Enough Fuel for the Winter? Don’t Expect the DCRA to Answer!

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Nunam Iqua's Fuel/Tank Farm, picture taken Spring Flood '08

Nunam Iqua's Fuel/Tank Farm, picture taken Spring Flood '08

Those of you who visit Anonymous Bloggers know that we have been trying for months to find out whether or not the villages in rural Alaska have enough fuel to make it through this winter.  After last years crisis, we wanted to ensure that everyone got their fuel deliveries and are set for the winter.

This does not translate into the residents having enough money to buy fuel and food for this winter.  We wanted to make sure that fuel was simply available.   Surely that State of Alaska has a program to monitors this type of thing, especially after last winters fuel issues across rural Alaska, right?

They do,  and it’s called Fuel Watch and it is run by the Department of Community and Rural Affairs (DCRA).   Even Governor Parnell wants to know what the fuel situation is….

I tried sending out an email to get answers:

Dear Mr. Parnell, Mr. Sullivan, Mr. Moller, and Ms. Jollie;

Waqaa!  I am writing to inquire as to whether or not any of your offices have completed fuel inquiries for rural Alaska?  There was mention that villages were being contacted to assess their fuel situations and preparedness for this winter.

Additionally, what happened and/or what is the status of the Yukon Fisheries Disaster Declaration that was sent to DC?

Any information you could provide me about these issues would be greatly appreciated.  I am gravely concerned that this winters crisis in rural Alaska will be far worse than last winters, is there anything you can tell me that is in the works or under consideration to avert another crisis in bush Alaska  this winter?

Quyana Cakneq in advance for your help in this matter.  Please feel free to contact me at the below contact information.

After sending that email one of the board members at AB found  this report thanks to ADN’s Kyle Hopkins.

So I read the report and had some questions.  So since the report clearly states at the top:

Division of Community and Regional Affairs (DCRA)

Report to the Commissioner

September 18, 2009

From Director Tara Jollie

Ms. Tara Jollie, Photo from KTUU

Ms. Tara Jollie, Photo from KTUU

I thought well I’ll contact Ms. Jollie, I mean it does say it’s from her right?  I had some questions.  So I called her.  I about fell off of my chair when she actually answered the phone!!  So I asked her my questions.  Specifically related to clarifying HER report.  Did I get answers?  NOPE!!  Instead I got the run around and a broken record response of … “We are having a meeting today (Oct. 2, 2009) and I was planning on answering your email after this meeting.”
Ok, well now I am getting some where right??  Well just to make sure that she didn’t forget my questions I immediately sent a follow up email:
Ms. Jollie,
Thank you very much for speaking with me earlier on the phone. I am glad to hear that you are meeting today to discuss the FUEL WATCH for rural Alaska.

I look forward to your email in response to my questions.  Here is a recap with a few extra questions:

What is the fuel status for rural Alaska?
After reading report #5 from your dept.  I am assuming that only those 13 communities identified in the report are having fuel issues??  I am assuming the remaining 567 are all set fuelwise for the winter?  Would you please clarify that.
I expressed my concern that even if these communities have or will receive the fuel they need for the winter that I am concerned about at what cost and how will people be able to afford the fuel.  You stated that it was not your departments job and/or responsibility to set fuel prices.  Which I understand but I am still concerned and would HOPE that you would bring this to the Governors attention.  That simply because a community has fuel available that does not ensure that residents will be able to afford said fuel.  Especially due to the poor commercial fishing this past summer.
What is the current status of the the villages listed in report #5 from your dept?  Are they all set and have their fuel for the winter?
Does the public have access to the whole database?  I would like to review it to ensure that all communities were identified.  I am concerned b/c I don’t see Alakanuk nor Kotlik nor other YK Delta Villages listed.
Could you please include me on your mailing list for future reports on the fuel watch.  I am working on a post for my blog and would like to be able to keep up to date on current fuel information.  I will be going into wait to have this baby here in a few very short weeks and intend to fill my time actively advocating for rural Alaska.

I look forward to your response.
AnnS

I give her 7 days to respond, then I send a courteous reminder:

Dear Ms. Jollie, (AG and Mr. Moller see below)

It has been 7 days since I not only emailed you about the Fuel Watch meetings/information but also spoke to you on the phone.  You assured me that you were going to respond to my email when I spoke to you on the phone.  I have attached that email again.  I look forward to hearing your responses to my questions.
Like I mentioned I am working on a post for our blog (https://anonymousbloggers.wordpress.com/) and I had hoped to include information about the meeting that you said was happening on Oct. 2.  But since it looks as if you will not respond to my emails I will just include what information I have managed to gather from other sources and will also mention that I have been unsuccessful getting any type of response from you or your office/department.
I plan on putting that post up tomorrow, Oct. 9, 2009 and following it up with an interview I am doing for APRN.  I would really like to include POSITIVE information that I have received from you and/or your office but since y’all don’t seem to want to respond to my emails…..sigh.
I really would like to include up to date information concerning the fuel watch meeting that you said occurred on Oct 2.  I am anxiously awaiting your response to my email below.
Quyana Cakneq in advance for you assistance in this matter.
AG Sullivan and Mr. Moller,
Would either of you be able to offer any answers to the questions below?
AnnS

Ms. Jollie’s contact information:

Phone: 907-269-7959

You, too, can join the quest for answers!

Additionally, I include the AG and Mr. Moller in my emails that I send out, so here’s their email addresses also….

“Attorney General” attorney.general@alaska.gov

“John Moller” john.moller@alaska.gov

Please feel free to post any replies that you receive here in the comments or email them to me.

-Ann

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7 Responses to “Enough Fuel for the Winter? Don’t Expect the DCRA to Answer!”

  1. boodog Says:

    Oh Ann, you have not failed, they have. You have done everything short of running for office, hint*hint*hint, to get these needs met. Maybe your emails WERE over their head and boxes they can check yes or no is the way to go next tim! I will send some emails from down here- maybe we can inundate their inbox until they realize that this is not funny, it is a matter of life and death, and the rural people’s needs can’t be ignored any longer. Take care Ann- Hug CCC and belly babe!

  2. Jim Says:

    Ann,

    Sadly I’m not surprised with your experiences described here. They sound familiar.

    On June 29, I sent the following email to Tara Jollie:

    “Dear Ms. Jollie:

    I contacted John Moller and asked if he knew if Alaska villages are well set with fuel supplies (or have arranged for delivery) for the upcoming winter or if there are any potential problems. Mr. Moller indicated you may have more information.

    I’d be especially interested if you knew of any villages that may not be able to afford fuel for delivery before freeze up.”

    After additional effort, I started hearing back from Ms. Jollie about six weeks later, around August 12.

    On August 14, Jollie wrote in an email to me, “We deal with more than 466 entities.  If you have specific communities that you are concerned about, please let me know so I can provide more specific information.”

    No one from the State indicated that they apparently regularly produce simple, comprehensive reports summarizing the village fuel supply situation, and these reports would help answer my question.

    We have asked– why didn’t the State provide copies of the fuel watch reports?

    Seems like the fuel watch reports would have been very helpful in answering our questions about what that State did or didn’t know about village fuel shortages– perhaps Jollie could have simply sent the Fuel Watch reports.

    Report 5 indicates there are fuel shortages. Did the State not want us to know that there are fuel shortages? Were they keeping this information from us?

    Apparently the State has known, perhaps all Summer and Fall, that there ARE fuel shortages. If they have specific information like that in the Fuel Watch reports, why haven’t they shared this information with us?

  3. Jim Says:

    I wanted to break this into two parts so it didn’t get too long.

    I don’t like copying email streams, but here goes. My final response is at the top; the first message is at the bottom:

    Subject: Re: village fuel supplies
    From: jim@behlke.com
    Date: September 7, 2009 2:07:14 PM GMT-08:00
    To: randall.ruaro@alaska.gov
    Cc: emil.notti@alaska.gov, sharon.leighow@alaska.gov, gerald.gallagher@alaska.gov, cindy.sims@alaska.gov, mike.nizich@alaska.gov

    Dear Mr. Ruaro:

    Thank you for your feedback. Hope you’re right and I’m wrong. The Kuskokwim may be a problem.

    Sincerely,

    Jim Behlke

    On Sep 7, 2009, at 9:52 AM, Ruaro, Randall P (GOV) wrote:

    Dear Mr. Behlke:

    I respectfully disagree.  I believe there is still time and the
    opportunity to assist rural communities secure a fuel supply for the
    winter and the state will continue its efforts.  Fuel barge service to
    many rural communities on the coast can continue year round and the
    rivers in the interior such as the Yukon are not yet iced over.

    Thank you.

    Randy Ruaro

    —–Original Message—–
    From: James Behlke [mailto:jim@behlke.com]
    Sent: Sunday, September 06, 2009 4:31 PM
    To: Ruaro, Randall P (GOV)
    Cc: Notti, Emil R (CED); Leighow, Sharon W (GOV); Gallagher, Gerald L
    (GOV); Sims, Cynthia M (GOV); Nizich, Michael A (GOV)
    Subject: Re: village fuel supplies

    Dear Mr. Ruaro:

    Thanks for getting back to me. I had communicated with Tara Jollie
    earlier this summer. Ms. Jollie told me of the State’s programs
    related to rural fuel. At the end of our discussion, on August 14 I
    wrote:

      “The reason I posed my original June 29 question to you is because
    I wondered if you had any information about specific villages not
    being able to meet their fuel needs for the upcoming winter.
      If you had known of specific villages that had insufficient
    supplies, I would have tried to help mobilize some private assistance
    and contributions for those places.
      I’ll assume you are not aware of any specific shortages. If you
    know of any shortages that are of special concern, there may still be
    a little time left to try to mobilize a privately supported delivery
    to those places before freeze up. But apparently Crowley may have
    already headed south.”

    Unfortunately I doubt there is still time or logistics to deliver fuel
    cost effectively for this winter– if fuel is needed, they may have to
    fly it in.
    I appreciate the efforts the State has made and all the phone calls
    seeking information from villages, but I wish it would have been
    possible to identify specific shortages earlier in the delivery season.

    Thanks,

    Jim Behlke

    On Sep 6, 2009, at 1:43 PM, Ruaro, Randall P (GOV) wrote:

    Dear Mr. Behlke:

    Thank you for contacting me.  While I have been partially involved in
    the overall effort, nearly all of the ongoing and past communications
    with rural communities to assist them in finding funding sources to
    purchase fuel (such as the state bridge fuel or bulk fuel loan
    program)
    and to then co-ordinate deliveries with shippers is being done through
    the Department of Commerce and its DCRA division. Commissioner Notti
    or
    the DCRA Division Director are in the best position to answer your
    questions with up to date information.

    Sincerely,

    Randy Ruaro
    Deputy Chief of Staff
    Governor Sean Parnell

    —–Original Message—–
    From: James Behlke [mailto:jim@behlke.com]
    Sent: Saturday, September 05, 2009 7:40 PM
    To: Ruaro, Randall P (GOV)
    Cc: Notti, Emil R (CED)
    Subject: village fuel supplies

    Dear Mr. Ruaro:

    I was reading in an Alaska Dispatch article that you have been
    communicating with Crowley Maritime Corp.– apparently some
    financially strapped rural communities are struggling to finance fuel
    shipments for their winter fuel supplies.

    Will the state help arrange for adequate fuel supplies for the
    upcoming winter? (There are probably only a few weeks left for barge
    delivery).

    I’ve been asking the State since June, but I have never learned from
    my State if any specific villages may have fuel shortages looming for
    the upcoming winter.

    Will there be any shortages? If so, where?

    Thanks,

    Jim Behlke

    c.c. Commissioner Emil Notte

  4. Jim Says:

    Finally, I don’t see how we could have been more clear in our communications with the State of Alaska, or with our requests for information. We tried.

  5. Anthony Caole Says:

    The State of Alaska might consider requiring recipients of revenue sharing (a large percentage of rural villages) to report on existing fuel storage capacity, projected fuel consumption for the fiscal year, and any anticipated shortfalls + reasons as a condition of receiving funds. That information could be used to prioritize assistance over the summer. This data collection effort should be done using web-reporting, so the data is tabulated real time. The entire DCCED/DCRA administration has been slow to adopt Web 2.0 technologies & solutions that could aide in gaining a real-time pulse on rural Alaska issues. We are fortunate, however, that in recent years, revenue sharing dollars have dramatically increased to rural Alaska. Lets hope that doesn’t change…

  6. Empish Says:

    Ann for representative! I think we can all get behind that campaign!

  7. alaskapi Says:

    Ms Jollie has had an opportunity to make her boss, Governor Parnell , look good . She has failed.
    She has had a chance to build some credibility for information being readily available to citizens who may be able to help -IF they had information. She has failed.
    She has had a chance to wipe some of the stain of shame off our state government -leftover from her former boss’ lack of response to rural AK last winter and has failed to do so.
    It has now become HER shame.

    We have tried to be quick to praise , here at AB, those who step up and pitch in. Governor Parnell has given us cause for much hope in relation to his administration’s response to rural Alaskan affairs.
    We have tried to be LESS quick to damn those who drag their feet or derail…
    But this is over-the-top unacceptable… this foot-dragging over basic information…
    AFTER being told the information would be available at a given time?
    We gonna have to wait til January 2010 to find out whether our neighbors are in trouble again?
    PHHHHTTTTT!
    ——————————————-
    Mr AnthonyCaole-
    Please -explain more thoroughly what you are proposing .
    Am very interested…
    thank you
    Alaska Pi

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