Public statements by Commissioner Brune cause concern

The recent public scoping notice issued by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, along with statements made by the department’s commissioner, Jason Brune, have caused concern at the Council.

Some of the commissioner’s statements were interpreted as encouraging a reduction in regulations, safeguards that could lead to a return to the complacency that led to the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Full statements

References to “burdensome” regulations

Last March, the commissioner spoke to Alaska’s Resource Development Council, an organization comprised of representatives from Alaska’s oil and gas, mining, timber, tourism, and fisheries industries. He told the group that he has been focusing on the word “economic” in the department’s mission: ‘Conserving, improving, and protecting Alaska’s natural resources and environment to enhance the health, safety, economic, and social well-being of Alaskans.’ He specifically requested comments from members of the business group regarding which regulations they view as “overly onerous” and “unnecessary.” “We need to make sure that we hear from you what we can do to help make Alaska open for business,” Brune told them.

The commissioner spoke to the Council at two public meetings this year. At the Council’s meeting last May, he mentioned the length of the regulations for contingency plans.

“When you make things complex and you make things 49 pages, for regs [regulations] for a c-plan [contingency plan], that influences your investment climate,” he said.

These regulations cover different response planning standards for crude tankers, non-crude tankers and barges, crude oil terminals, non-crude terminals, oil and gas exploration facilities, production facilities, and pipelines.

“We’re going to look at them [the regulations] and we’re going to determine whether it’s — some things that are in there are just outdated, some things are unnecessary, they’re not protecting human health and the environment,” also told the Council in May.

“Some of the things that have been added to c-plans over the years, as I said, I think that the c-plans have gotten — and I know a lot of you disagree with me on this — but they’ve gotten overly onerous and too large to the point that they’re almost unusable documents,” the commissioner said in September.

Since 1992, the department has revised these regulations nine times to streamline the process and make creating the documents less onerous.

Lack of transparency

The Council has asked for examples of regulations that have been suggested for reform but has not received any specifics.

“Some of the examples [of recommended changes] that have been given — I mean, I’m — I can’t come up with any right now but, I mean, some of the regs that we put forward for potential changes, I don’t have that list in front of me but did come from input that we received in those processes,” told the Council in May.

“We have identified the list of regs that we think can be improved. The State of Alaska — the different departments were asked to do that by the Governor. We put a list of about a hundred came forward from the different agencies around — I think 35 or 40 of them came from DEC.”

At the Council’s meeting in September, members showed appreciation that the commissioner was open to conversations, however concerns remained.

“I’ve heard a lot of folks say they want huge changes,” the commissioner told the Council in September.

Council calls on the commissioner to uphold commitment to protect Alaska

However, at the May meeting, the commissioner also made statements that he is committed to the protection of Alaska’s environment.
“We have a responsibility to make sure that the economy of Alaska is protected and economic development and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive. Those two things we’ve proven can co-exist. We’ve also proven in 1989 that you can really screw things up. So we need to make sure we’re doing it right,” the commissioner told the Council last May.

The Council called on the commissioner to uphold this commitment to protect Alaska’s environment during upcoming reviews of regulations.

Statements made by ADEC Commissioner Jason Brune of concern to the Council:

March 21, 2019:

May 2019:

September 2019:

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