The House Finance Committee hears a presentation Monday by Joshua Strauss. The presentation informed legislators of the potential of carbon offset programs. (Gavel Alaska screenshot)

The House Finance Committee hears a presentation Monday by Joshua Strauss. The presentation informed legislators of the potential of carbon offset programs. (Gavel Alaska screenshot)

Bill proposing carbon offsets meets lukewarm reaction in key committee

House Finance members express skepticism about claimed benefits

By Sophia Carlisle

Alaska Beacon

A bill that is part of Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposal to raise state revenue by storing carbon was met with skepticism by the House Finance Committee on Monday. The bill would authorize the Department of Natural Resources to lease state land for carbon management and establish a program to offset the effect of carbon burned elsewhere. The piece of legislation has been proposed as a way to generate revenue, but some legislators don’t believe it will easily solve Alaska’s revenue problem.

“I have concerns about how much revenue is actually going to be generated,” said Rep. Julie Coulombe, R-Anchorage, a committee member.

Joshua Strauss, senior vice president of Anew, a company offering carbon offsets programs, presented to the committee at the hearing on Monday. He advocated for the use of carbon offset programs as a way for the state to generate revenue, citing three potential physical areas in Alaska that would be ripe for implementing carbon offset programs: Haines, Tanana and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. If the bill passed and the Department of Natural Resources could lease these areas of land, he said the potential for state revenue could be upwards of $80 million in the first decade.

The high start-up costs of the program and the length of time that would be required to take action on carbon offset programs gave legislators pause.

“It’s pretty speculative, but I think it’s an opportunity that we should look at, but it’s clearly not the solution we should bank on,” said Anchorage independent Rep. Alyse Galvin about the program.

If the bill passed, it would likely take the state over a year to begin these types of programs, according to Strauss.

“It’s asking for a pretty big investment in advance,” said Galvin. She said she was more favorable toward her plan that offered a different solution to raising state revenue. On Monday, she proposed a sales tax, in an effort to alleviate pressures on the state budget.

While Galvin said she was enthusiastic about looking for any and all possible solutions to the deficit, she said that this solution did not seem like something that would work.

“I think that the value of the carbon credits program is completely market dependent and that market is shaky at best,” she said.

• Sophia Carlisle is a writer currently based in the Western United States. This story originally appeared online at Alaska Beacon is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Alaska Beacon, an affiliate of States Newsroom, is an independent, nonpartisan news organization focused on connecting Alaskans to their state government.

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