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Alaska Gov. Walker’s administration rejects teen activists’ call for cutting carbon emissions

Seventeen teens speak with Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Larry Hartig last month about a proposal that asked the state to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Hartig rejected the proposal this week. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker's administration Wednesday rejected a proposal by a group of youth environmental activists that asked the state to start regulating emissions of climate-warming greenhouse gases.

There are "practical and legal hurdles" to the Department of Environmental Conservation approving the request, Commissioner Larry Hartig wrote in a four-page denial letter dated Wednesday. Among them, he said, are that the regulations that the proposal asks for are too broad, that the Legislature might not budget enough money to carry them out and that the changes required to cut greenhouse gas pollution could hurt the state's economy.

"These decisions are inherently difficult and require consideration of many conflicts and tradeoffs, and balancing the needs of many constituencies," Hartig wrote. He added a suggestion that the activists focus their attention on state lawmakers instead, writing: "Policy questions of this nature are best addressed in partnership with the Legislature."

The youth activists, supported by a pair of environmental groups — the Anchorage-based Alaska Center and the Eugene, Oregon-based Our Children's Trust — made their request last month, citing what they described as inaction by Walker's administration on climate change and the threats posed by melting glaciers and coastal erosion.

One of the petitioners, 17-year-old Nathan Baring of Fairbanks, said in a statement Thursday that while he understands economic considerations, "I will not stand for an energy system that places profits over people and our collective responsibility to protect our wonderful state for future generations of Alaskans to enjoy."

Baring's statement said that the youth activists are now considering "legal action" in response to the denial. Our Children's Trust has previously assisted young people with climate change-related lawsuits around the country.

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