The Dunleavy Cabinet is in place now. Given the political makeup of the legislature, there was never a great deal of doubt that department heads would be confirmed, though DEC Commissioner Jason Brune was lobbying legislators with some persistence in the days before the vote.
Brune wears the albatross of the Pebble Mine around his neck, as a former employee of the Pebble Limited Partnership, so he had good reason for concern. The mine is deeply unpopular statewide and only a scattering of dupes believe the current mine permitting process is not entirely tilted in favor of Big Money.
Brune’s confirmation vote was uncomfortably close. 35 legislators voted Yes and 24 voted No. This margin is unheard of in recent history, and again, ties back to Pebble. His predecessor, Larry Hartig, was confirmed unanimously in 2007 and was retained by two subsequent governors, so did not require reconfirmation under state law. Below is a list of previous DEC appointments and the legislative scoreboard associated with each:
- Dennis Kelso – Steve Cowper – 1987 – confirmed without objection
- John Sandor – Wally Hickel – 1991 – confirmed 42 – 17
- Gene Burden – Tony Knowles- 1995 – confirmed 59-0
- Michele Brown – Tony Knowles – 1996 – confirmed 58-2
- Ernesta Ballard – Frank Murkowski – 2003 – confirmed without objection
- Kurt Fredrickson – Frank Murkowski – 2005 – confirmed 58 – 1
The 1991 debate over John Sandor appears to be the closest comparison to the Brune vote. John Sandor, Governor Hickel’s pick for DEC commissioner, was controversial because he oversaw and promoted heavy clear-cutting on the Tongass during his previous tenure with the U.S. Forest Service, supported the controversial A.J. Mine near downtown Juneau, and allegedly leaked draft oil spill contingency plan regulations to the oil industry. One member of the Senate committee during Mr. Sandor’s confirmation hearing stated that he had received more mail requesting that they not confirm him than for any other Commissioner.
The history-making opposition to our current commissioner speaks more to Brune’s clear intimacy with the Pebble Mine and the divisiveness of the Dunleavy Administration than it does any scandal or loose handling of the truth on Brune’s part.
To be fair to Commissioner Brune, he has displayed none of the questionable characteristics of some of the other top-level Dunleavy officials. He shot straight with legislators, where other commissioners shot considerably less straight during the confirmation process.
He told lawmakers that it does not matter whether he believes climate change is human-caused, it only matters what Governor Dunleavy believes. He is openly dismissive of the Ocean Rangers program which protects marine waters and ports from toxic cruise ship effluent, and doesn’t couch his disdain in bureaucratic niceties like his predecessor would. He makes no bones about changing standards to hide the nature and quantity of certain chemicals in Alaska waters while waiting for the lobbyist-compromised Trump EPA to come in with their own set of lobbyist-compromised water quality standards.
Our new Commissioner, a Dunleavy foot soldier with bullish views on industrial development, is also capable, and open to dialogue, and that is nice. Let’s hope for the best from our new Commissioner, and prepare (like Preppers) for less than that.
Government Affairs Director
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Hearings of Note this Week
(H)EDUCATION Apr 22 Monday 8:00 AM: HJR 13 COMPLETION OF UNIVERSITY LAND GRANT — Public Testimony —
(H)RESOURCES Apr 22 Monday 1:00 PM: HB 122 FUNTER BAY MARINE PARK: UNANGAN CEMETER — Testimony <Invitation Only> — Presentation: Alaska’s Oil and Gas Tax Regime by Dept. of Revenue— Testimony <Invitation Only>
(H)COMMUNITY & REGIONAL AFFAIRS Apr 23 Tuesday 8:00 AM: Presentation: 2020 Census
(H)FISHERIES Apr 23 Tuesday 10:00 AM: HB 116 AQUATIC FARM/HATCHERY SITE LEASES— Testimony <Invited & Public> —
HR 8 2019: INT’L YEAR OF THE SALMON — Testimony <Invited & Public> —
(H)STATE AFFAIRS Apr 23 Tuesday 3:00 PM: An Act relating to voting by mail, voter access, and election modernization; and providing for an effective date.<Pending Introduction & Referral>
HB 82 DISCRIMINATION: GENDER ID.;SEXUAL ORIENT. TELECONFERENCED — Public Testimony –
H)RESOURCES Apr 24 Wednesday 1:00 PM: Presentations: Fisheries Taxes in Alaska by Dept. of Revenue – Alaska Commercial Fishing Industry Update by Frances Leach, Exec. Dir., United Fishermen of Alaska. — Testimony <Invitation Only> —
HR 8 2019: INT’L YEAR OF THE SALMON <Pending Referral> — Public Testimony —
H)COMMUNITY & REGIONAL AFFAIRS Apr 25 Thursday 8:00 AM: HB 81 PROHIBIT PLASTIC RETAIL BAGS — Testimony <Invitation Only> —
HB 76 RESIDENTIAL BUILDING CODE; AHFC; MUNIS. — Invited & Public Testimony <Time Limit> —
(H)TRIBAL AFFAIRS Apr 25 Thursday 8:00 AM: SB 78 ESTABLISH MAY 31 AS KATIE JOHN DAY: Urging the United States Congress to fully fund the United States Census Bureau for the 2020Census; urging the governor to revise Administrative Order No. 303; and urging local governments to establish local complete count commissions. <Pending Introduction & Referral>
H)ENERGY Apr 25 Thursday 10:15 AM: An Act relating to statutory authority for the Regulatory Commission of Alaska to certificate and regulate an electric reliability organization and to oversee integrated resource planning and project pre-approval of large electric generation and transmission facilities. <Pending Introduction & Referral> — Testimony <Invitation Only> —
(S)COMMUNITY & REGIONAL AFFAIRS Apr 25 Thursday 3:30 PM: Presentation: Nuclear Micro-reactors by: Marcus Nichol, Director of New Reactor Deployment, Nuclear Energy Institute – John Wagner, Associate Lab Director, Idaho National Laboratory – George Roe & Gwen Holdmann, UAF Alaska Center for Energy & Power
(H)RESOURCES Apr 26 Friday 1:00 PM: Presentation: Arctic Strategic Transportation and Resources by – Faith Martineau, Director, Office of Project Management and Permitting, Dept. of Natural Resources – Jeff Bruno, Large Project Coordinator, Office of Project Management and Permitting, Dept. of Natural Resources — Testimony <Invitation Only> —
HR 8 2019: INT’L YEAR OF THE SALMON TELECONFERENCED <Pending Referral> — Testimony <Invitation Only> —
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