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DEVELOPMENT OPTIONS – Harbor Point and No Name Mountain are pictured this afternoon from the Old Sitka Cruise Ship Dock. A draft master plan for the Granite Creek to No Name Mountain area was discussed at a joint Assembly and Planning Commission meeting Wednesday. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)


State High Court Hears Kids’ Pleas On Climate

By DAN JOLING
Associated Press
    ANCHORAGE (AP) — An Alaska law promoting fossil fuel development infringes on the constitutional rights of young residents to a healthy environment, a lawyer told Alaska Supreme Court justices on Wednesday.
    A lawsuit filed by 16 Alaska youths claimed long-term effects of climate change will devastate the country’s northernmost state and interfere with their constitutional rights to life, liberty and public trust resources that sustain them.
    The state’s legislative and executive branches have not taken steps to lower greenhouse gas emissions and adopted a policy that promotes putting more in the air, said attorney Andrew Welle of the Oregon-based Our Children’s Trust group.
    “This is an issue that is squarely within the court’s authority,” Welle said.
    Assistant Attorney General Anna Jay urged justices to affirm a lower court ruling rejecting the claims. Ultimately, the climate change issues raised by Alaska youth must be addressed by the political branches of government, she said.
    “The court does not have the tools to engage in the type of legislative policy making endeavor required to formulate a broad state approach to greenhouse gas emissions,” she said.

Dune Lankard of Cordova holds a sign showing his daughter, Ananda Rose, a budding musher, outside Boney Courthouse in Anchorage on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)

    The 16 youths sued in 2017 and claimed damages by greenhouse gas emissions are causing widespread damage in Alaska. The lawsuit said the state has experienced dangerously high temperatures, changed rain and snow patterns, rising seas, storm surge flooding, thawed permafrost, coastal erosion, violent storms and increased wildfires.
    Our Children’s Trust is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting natural systems for present and future generations. The group in 2011 unsuccessfully sued the state in 2011, claiming the state failed to adopt measures to protect young people from climate change.
    The judge in that case 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.
    Anchorage Superior Court Judge Gregory Miller rejected the current case a years ago.
    Alaska has no state sales or income tax and historically has relied on the petroleum industry, which extracts crude oil and sends most of it to West Coast Refineries, for much of its revenue.
    Welle said state policy promoting fossil fuels, expressed in a state statute, should be declared unconstitutional because it harms young Alaskans by trading short-term financial gains for long-term health problems.
    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 before the hearing. “It’s endangering his culture, the very existence of his community, the health and safety of him and his community members.”
    Justice Peter Maassen asked Welle if the energy policy was balanced by other policies in state law, such as protection for natural resources and the environment.
    “How can we conclude that government agencies are following the energy policy blindly without consideration of these other policies?” Maassen asked.
    Welle said that while statutes provide authority to protect the environment, state agencies have been directed to systemically promote fossil fuels.
    Justice Susan Carney called Welle’s attention to a newspaper opinion piece by former Gov. Bill Walker in which he acknowledged severe economic effects of climate change.
    “Isn’t that a sign that state policy has balanced those concerns?” she asked.
    Welle replied that the court when assessing state policies, and their effects on fundamental constitutional rights, can assess the process, look at decisions and decide if balance struck is the most narrowly tailored choice.
    ___
    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 6-4-20)

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 11:00 a.m. Thursday.

New cases as of Wednesday: 8

Total statewide – 513

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 48, 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.  

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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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