Headlamp – Coal, Kenya, China; Update from Governor’s out-of-state climate change Czar

“People were stunned that it actually happened.” When President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski had been a member of the United States Senate for 15 years. She’d pulled off a historic write-in campaign, built a reputation as someone who thinks deeply about policy, and helped pass a sweeping bipartisan public-lands deal. But a year after gaining control over two of the Senate’s most influential energy and natural resource committees, Murkowski had made little headway in her plans to develop Alaska’s protected lands and waters. Three changes in particular had eluded her. The federal “roadless rule” that spares old-growth forest in Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest survived litigation, and Murkowski’s efforts to bypass it legislatively had fizzled. The Aleutian village of King Cove was still cut off from the rest of the world by the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. And one of President Obama’s executive orders kept the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge closed to drilling. Murkowski, a lifelong Alaskan who believes that her constituents’ well-being is inextricable from access to the state’s natural resources, was furious. “There is no other way to describe it,” she said of the executive order, than “as a war. We are left with no choice but to hit back as hard as we can.”

Godzilla vs King Kong – Big Corn vs. Big Oil? U.S. President Donald Trump has asked for more talks between representatives of the oil and corn industries after a meeting on Tuesday failed to yield an agreement on how to help refiners cope with the country’s biofuels policy. Trump has called the talks between Big Corn and Big Oil amid rising concern in the White House over the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a law requiring refiners to mix biofuels such as corn-based ethanol into their fuel. The decade-old policy was intended to help farmers and reduce U.S. petroleum imports but has increasingly divided farmers and energy companies – two of Trump’s most important constituencies. A refining company in the key electoral state of Pennsylvania last month blamed the RFS for its bankruptcy. The meeting on Tuesday included Republican Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania – both from major oil refining states – along with Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst of major corn grower state Iowa. “No deal made,” said Grassley in a Twitter post after the meeting, adding the proposals discussed were “not ‘win win’” and would “destroy ethanol demand.”

Coal in Kenya compliments of China. Across a narrow channel from this historic port town, where baobabs tower over the forest and tiny crabs skitter in and out of the mangroves, Kenya could soon get its first coal-fired power plant, courtesy of China. The plan’s champions, including senior Kenyan officials, say the plant will help meet the country’s fast-growing demand for electricity and draw investment. Its critics worry that it will damage the area’s fragile marine ecosystem, threaten the livelihoods of fishing communities and pollute the air. The battle over the project, which is frozen pending the outcome of a court case, reverberates far beyond Lamu, a 700-year-old Indian Ocean port town of coral-lime houses and carved wooden doors that has been designated a Unesco world heritage site.


An update from the Governor’s out-of-state climate change czar:

2018 is off to a productive start. Throughout the year, we will strive to provide updates via e-mail on the work of the leadership team and highlight any upcoming opportunities for public input.

Governor’s Climate Change Webpage

The new climate change webpage, part of the Governor’s website, is accessible at climatechange.gov.alaska.gov

Climate Leadership Team

The Climate Action for Alaska Leadership Team held its inaugural meeting on December 18, 2017, in Anchorage. Team members identified near-term and long-term (2030 and 2050) goals and visions for Alaska’s climate policy, and developed an initial work plan for 2018. As stated in the Administrative Order, the leadership team has a September 2018 deadline to present its recommended climate action plan to the Governor.

CALT members will participate in one or both working groups on mitigation and adaptation. The Mitigation Working Group will focus on growing renewable energy, energy efficiency, and community and commercial emissions reductions. The Adaptation Working Group will focus on strengthening social, environmental, and economic resilience in the context of climate change. As they develop policy recommendations, both groups will meet regularly, engage with stakeholder groups and pursue partnerships, identity gaps and potential research.

Agency Highlights

On January 8, the DHSS Section of Epidemiology released the “Assessment of the Potential Health Impacts of Climate Change in Alaska”. The report can be found at http://www.epi.alaska.gov/bulletins/docs/rr2018_01.pdf.

On January 30, DEC release an updated Alaska Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Report, which describes and quantifies human-caused sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions occurring between 1990 and 2015 from Alaska operations and facilities. The report can be found at http://dec.alaska.gov/air/anpms/projects-reports/greenhouse-gas-inventory.


First Reads:

At last, Alaska makes headway on its development dreams
High Country News, Krista Langlois, February 28, 2018

White House pushes for more talks after ‘no deal’ on biofuels
Reuters, Jarrett Renshaw, February 27, 2018

Why Build Kenya’s first coal plant? Hint: Think China
The New York Times, Somini Sengupta, February 27, 2018