Connecting With Alaska’s People And Power Resources

on June 02, 2015 at 5:00 PM

Deputy Secretary Sherwood-Randall speaks to students and staff at the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program in Anchorage, Alaska. | Photo by the Energy Department.

During my eight months as the Deputy Secretary of Energy, I’ve made a point to get out into the field to learn firsthand about the communities our work touches, and hear from the people working in and affected by the dynamic American energy sector.

Last week, Sen. Lisa Murkowski — a great partner of the Energy Department and the Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee — invited me to visit her home state of Alaska to participate in a roundtable discussion on the federal processes for permitting a liquefied natural gas (LNG) export project in Alaska.

The roundtable, held last Thursday in Anchorage, was an important opportunity for interested Alaskans to hear in person about how the federal government is delivering results for the American people. It included Sen. Murkowski; Ann Miles, Director of the Office of Energy Projects at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC); Tommy Beaudreau, Chief of Staff at the Department of the Interior; Paula Gant, the Energy Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oil and Natural Gas; and me.

I emphasized how important Alaska is to our all-of-the above energy strategy. And I was delighted to bring some good news with me. As I announced last week, the Department of Energy issued a conditional authorization for the Alaska LNG Project, LLC to export domestically produced LNG to countries that do not have a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States.

An efficient, transparent international market for natural gas with diverse sources of supply provides both economic and strategic benefits to the United States and our allies and partners. This is yet another example of how abundant American energy is good for the U.S., good for our friends, and good for Alaska.

While we were in Alaska, Senator Murkowski and I travelled together to the top of the state, flying over the magnificent Denali National Park, to tour the Point Thomson Project, which is producing natural gas from a reservoir that is estimated to hold 25 percent of natural gas reserves on Alaska’s North Slope. The pioneering team that hosted us demonstrated what it takes to operate in the remote and austere conditions of the Arctic, and impressed me with their strong commitment to a rigorous safety culture and environmental stewardship.

Back in Anchorage, I also had the opportunity to visit the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP). ANSEP is a remarkable program based at the University of Alaska. The visionary idea of Dr. Herb Schroeder, it is designed to prepare and support Alaska Native students from middle school through graduate school to succeed in careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). ANSEP offers intensive academic support, exposure to industry and the opportunity to participate in a learning community that incorporates Alaska Native cultural identity.

Programs like ANSEP help prepare young people to solve local challenges, such as how to provide clean and affordable energy to remote villages, and to contribute to finding solutions to global challenges like climate change. The young people that I had a chance to talk to were focused, curious and excited about building career paths in science and technology that will give them an opportunity to make a difference.

Part of our job at the Department of Energy is to help Native American and Alaska Native communities come up with solutions for the challenges they face. For several years now, the U.S. Department of Energy has been working with the Denali Commission and with Alaska Native communities all across the state through a project called Alaska START. We’re helping villages and communities save energy and money by making buildings more efficient and developing clean energy projects. During the visit to ANSEP I was pleased to announce the five villages selected for our latest round of Alaska START program.

I was joined by two key members of our staff — Chris Deschene, the new head of our Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs, and Givey Kochanowski, who lives and works in Anchorage for that same office. Both were there to help me explain some of what we do in Alaska and to carry our work forward after I flew back to Washington, D.C.

I will be continuing my travels this summer to visit more Energy Department laboratories and sites, and I’ll be meeting in person with many people who work tirelessly on our behalf to advance the interests of our nation. I look forward to providing you with future updates on these visits here on