A SIGNAL TO KICKSTART ECONOMY
Gov. Michael Dunleavy on Friday signed Administrative Order 309, rescinding certain administrative orders signed by former Gov. Bill Walker.
Walker, immediately upon taking office in 2014, issued Administrative Order 271, directing state agencies to halt, “to the maximum extent possible,” discretionary expenditures for six state projects:
- Ambler Road Project
- Juneau Access Project
- Susitna-Watana Dam Project
- Alaska Aerospace Kodiak Launch Complex
- Knik Arm Crossing Project
- Alaska Stand Alone Pipeline Project
Alaska Aerospace complied with Walker’s AO 271 and in January 2015 voluntarily returned $22 million of the FY 2012 capital appropriation to the state for re-appropriation. Although it lost that money to the State, in 2017 Walker approved the aerospace corporation’s request to be released from the order to allow limited investment at the Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska, using its remaining funds for infrastructure to support a medium-lift capability should the corporation secure a new contract or to be used for existing customers.
The Ambler Road Project for accessing the Ambler Mining District was also frozen by AO 271 in 2014. Four years later, in February of 2018, Gov. Walker said he was planning to move the project forward, but it wasn’t until late November, 2018, after he was booted from office by voters, that he released the $3.6 million that he had frozen. The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority had, in August, requested that he release the money so the environmental impact statement process could be completed.
Gov. Dunleavy’s reversing of the Walker work stoppage on the Ambler Road Project signals his administration is more interested in “Roads to Resources” and economic development. Dunleavy has been a proponent of responsible resource development.
The Juneau Access Project was also unfrozen by AO 309. With the funding secured from the federal government, the road to Juneau had been ready for construction, but Gov. Bill Walker made the fateful decision to choose the “no build” option.
That no-build decision has long-term consequences, meaning the project can’t simply move ahead now that Dunleavy has signaled a new direction. It will require additional reversal of the subsequent federal decisions that sidelined the project because of Walker’s decision.
Dunleavy also reversed administrative orders relating to work on the Alaska Stand Alone Pipeline Project. The ASAP line was out of favor with Walker, as he focused on an export line. The ASAP is an instate gasline concept for Railbelt communities and could provide gas to Fairbanks, the Donlin Mine, and other communities. A federal record of decision on the project was due months ago, but likely was put on hold until after the election. Very little has been done on the ASAP line during the Walker era, when the focus was more on sending gas to China.
The Walker Climate Change Strategy Team was also dismantled by Administrative Order 309. The group had produced a 37-page document that set targets for the state reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and prioritized an economy less reliant on fossil fuels. The Walker plan had also prioritized educating Alaskans about the impacts of global warming. The climate team had been headed by former Lt. Gov. Byron, who resigned during a personal scandal, and the Walker climate change advisor, who traveled back and forth from Seattle to her job in Juneau by jet.
Dunleavy also rescinded AO 292, Walker’s Commuter Rail Advisory Task Force, which was devoted to starting initial work on a commuter rail line between the Mat-Su and Anchorage.