'A spicy metaphor' and Dunleavy's sophomoric slump
In nearly five years in office, the Dunleavy administration has found plenty of ways to be vulgar.
Good afternoon, Alaska! It’s Wednesday.
In this edition: An… unusual approach to communicating with the feds that’s heavy on the heavy petting, and then a deeper dive into how the Dunleavy administration’s politics, particularly in its latest foray into the culture wars around gender-nonconforming kids, are far more vulgar than a few BDSM references.
Current mood: 🤨
Programming note: Thanks to everyone who helped with the 2023 Legislator rankings survey! I’ve been busy at work this week getting them hammered into a workable shape (including a fix for everyone who got hung up on Google Forms only showing 1-3 rather than 1-5 to some). I’m hoping to have the results published this Friday! Stay tuned!
‘A spicy metaphor’
It’s a collection of words I didn’t think I would ever have to string together: Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Jason Brune last week sent a letter to EPA leadership that can only be described as a BDSM-themed diatribe about the relationship between Alaska and the federal government.
The letter, a copy of which made it into my inbox on Friday and was officially posted to the EPA’s public comments page for the proposed regulation, is addressed to EPA Administrator Michael Regan and starts normally enough, outlining a recent meeting between EPA officials and the state about upcoming regulations on water protections in and around tribal reservations. But then it gets weird. Real weird.
“We’re the sub to EPA’s Dom,” writes Brune, referencing the realm of kink known as BDSM—standing for variations of bondage, dominance, submission and masochism—in official correspondence with the federal government.
Specifically, if you’re curious, the proposed regulation would set up water protections for reservations—of which there is only one in Alaska—and tribal lands that have been set aside into federal trust. Lands into trust is a relatively new practice in Alaska, with only a few dozen acres transferred so far. However, it has already drawn opposition from the pro-industry Dunleavy administration, including a lawsuit challenging the designation of a 787-square-foot lot in Juneau.
To the Dunleavy administration, which has been consistently pro-mining (Brune also worked for a company that was pushing for Pebble Mine from 2011 to 2014), the news that tighter waterway regulations could be enacted around tribal lands hit a sensitive spot… and apparently not in a good way.
“After over two years of interaction with the Biden EPA, however, EPA’s worldview is clear: EPA gets to play Congress, crafting rules of national applicability and leaving the details to be filled in later,” which is a typical enough way to start this kind of letter before it veers off. It continues, “And the Great State of Alaska? We’re a puppet, a servant, subordinate to EPA. Alaska exists to do EPA’s bidding on EPA’s terms, per EPA’s rules—uninformed by Alaska’s input, experience or policy preferences.”
And then Brune just committed to talking BDSM with the EPA (emphasis original):
EPA engages with Alaska belatedly or not at all and speaks in the language of threats, mandates, whips and handcuffs—State protections be damned!
In short? We’re the sub to EPA’s Dom.
The letter has a fair deal of technical talk about how the state sees ANSCA applying to this regulation, but the BDSM theme continues.
EPA has now forced Alaska to play bad cop: we must be the ones to inform our Alaska Native residents that no, actually, EPA’s attempt to save tribal waters from Big Bad States does not apply here. Putting us in this position disrespects us, disregards Congress, and signals an alarming lack of awareness and transparency from EPA. … EPA has perverted the role of partnership into something almost too inappropriate to say out loud.
Our only safeword? Sadly: ‘court.’
Now that Sackett has been issued, EPA's masochistic streak should be satiated. ... Going forward, we hope to cultivate a relationship that might one day be described in more wholesome terms.
Now, it’s been a while since I’ve covered much of the goings-on at the Department of Environmental Conservation, but I don’t recall there being much of this kind of talk when I was writing about air quality and sulfolane spills for the News-Miner.
In a weird bit of coincidence, Commissioner Brune called me as I was about to hit publish on this newsletter. I won’t go into too much depth here, but Brune stood firm behind the letter, noting that it likely wouldn’t have gotten much attention if it was a typical milquetoast letter. He argued the EPA’s shifting, uncertain treatment of the state justified the approach.
“I’m excited that you read it! We’ve written all sorts of letters over the course of the last five years that have been ignored by the EPA, ignored by the media, and until we put a spicy theme like this out there, we don’t get any attention. We don’t get any effort by the media, by the (president’s) administration, by the EPA,” he said, later adding, “Yes, it’s a spicy metaphor by it’s an appropriate metaphor.”
He added that the letter has received plenty of attention from the EPA.
Dunleavy’s sophomoric slump
While Brune’s approach to the letter is undoubtedly… interesting, it comes at a time the Dunleavy administration is facing plenty of scrutiny over things far more vulgar than a few BDSM references. On the same day that Brune was hitting send on his letter, the administration accepted the resignation of pro-family advisor Jeremy “Divorce is worse than rape” Cubas.