Dunleavy disbands Alaska climate response team

Gov. Michael Dunleavy introduces his amended state budget to reporters at a press availability at the Capitol in Juneau on Feb. 13, 2019.
Gov. Michael Dunleavy introduces his amended state budget to reporters at a press availability at the Capitol in Juneau on Feb. 13, 2019. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

Alaska Republican Gov. Michael Dunleavy has formally disbanded the task force formed by his predecessor to guide the state’s response to global warming.

In an administrative order this week, Dunleavy revoked a separate, 2017 order by former Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, establishing the task force and a state climate change strategy.

Dunleavy’s order was not publicly announced. The governor’s office sent letters to task force members around 5 p.m. Friday informing them that their work for the task force “has ended.” The state’s website dedicated to the task force and strategy also appears to have been taken down.

In his administrative order this week, Dunleavy also revoked six other orders issued by Walker. Two relate to state workplace safety and employee privacy; another established a task force to explore commuter rail service between Anchorage and the Mat-Su; and another directed state agencies to stop discretionary spending on six big infrastructure projects because of Alaska’s substantial budget deficit.

In a prepared statement, Dunleavy spokesman Matt Shuckerow said the Walker administrative orders “are no longer needed: They are no longer relevant, have fulfilled their intended purpose, are not aligned with the governor’s policy direction, and/or appear to have been made primarily for political or public relations purposes.”

“No governor should be tied to a previous administration’s work product or political agenda, and nobody should be surprised to see Gov. Dunleavy make this decision,” Shuckerow said. “Gov. 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.”

The 20-member climate task force had been chaired by Walker’s lieutenant governor, Democrat Byron Mallott. In his order establishing the group, Walker described global warming as threatening the state’s natural resources and posing risks to residents’ “health, safety and economic future.”

Alaska has warmed at twice the rate of the global average since the mid-20th century, and the cost to the state between 2008 and 2030 could range from $3 billion to $6 billion, according to a federal climate report released in November.

Dunleavy, in an interview on the campaign trail, downplayed climate change’s effects on Alaska.

“I think we have a lot of issues that, in my opinion, are quite frankly and bluntly more important than the climate task force,” Dunleavy said. “And I’ll be focusing on these immediate issues for Alaska instead of focusing on the issues in this task force.”

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