Dunleavy quietly nixes Alaska climate change strategy
With little fanfare, Alaska's governor reversed seven previous administrative orders, including one that established a state climate change strategy and task force.
Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy issued his own action — Administrative Order 309 — to rescind the following:
AO 271 – Issuing fiscal restraint order on six projects
AO 274 – Revoking AO 271 only as related to the ASAP project
AO 278 – Apprenticeship reporting requirements for State finance projects
AO 286 – Workplace safety and economic security
AO 289 – Alaska climate change strategy
AO 292 – Governor’s Commuter Rail Advisory Task Force
AO 296 – Affirming the State’s commitment to protecting employee privacy
The full order was posted to the official state website Friday, Feb. 22. and went into immediate effect Feb. 21. Dunleavy does not elaborate or offer any rationale for the decision within AO 309.
AO 289 established the Alaska Climate Change Strategy and the Climate Action for Alaska Leadership Team. References for both the strategy and task force have been archived and removed from the state's website.
In the initial order, former-Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, stated:
"As the northernmost state, Alaska is America’s Arctic, and our state’s communities face accelerating rates of erosion, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, rapidly thawing permafrost, and changing intensity of wildland fires. These physical changes threaten people’s safety and security, undermine the social and cultural fabric of our communities, and disproportionately affect those on the frontlines of climate change."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's 2018 Arctic Report Card details changes in Alaska. Over the past four decades, paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) has increased seven-fold in Alaska, according to the 2018 Arctic Report Card. PSP is caused by eating shellfish that has ingested a harmful algae bloom. These harmful algae blooms not only affect humans who ingest the shellfish who feed on the algae, but marine life as well. In Alaska, this is affecting birds, sea otters, walruses, seals, whales, and many other marine mammals.
Meanwhile, coastal villages like Kivalina are on the front lines of climate change. Scientists believe Kivalina will be the first casualty of climate change in our country. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium has spent years studying how it has affected the land in the Arctic village. In 2015, Dave Williams with the Army Corps of Engineers Alaska estimated Kivalina would be underwater in 10 years, but it could happen sooner. He said a single powerful storm season could put Kivalina underwater.
In September 2018, Walker's 21-person task force released its report that featured dozens of recommendations for the state. At the time, Walker acknowledged climate change plans needed to consider the state’s largest economic driver: the oil industry.
“It’s not one versus the other,” Walker said. “We have to look at those issues together. We are one of the few states that has that situation: ground zero of climate change and also we are a hydrocarbon-based economy in Alaska. We can’t ignore that either.”
Among the other six orders axed was AO 292 to research the viability of a commuter rail between the Anchorage and the Mat-Su Borough.
Dunleavy's office never formally announced AO 309. In an email to reporters Saturday, Dunleavy's press secretary Matt Shuckerow stated the seven orders — all issued by Walker — were no longer needed, irrelevant and not aligned with Dunleavy's policy.
"No Governor should be tied to a previous administration’s work product or political agenda, and nobody should be surprised to see Governor Dunleavy make this decision," Shuckerow wrote. "Governor Dunleavy’s focus continues to be on making Alaska safer, protecting the Permanent Fund Dividend, encouraging economic growth and opportunity, and putting Alaska on the path towards a permanent fiscal plan."
Shuckerow also wrote that some of the rescinded orders appeared "to have been made primarily for political or public relations purposes."
Just last month, the Municipality of Anchorage announced it would be releasing a draft of its own Climate Action Plan. The draft will be posted on the municipality's website and available for public comment.
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