There’s plenty of scientists and renewable energy members on Gov. Bill Walker’s 15-member climate change team, as well as a handful of Alaska Native members, a fishing industry representative and one oil industry member.
Walker announced the appointment of his “Climate Action for Alaska Leadership Team” today, which he announced in October through an administrative order as part of an effort to create an Alaska-centric version of the Paris Climate Accord. The team took applications from the public, and Walker mostly picked members with experience in climate science and renewable energy. Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott will chair the team.
“I am proud to present a motivated group of leaders, each of whom brings a range of expertise and interests to the table,” Walker said in a prepared statement. “Our team members not only represent a breadth of experience across the state from the North Slope to the Southeast, but also have strong networks and resources spanning from Alaska to the rest of the world, giving us a voice in the global dialogue on climate change.”
Walker took some flack when he first announced the team, carefully trying to balance concerns about the changing climate with Alaska’s financial interest in the development of fossil fuels. More than half of his appointments are listed to have experience in climate science–like Molly McCammon, who’s the executive director of the Alaska Ocean Observing System and leads the Alaska Ocean Acidification Network–or renewable energy–like Chris Rose, who’s the founder and executive director of the Renewable Energy Alaska Project.
The only member with direct involvement in the oil industry is BP Alaska Regional President Janet Weiss, who’s also a member of the Alaska Oil and Gas Advisory Board.
Also among the notable appointments is former Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins, who was appointed and successfuly confirmed by the Legislature to serve on the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation’s board (though he later resigned the position to pursue a run for state Senate). There’s also Mara Kimmel, wife of Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, who was appointed based on her experience as adjunct faculty at UAA’s Institute of Social and Economic Research.
Update: Though as much as Walker’s team favors climate scientists and the renewable energy industry, a reader points out that the group’s technical support group, Institute of the North, has a track record of being “pro-ANWR opening” and pro-development in the Arctic. The Institute of the North had a similar technical support role with the Arctic Council, which the reader says created tensions.
The team is set to meet in Anchorage on Dec. 18. Its task is to produce a report by next year on things Alaska can do to battle climate change.
Here’s the full list of the team members and their experience as detailed in Gov. Walker’s announcement:
Climate Action for Alaska Leadership Team Members
Ralph Andersen (Dillingham)
Ralph Andersen is the President and CEO of Bristol Bay Native Association and a member of Clarks Point Tribal Council. Ralph is also Chairman of the Bristol Bay Partnership and the Western Alaska Salmon Coalition, and is former Co-Chairman of the Alaska Federation of Natives.
Linda Behnken (Sitka)
Linda Behnken is the Executive Director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) and has 34 years of experience as a commercial fisherman. Linda is a Commissioner of the International Pacific Halibut Commission and has previously served on the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council.
Lisa Busch (Sitka)
Lisa Busch is the Executive Director of the non-profit Sitka Sound Science Center, where she is responsible for operations and organizational development and health. Lisa has prior career experience as a radio producer and environmental journalist, and has worked extensively in providing communication training for scientists.
Luke Hopkins (Fairbanks)
Luke Hopkins is former Mayor of the Fairbanks North Star Borough and has previously served on the Borough Assembly and the Board of Directors of the Alaska Municipal League. Luke was a member of the Immediate Action Work Group of the former Sub-Cabinet on Climate Change, where he helped to develop policies to protect coastal communities imminently threatened by climate change.
John Hopson, Jr. (Wainwright)
John Hopson, Jr. is Mayor of the City of Wainwright, President of the North Slope Borough Assembly, Chairman of the Eskimo Whaling Commission and Vice Chairman of the Voice of the Arctic Inupiat. John has been engaged as both a community and corporate leader on the North Slope for over a decade.
Nicole Kanayurak (Utqiaġvik)
Nicole Kanayurak is a 2017 Knauss Marine Policy Fellow working in the NOAA Office of International Affairs and Seafood Inspection, focusing on international fisheries legislation and negotiations. Nicole is currently the youth representative to the Inuit Circumpolar Council and former representative to Future Arctic Leaders, and has held a variety of positions working for the North Slope Borough.
Mara Kimmel (Anchorage)
Mara Kimmel is the First Lady of Anchorage and is an affiliate faculty member at the Institute of Social and Economic Research at UAA. Mara’s doctoral research focused on the relationship between land rights, governance and human development in Arctic and sub-Arctic communities. She also has served the Municipality of Anchorage as the head of the Resilience Anchorage project.
Meera Kohler (Anchorage)
Meera Kohler is the President and CEO of Alaska Village Electric Cooperative (AVEC), a non-profit electric utility owned by the residents of 58 communities throughout Alaska. Meera was a member of the former Alaska Climate Change Sub-Cabinet.
Michael LeVine (Juneau)
Michael LeVine is the Senior Arctic Fellow at Ocean Conservancy. Michael’s work focuses on sustainable management and stewardship of ocean resources, as well as the creation of economic opportunity in the face of changing ocean conditions.
Mark Masteller (Palmer)
Mark Masteller is an Assistant Professor at University of Alaska where he teaches classes on energy efficiency and renewable energy as part of the sustainable energy program. Mark serves as the Alaska Director for the Cascadia Green Building Council and as a board member for the Matanuska Electric Association. He has over 20 years of experience in wildlife research and management as a wildlife biologist.
Molly McCammon (Anchorage)
Molly McCammon is the Executive Director of the Alaska Ocean Observing System (AOOS). As part of her work, Molly leads the Alaska Ocean Acidification Network and co-leads the Alaska Harmful Algal Bloom Network and the Alaska Integrated Water Level Observing Network.
Denise Michels (Nome)
Denise Michels is a former Mayor of Nome and recently joined DOWL as a Senior Project Manager and will work with Newtok. Previously, while at Kawerak, Denise helped Shishmaref with their relocation efforts. Denise is a former member of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, the Alaska Arctic Council Host Committee, the Northern Waters Task Force, and the Adaptation Advisory Group of the former Sub-Cabinet on Climate Change.
Chris Rose (Anchorage)
Chris Rose is the founder and Executive Director of the Renewable Energy Alaska Project (REAP), which is dedicated to increasing renewable energy and energy efficiency throughout Alaska. Chris was a member of the Mitigation Advisory Group of the former Climate Change Sub-Cabinet, and has previously served as the Commissioner of the Mat-Su Borough Planning Commission.
Isaac Vanderburg (Anchorage)
Isaac Vanderburg is the Executive Director of Launch Alaska, Alaska’s first energy accelerator. Launch Alaska is focused on building companies in the energy sector who are working on climate solutions in the sectors of food, water, energy and transportation.
Janet Weiss (Anchorage)
Janet Weiss is the President of BP Alaska Region and has worked in the energy industry for over 30 years, with experience in Alaska, Wyoming and the Gulf of Mexico. Janet is a member of the Alaska Oil and Gas Advisory Board and the University of Alaska Fairbanks Advisory Board.
Ex Officio Members
Duncan Fields (Kodiak)
Duncan Fields is a technical advisor to the Gulf of Alaska Coastal Communities Coalition and the owner of Shoreside Consulting, a natural resources consulting firm based in Kodiak, Alaska. Duncan is an attorney and fisheries advocate, former member of the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council and former president of the Kodiak Island Borough School District.
Jim Johnsen (Fairbanks)
Jim Johnsen is the current President of the University of Alaska, as well as a commissioner on the Denali Commission and a member of the Alaska Aerospace Corporation Board. Jim’s many executive roles in higher education have included statewide academic initiatives to align primary and secondary education sectors and to achieve higher attainment levels throughout Alaska.
Reggie Joule (Kotzebue)
Reginald (“Reggie”) Joule is a former state legislator in the Alaska House of Representatives and former Mayor of the Northwest Arctic Borough, as well as a member of the UK-based Polar Research and Policy Initiative. While serving as Mayor, Reggie was appointed by President Obama to the President’s State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience.
Sam Schimmel (Kenai Peninsula & St. Lawrence Island)
Sam Schimmel is a student and alumni of the Center for Native American Youth (CNAY) Champions for Change Program. Sam has worked on numerous legislative and executive initiatives for Native youth, including a 2016 bill establishing the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children and a roundtable discussion with Alaska’s congressional delegation and Governor at the 2017 Alaska Federation of Natives conference.
Fran Ulmer (Anchorage)
Fran Ulmer is Chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission and former Lieutenant Governor of Alaska. Fran is a member of the Global Board of the Nature Conservancy and the Board of the National Parks Conservation Commission, and was appointed to the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.