Leg With Louie: hope for the future in the dim light of a dawning decade

Under a newly proposed Trump Administration rule, Environmental Impact Statements on major federal actions, say permitting a Pebble Mine or a transnational oil pipeline, would be limited to a maximum of two years of agency and public review and among other limitations, the analysis of cumulative impacts is not allowed. Trump’s new EIS rule change would institutionalize the same shoddy, unscientific, and shallow review of project impacts on the environment and human health that we saw with the Army Corps of Engineers Pebble mine Draft EIS. The limitation on the review of cumulative impacts is especially dire, as this means climate change cannot be part of any analysis of a major project.  

That is a long way to preface the importance of State action this upcoming legislative session, though I found it necessary to help illustrate how thoroughly dangerous these times are becoming. If a state legislature becomes your beacon of protection, you are one hosed puppy.  That said, we should thank the stars for the AK House Majority. It is critical in many ways, and one of the ways is that this body might provide some sanity when it comes to the climate change emergency our state is facing. The legislative session begins on January 21 this year, and just three days later, on Friday, January 24th at 1 p.m. the House Resources Committee will take up consideration of House Resolution 12, a resolution to create a special committee on climate change in the House.

Creation of a special committee is important, in that it can formally review the problem, analyze legislation that may have a cumulative climate impact, and investigate and propose legislation that can provide climate change solutions. A House Resolution need only be ratified in the House before it becomes a reality. Hopefully, the House Resources Committee sees fit to move the resolution swiftly, and House leadership moves the resolution swiftly to the floor for a vote.

Climate change is a topic that is deeply threatened by partisan distortions. It is so huge it is beyond any one person’s comprehension yet it impacts and threatens us all personally. We should not be so alarmed that this topic is politically charged, and the Alaska Legislature, a political body, should definitely not shy away from discussing a political topic just because it has become political.

On other fronts, this session will be a study in bizarre contrasts: for one thing, we have a cash-starved state led by a no-tax governor, who appears to be asking a tax-averse legislature to take the lead on crafting taxes. However, Dunleavy ultimately wants the people to vote on said taxes, which the legislature opposes. Our governor is also working under the shadow of a vast, bipartisan recall campaign and is signaling he would like to try and mend fences with the legislature he worked hard to alienate last year. It will be interesting. Take it with a grain of salt.

In addition to advocating for a special committee on climate policy in the House to address the growing emergency of climate change, The Alaska Center will be supporting legislation that will support a fiscal plan that will allow us to fund Education, the AMHS, and clean energy programs. We support a robust analysis of the Hilcorp/BP asset acquisition, and legislative or regulatory action to ensure public disclosure of Hilcorp’s financial ability to responsibly operate in Alaska. We will continue working to ensure Alaskans have access to a process for designating high-value waters for special legal protection from pollution. We will also support a statewide non-discrimination bill. 

The 2020 Alaska Legislative session starts up on January 21st. Prepare yourself. Plan to engage in the policy process as a practice to ward off despair over the baffling politics of our time. 

Talk to you again soon,

Louie Flora
Government Affairs Director

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