Gov. Dunleavy proposes legislation for carbon ‘monetization’, environmentalists disagree

The trans-Alaska pipeline.
The trans-Alaska pipeline.(KTUU)
Published: Jan. 13, 2023 at 7:06 AM AKST|Updated: Jan. 17, 2023 at 4:26 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Dunleavy administration said it will be introducing legislation outlining the process for the state to make money from the carbon that exists naturally in the state, as well as from human production.

In a press conference Thursday, Gov. Mike Dunleavy acknowledged that there’s a rapidly growing market value on carbon, and that it’s time for Alaska to capitalize on it.

Dunleavy urged lawmakers to take the legislation seriously as the cornerstone of a long-term fiscal solution complimenting revenue from oil and gas and the Permanent Fund and believes the state has a right to do all of this as stated in Alaska’s constitution.

“We have an obligation in the constitution under natural resources to maximize our resources to the benefit of the people of Alaska, and that’s what we’re going to be doing here,” Dunleavy said.

The process of carbon monetization and sequestration involves removing carbon from resources such as oil, gas, and timber, and making the sale of these energy sources much more valuable in these “good for the planet” times. It’s already proven financially rewarding by local tribal organizations and in the lower 48.

“Keep in mind that since 2015, I take my hats off to some of our Native corporations,” Dunleavy said. “They’ve realized about $350 million on 350,000 acres of land. So that’s a small example, and there’s projects such as this ongoing in the Lower 48 with private landowners as well.”

Introducing new legislation this session is the first step in the process. John Boyle, Department of Natural Resources Commissioner-Designee, outlined the structure for the state, which places the governance and oversight under the department.

“The bill package establishes statutory authority rules and processes for leasing state subsurface land for carbon capture, utilization and storage methods,” Boyle said. “... Second, the bill package also establishes the authority for the DNR to market carbon offsets. Lastly, the bill provides DNR the authority to lease state lands for purposes that include carbon offset projects.”

On the surface, the proposed legislation seems like a win-win, with a step in the right direction for the health of the planet, but some environmentalist groups disagree.

Pam Miller of the Alaska Community Action on Toxics says the governor’s administration is focusing on the wrong energy resources.

“It’s essentially privatizing nature, and I think it’s a false solution, because it doesn’t effectively eliminate carbon sources,” Miller said. “It’s simply a trading scheme, and I think it’s a distraction, really, from the real need, which is to focus on making a swift transition to clean renewable energy sources, and I think this gives industry, really, an out to simply trade carbon credits and not focus on the elimination of the problem and address real solutions.”

Elisabeth Dabney, the Executive Director of the Northern Alaska Environmental Center, echoed that sentiment.

“Without truly dealing with the climate crisis, this bill establishes a green-washing opportunity for the state and whoever they sell their carbon offsets to,” Dabney said in a statement. “Alaskans are waiting to get to work to build the renewable energy future. This legislation would keep Alaska from moving forward.”