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NEW AGAIN – Amy Rowe-Danielson arranges a display at the Sitka Sound Science Center's newly opened Mill Building on Lincoln Street this afternoon. The reconstructed 1940 building houses Ludvig's Chowder Cart, which opened today for the first time this season to a steady line of socially distancing customers. It also houses the center's gift shop which, like many businesses in town, offers online ordering and free local delivery. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

State High Court Hears Youths Climate Lawsuit

By DAN JOLING
Associated Press
    ANCHORAGE (AP) — The Alaska Supreme Court was to hear arguments today in a lawsuit that claims state policy on fossil fuels is harming the constitutional right of young Alaskans to a safe climate.
    Sixteen Alaska youths in 2017 sued the state, claiming that human-caused greenhouse gas emission leading to climate change is creating long-term, dangerous health effects.
    The lawsuit takes aim at a state statute that says it’s the policy of Alaska to promote fossil fuels, said Andrew Welle of Oregon-based Our Children’s Trust, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting natural systems for present and future generations.
    “The state has enacted a policy of promoting fossil fuels and implemented it in a way that is resulting in substantial greenhouse gas emissions in Alaska,” Welle said in a phone interview. “They’re harming these young kids.”
    A central question in the lawsuit, as in previous federal and state lawsuits, is the role of courts in shaping climate policy.
    Attorneys for Our Children’s Trust represented Alaska youth in an unsuccessful 2011 lawsuit that sought court intervention because the state had failed to adopt measures to protect young people in Alaska from climate change. The judge concluded that courts lack scientific, economic and technological resources that agencies can use to determine climate policy and it was best left in their hands.
    The second lawsuit was filed in October 2017 by Alaskans who at the time ranged in age from 5 to 20. Anchorage Superior Court Judge Gregory Miller in October 2018 dismissed the lawsuit, citing the 2011 case and other precedents.
    Welle acknowledged that courts cannot create climate policy. However, a court can intervene if the other two branches of government approve policies that exacerbate harmful effects, he said
    “Their core role within that system of checks and balances is to make sure that the other branches are not actively and affirmatively harming individuals through official state action,” he said. “That’s exactly what’s at issue in this case.”
    The lawsuit claims that under Alaska’s Constitution, the state climate, like water, fish, wildlife, air and ocean, is a public trust resource held for maximum benefit of its people.
    Human-caused climate change will be catastrophic unless atmospheric carbon dioxide declines, according to the lawsuit. Among damages already occurring: dangerously increasing temperatures, changing rain and snow patterns, rising seas, storm surge flooding, thawing permafrost, coast erosion and increased wildfires, ocean acidification and violent storms.
    The lead client in the case, Esau Sinnok, has had his constitutional right to health and happiness denied by state policy and lack of action on climate change, Welle said.
    “His home village of Shishmaref is literally wiped off the map because of climate change,” Welle said. “It’s endangering his culture, the very existence of his community, the health and safety of him and his community members.”
    The lawsuit asked the court to declare that state actions have violated the plaintiffs’ fundamental rights to a stable climate system.
    The lawsuit seeks to have the state policy on fossil fuels declared invalid.
    The lawsuit also asked the court to order the state to prepare an accounting of carbon emissions and create a recovery plan.
    ___
    This story has been corrected to say that 16 Alaska youths in 2017 sued the state.
   

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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 5-29-20)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 10:20 a.m. Friday.

New cases as of Thursday: 5

Total statewide – 430

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 47, and the cumulative number of deaths is 10.

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

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Welcome to the Sitka Sentinel's web page. In order to make the Sentinel's news more easily available during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have taken down the paywall to access articles on this page. Just click on an article headline to read the story. 

March 23, 2020

NOTICE FROM THE PUBLISHERS

TO READERS AND ADVERTISERS

For the duration of the COVID-19 disaster emergency declared by federal, state and local authorities, the Sentinel is taking additional measures to reduce virus exposure to its employees and contractors as well as to the public, while continuing to publish a daily news report for Sitka.

To the extent possible, Sentinel news and sales staff will be working from home. For the protection of our carriers, home delivery of the newspaper will be stopped effective Tuesday, March 24.

The Sentinel will continue to publish on its website sitkasentinel.com. Access to the website will be free to all users. The Sentinel will also produce a print edition Monday through Friday. It will be available to all readers without charge, at locations throughout town.

Initially, these locations are those where the Sentinel's newspaper vending machines are already in place. The coin mechanisms will be disabled or the doors removed to permit easy access. The Sentinel will work with the stores where the paper is usually sold, to designate a place inside or outside the store where the free edition can be made available.  

Home delivery subscriptions are on hold, and after the end of the disaster emergency, subscriptions will be extended at no charge for the number of days that there was no home delivery.

The Sentinel will make its print edition available to the public as early in the day as possible. with all personnel taking precautions to prevent spread of the virus.

The Sentinel is calling upon its customers to observe the COVID-19 emergency precautions already in place, particularly in maintaining a six-foot social distance from others at newspaper distribution sites.

Following is the statement issued by the Sentinel on March 16, stating the Sentinel's emergency procedures, which remain in effect.

The Sentinel office at 112 Barracks Street is closed to the public. We encourage people to use the phone, email or the U.S. Postal Service as much as possible.There is a slot in the front door of the office for ads, news items and payment checks. Emails may be sent to  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and the phone number is (907) 747-3219.                                                                          

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