the loop” buddies. We Alaskans are not in the loop yet and we are entitled to public information especially if we ask for it.

    Still trying to find out which villages are short on fuel for the upcoming winter. Everyone else may know, but we still don’t. I’m not on board with my new and improved State government yet.

  6. Say NO to Palin in Politics Says:

    I find it rather odd that meeting information is so hard to get, why, just notes? what happens with those ‘notes’ and what are the steps taken after these quarterly meetings. I’d be pushing for more accountability. somebody needs to personally get in one of these board members face and ask hard questions. these are ‘paid’ board member seats. Are they doing anything for that pay? Or are these just cush no work income makers.

    And the meetings are announced the day of? Oh, that’s rich.

    It’s great Parnell cares about ‘looking’ concerned and I’m sure wouldn’t want another embarrassing winter crisis on his watch, after all, he has his next campaign to think about.

    So I’d suggest the Parnell administration get BUSY! Make sure this is covered. And don’t be afraid to throw Scarah under the bus, she deserves it.

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