Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire 
Gov. Mike Dunleavy talks about his second-term agenda with members of the Alaska Chamber of Commerce, which is doing a two-day legislative fly-in this week, before his speech during the Juneau Chamber’s weekly luncheon Thursday. The speech and subsequent question period was at the Baranof Hotel to accommodate the extra out-of-town guests spending much of their time at the Alaska State Capitol, rather than the usual location at the Juneau Moose Lodge Family Center.

Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire Gov. Mike Dunleavy talks about his second-term agenda with members of the Alaska Chamber of Commerce, which is doing a two-day legislative fly-in this week, before his speech during the Juneau Chamber’s weekly luncheon Thursday. The speech and subsequent question period was at the Baranof Hotel to accommodate the extra out-of-town guests spending much of their time at the Alaska State Capitol, rather than the usual location at the Juneau Moose Lodge Family Center.

Big carbon and ‘small nukes’ are state’s future, governor says

Dunleavy sells business leaders on greenhouse gas cash, greenhouses with mini nuclear power plants

Gov. Mike Dunleavy much-publicized proposal to make carbon credits a cornerstone of the state’s revenue stream received much of the focus during a lunchtime presentation before business leaders.

He also discussed matters ranging from spending caps to tourism and focused on some other long-term development ideas such as “small nukes” — as in miniature nuclear power facilities — in his noon-hour remarks to the Alaska Chamber of Commerce who were fed a Filipino feast in a packed ballroom at the Baranof Hotel in downtown Juneau.

As he has throughout and since his successful reelection campaign, Dunleavy emphasized a theme of looking ahead to the next 50 years rather than just what’s needed to get a budget and other necessary state legislative matters completed this year. He said the current session is occurring as the state is still dealing with reverberations from the COVID-19 pandemic, but during the past year he has spent considerable time meeting with industry officials in the Lower 48 to discuss gas line, farmland and water resources.

“Of course the issue of carbon has really been dropped in our lap,” he said.

A commonly expressed concern carbon credits will “lock off the forests” isn’t accurate, Dunleavy said. A Canadian timber company, for instance, has proposed taking over management of some Alaska’s forests for up to 75 years, during which they’d pay for the deadfall and other wood harvested as well as carbon offsets.

“It’s how the contracts are structured,” he said. “It’s not one size fits all.”

Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire 
Members of the Alaska Chamber of Commerce eat a Filipino lunch during the Juneau Chamber’s weekly luncheon Thursday at the Baranof Hotel prior to Gov. Mike Dunleavy appearance as the week’s featured speaker.

Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire Members of the Alaska Chamber of Commerce eat a Filipino lunch during the Juneau Chamber’s weekly luncheon Thursday at the Baranof Hotel prior to Gov. Mike Dunleavy appearance as the week’s featured speaker.

Dunleavy’s promotion of carbon offsets as a Republican comes as members of his party nationally are declaring war on companies such as Microsoft for announcing changes to its Xbox to reduce the gaming console’s carbon impact. It also comes at the same time he is continuing to push for maximizing the state’s resource development and attacking the Biden administration for actions such as reimposing the Roadless Rule in the Tongass National Forest.

But the governor is largely focusing on the revenue aspect of carbon credit possibilities — which beyond environmental preservation measures such as leaving forests intact could also include carbon storage in place such as Cook Inlet — and told the chamber audience a carbon plan could ultimately be beneficial to Alaska’s oil companies because it’s production has fewer environmental impacts than many other areas.

“That’s why you’ll see some folks on the far, far far left not like it,” he said.

Another “game changer” the governor said can help rural areas in particular are nuclear microreactors, following his signing of a bill during last year’s legislative session making it easier to obtain permits. He said it could be a sustainable and safe — at least in terms of deaths occurring to date from nuclear power compared to mining-related deaths — source for remote communities such as Nome as well as small enough to provide the power for a greenhouse.

State Chamber of Commerce leaders noted their foremost priority in a stable fiscal plan for the state is a spending cap, and asked what Dunleavy is doing this year to implement one. The governor said he supports a cap and is again working with legislators who feel the same way, but suggested his executive powers — including a line-item veto — are the most realistic current approach.

“Probably the most effective spending cap the past few years has been myself,” he said.

Dunleavy also used the question to reiterate ways his carbon plan can help, noting income from that can lessen the need to rely on oil prices and thus put the state’s income stream on more reliable footing.

When asked about education priorities, Dunleavy began his reply with a question of his own: “outcomes or funding?” They are, he said, two sides of the same coin for a system that right now is struggling with things likes standardized test scores.

“It was (originally) a system to assimilate immigrants, but now with technology we need people who can think on their feet well, we need people who can read well and we need people who can do math well,” said Dunleavy, whose proposed budget essentially flat-funds education next year. When it comes to legislative proposals “if it’s just about funding we want discussions about performance as well.”

Capital city concerns

A few Juneau-related issues were raised during the governor’s 40-minute appearance, split between his speech and answering questions submitted in writing, since the event was part of the Juneau Chamber of Commerce’s weekly Thursday luncheons with feature guest speakers. Among those questions was what he is doing “to track a healthy visitor industry.”

Dunleavy said efforts since the worst of the pandemic have included reaching out throughout Canada and the rest of the U.S. with video ads and other material “to lure visitors here coming out of COVID.”

“We’re going to do everything we can to work with the tourism industry, see what barriers remain,” he said.

The governor also noted Juneau at one time was also more widely known as a mining, logging and fishing town.

“It can be all of these things,” he said.

He also found yet another way to work in yet another reference about how “in a way it’s like carbon” when it comes to tourism.

“You’re not severing a resource and taking it out,” he said. “You’re bringing in folks from outside.”

Dunleavy was also asked about his stance on a road linking Juneau to the outside world as well as a possible ferry terminal at Cascade Point, which he said he is still reviewing with transportation department leaders.

“The idea is to get that road in,” he said. “Cascade Point may be a part of it.”

• Contact reporter Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com

More in News

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Aurora forecast for the week of Feb. 19

These forecasts are courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute… Continue reading

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé students hold up signs during a rally along Egan Drive on Tuesday afternoon protesting a proposal to consolidate all local students in grades 10-12 at Thunder Mountain High School to help deal with the Juneau School District’s financial crisis. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
JDHS students, teachers rally to keep grades 9-12 at downtown school if consolidation occurs

District’s proposed move to TMHS would result in loss of vocational facilities, ninth-grade students.

Deven Mitchell, executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp., gives a tour of the corporation’s investment floor to Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, and other attendees of an open house on Friday. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. leaders approve proposal to borrow up to $4 billion for investments

Plan must be OK’d by legislators and Gov. Mike Dunleavy because it requires changes to state law.

Rep. Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, presides over a mostly empty House chamber at the end of an hourslong recess over education legislation on Monday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empure)
Tie vote kills early House debate on education funding

Lawmakers spend much of Monday in closed-door negotiations, plan to take up bill again Tuesday.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy announces his proposed FY2025 budget at a news conference in Juneau on Dec. 14, 2023. (Claire Stremple/Alaska Beacon)
Gov. Dunleavy proposes tax breaks for the private sector to address Alaska’s high cost of living

The Dunleavy administration’s proposal to address a crisis of affordability in Alaska… Continue reading

Lacey Sanders, director of the state Office of Management and Budget, presents Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s updated budget requests for this fiscal year and next to the Senate Finance Committee on Monday at the Alaska State Capitol. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Small changes in governor’s proposed budget could mean big moves for Juneau

New plan moves staff from Permanent Fund building, opening space for city to put all employees there

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Smokestack emissions into Fairbanks’ atmosphere are seen on March 1, 2023, from the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska legislators give closer look at bill aimed at storing carbon emissions underground

Bill could enable enhanced oil recovery, sequestration of emissions from new coal-fired power.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read