Secretary of State Rex Tillerson waves goodbye after speaking aat the State Department in Washington, Tuesday, March 13, 2018. President Donald Trump fired Tillerson and said he would nominate CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace him, in a major staff reshuffle just as Trump dives into high-stakes talks with North Korea. (Andrew Harnik | The Associated Press)

Walker, Mallott say Tillerson firing will not significantly affect Alaska

Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott say they do not expect the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to interfere with ongoing negotiations between the U.S. and Canada regarding mines along the Alaska-Canada border.

Walker and Mallott shared their thoughts on the same morning that President Donald Trump fired Tillerson as the Secretary of State returned from a trip to Africa.

Alaska and Florida are the only U.S. states to border two countries.

“I don’t think that it will change anything unless there are fundamental changes in policy throughout the government in this area,” Mallott said.

“EPA and other agencies are also involved, and I don’t think, quite frankly, that this issue got to his level in any event.”

Mallott has been the state’s lead figure in negotiations among Alaska, the U.S., British Columbia and the Canadian federal government as Alaska grapples with issues related to new mines being constructed in the watersheds of rivers that flow into Alaska.

Alaskans are concerned that an accident could release acidic mine drainage into those Alaska-flowing rivers, affecting fisheries, drinking water and the environment in general. The Tulsequah Chief Mine has been releasing acidic mine drainage into the Taku River for a significant amount of time, and the state is seeking to force action to clean up that mine.

Mallott and U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan were among a delegation that recently traveled to Ottawa for talks with the Canadian federal government on the issue. That trip was coordinated by the State Department.

Sullivan, by email, said, “We do not anticipate new and constructive engagement by the State Department on transboundary mining issues to change with the departure of Secretary Tillerson.”

Sullivan praised Tillerson and the State Department in general (Sullivan formerly served in the department) and said he looks forward to meeting with Mike Pompeo, whom Trump has named to replace Tillerson.

Asked whether Tillerson’s firing will affect Alaska in general, Walker replied, “You know, I don’t think so.”

“I think it was nice to have a Secretary of State that had Alaska connections. I met with him a number of times and actually once in Fairbanks had lunch with him. So it’s always nice to have somebody in the cabinet — as many in the cabinet (should have) Alaska connections as possible — and so I’m sorry to see him step away. So I don’t think that there are ramifications necessarily for Alaska. But I just think any connection we have with a cabinet member is good.”

• Contact reporter James Brooks at or 523-2258.

More in News

Briefs: SHI sponsors series, Coastal CODE, Museum Day, Princess Sophia author talk

Capital City Weekly news briefs for Sept. 12-18, 2018.

Alaska String Band reflects on Russian tour

The Alaska String Band (ASB) is back from a Russian tour with… Continue reading

Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority is looking at all options in the sale of the subport land along Juneau downtown waterfront on Monday, Sept. 17, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)
Mental Health Trust spending time, money on subport property

City officials are growing increasingly impatient with the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority.

Meet the judges on the ballot in Southeast Alaska

They’re on the ballot, but you won’t see any ads for them.… Continue reading

Judge sets date in case of billion-dollar oil lawsuit

Sitka judge will hear arguments on a lawsuit with billion-dollar implications for Alaska.

Valley Lumber & Building Supply Company has been sold to Bruce Abel, who owns Don Abel Building Supply. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)
Valley Lumber sold to Don Abel owner

Owner of Don Abel Building Supply buys similar business near Nugget Mall.

Assembly candidates answers questions during a Special Native Issues Forum at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018. From left: Garrett Schoenberger, Carole Triem, Tom Williams, Don Habeger, Wade Bryson, Michelle Bonnet Hale and Loren Jones. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)
Education topics stand out at Assembly forum

Candidates circled back to educational topics during the first public forum of election season.

Kava-not protesters demonstrate in front of Capitol

“Did you notice that his name ends in a nah? It’s nah, nada, no way.”

Salmon treaty process was ‘bloody,’ but included some wins for AK, negotiators say

Alaska, Washington and Oregon representatives settled negotiation Monday with Canada on how… Continue reading

Most Read