Alaska environmental commissioner steps down

Alaska environmental commissioner Jason Brune will step down from his post on Aug. 20 to pursue opportunities in the private sector, the governor’s office said Wednesday.

Brune said in an interview that he plans to start looking for work as soon as he steps down, but doesn’t know where he might land.

“I literally have no clue where I’m going,” he said.

Brune said he had originally planned to work for four years as head of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, but stuck around several months longer at the request of Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

“We have a fantastic relationship and the governor didn’t ask me to leave or want me to leave, and I stayed longer than I planned to,” Brune said. “So it’s the right time.”

“While I am sorry to see him go, I respect his decision with the knowledge that his outstanding leadership at a new venue will continue to move Alaska forward,” Dunleavy said in the statement.

Brune’s confirmation by the Legislature in 2019 faced strong opposition from opponents concerned about his former role as public affairs and government relations manager for Anglo American, one of the world’s largest mining conglomerates, when that company was a partner in the controversial Pebble mine project in the Bristol Bay region.


The Environmental Protection Agency blocked the project early this year amid concerns it would damage the Bristol Bay salmon fishery. The state of Alaska recently filed a lawsuit challenging that action. Brune argued in a statement from the governor’s office that the action had robbed Alaska of its right to manage its land and resources.

Brune, 50, said on Wednesday that he reduced turnover at the agency and worked to improve both environmental oversight and communication with industry and communities.

He said he made about $140,000 annually during most of his tenure as commissioner, but expects to earn significantly more income in the private sector, as he looks ahead at costly college expenses for his two children, starting this year.

The state’s executive branch ethics act sets a one-year ban on lobbying for commissioners such as Brune after they step down, among other restrictions. Former state officers for two years also cannot “represent, advise, or assist a person for compensation regarding a matter that was under consideration by the administrative unit served by that public officer, and in which the officer participated personally and substantially through the exercise of official action.”

Brune said he’ll take steps to ensure he follows the act.

“I know there will be discussions with ethics attorneys if and when I do get offers to ensure I’m safe in taking those opportunities, or if I do take whatever opportunity that there will be certain restrictions put on me for what I can and can’t do with those companies,” he said.

Deputy Environmental Commissioner Emma Pokon will serve as acting commissioner until the governor selects a permanent replacement later this year, the statement said.

Alex DeMarban

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers business, the oil and gas industries and general assignments. Reach him at 907-257-4317 or alex@adn.com.