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Democratic Gubernatorial Hopeful Pledges Top-priority Push to Lower Energy Prices

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Democratic gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallott pitched a plan to help Alaskans cope with rising energy costs during a campaign swing through Fairbanks over the weekend. Mallott says he wanted to talk his plan here in the Interior, where home heating costs are highest – especially for rural and Bush communities.

Byron Mallott says Alaskans are being hammered by rising energy costs. And he says Gov. Sean Parnell hasn’t been doing enough to help them deal with it.

“High energy costs across the state are crippling many families, many communities,” he said.

Mallott says that’s not only hurting homeowners and business owners – it’s also contributing to the decline of communities, especially those in outlying areas.

“A very significant portion of consumers’ discretionary spending is going to meeting home heating, electrical, transportation costs,” he said. “And in some instances, (those costs) are causing families to make decisions about leaving places – particularly villages and smaller communities, with high energy costs – and moving to urban areas.”

Mallott says if elected, he’d demonstrate his determination on his first day in office by appointing a cabinet-level chief to oversee state efforts to bring down energy costs.

“I will establish in the office of the governor, reporting directly to me, an energy crisis chief, who will have as his or her sole responsibility … to make as high a priority to reduce energy costs across the state in the shortest time period possible,” he said.

Parnell campaign manager Jerry Gallagher says the governor has been working to lower energy costs and create jobs.

Gallagher said in an e-mail response Sunday that, quote, “as a result of Governor Parnell's leadership, Alaska is now seeing real work on a large volume gasline through Alaska that will bring natural gas to Alaskans first, a gas trucking project in the Interior, a resurgence in natural gas production in Cook Inlet, and new hydro projects (that) are underway in Southeast and Southcentral Alaska.”

Mallott says he recognizes that some efforts have been made. But he says they’re not sufficiently focused toward the goal of helping individual Alaskans – and soon.

“The need to coordinate, the need to reach out, the need to take the initiative, is just critically important,” he said. “And there’s nowhere enough of that taking place now.”

Mallott says his plan doesn’t call for creating more bureaucracy. Instead it would consolidate responsibility for energy-related programs that are now spread across six state agencies. He said he’d tap his 30 years of private-sector management experience to reorganize and reorient present efforts, and work more with local and federal governments, and the state’s universities.