Susie Smalley demonstrates during a vigil in support of Ukraine on Saturday, March 5, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Susie Smalley demonstrates during a vigil in support of Ukraine on Saturday, March 5, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Dunleavy directs state agencies, corporations to divest from Russia

The move is in response to the nation’s invasion of Ukraine

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced Tuesday that he has directed state agencies and corporations to cut ties with Russia in response to ongoing conflict resulting from the country’s invasion of Ukraine. Speaking from the Alaska Capitol building in Juneau, Dunleavy praised a newly announced U.S. ban on Russian energy imports, but said the federal government has failed to take advantage of its own domestic energy resources, especially in Alaska.

President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that the United States would ban all imports of Russian oil and gas in what he called “a powerful blow to (President Vladimir) Putin’s war machine.” Biden acknowledged during a press conference announcing the ban that it will cause higher gas prices for Americans, but said he will work to minimize price hikes.

Dunleavy tied the ban on energy imports to the Biden administration’s efforts to stall oil and gas development in the state. A Tuesday release from Dunleavy’s office stated that the governor supports the ban on foreign imports, but accused Biden of not “leveling with” Americans about federal policies that hinder domestic energy production.

“We should unleash all of the energy potential that we have in this state and across this country,” Dunleavy said during Tuesday’s press conference.

Dunleavy positioned Alaska as a victim of “federal overreach” and called on Biden to create an expedited permitting process for energy projects “of all kinds” in Alaska with emphasis on key projects. Dunleavy said he has directed Alaska agencies and state-owned corporations — including the Permanent Fund Board of Trustees — to divest from Russian assets.

Additionally, Dunleavy called for the United States to reciprocate Russia’s ban on imports of American seafood, which has been in place since 2014, asked Alaska businesses to consider not selling Russian products, requested the suspension of ties between Alaska and Russian sister cities and called on state universities to suspend cultural exchanges.

“I’m not deluding myself into thinking that these actions will bring this war to an end, but again, if we do it, other states do it (and) other governments do it. It starts to cut off support, I believe, for the Putin administration,” Dunleavy said.

Like Biden, Dunleavy said he realizes some of the policies may result in higher costs.

“We understand that some of these actions that we’re talking about may add to costs and may add to disruptions, we understand that,” Dunleavy said. “But again, we want to take action to make ourselves as independent as possible and be able to make a statement on this.”

To minimize domestic price hikes resulting from the ban, Biden said the United States, in coordination with partners, will release 60 million barrels of oil from joint reserves, roughly half of which will come from the United States. At the same time, Biden urged against “excessive price increases” and the “exploitation” of American consumers by oil and gas companies in light of price increase.

“Russia’s aggression is costing us all, and it’s no time for profiteering or price gouging,” Biden said.

Alaska’s Congressional delegation has similarly made clear its desire to see restrictions imposed on Russian energy imports.

Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski praised the move in a statement shared to social media Tuesday, in which she said banning Russian energy imports “sends a clear message to Putin” and underscores the potential to increase resource production in Alaska. Murkowski announced last week a bipartisan effort to ban Russian energy imports that has since garnered swift bipartisan support.

“If there was ever a time to change course on harmful policies that have restricted domestic production, it is right now,” Murkowski said. “What the President must understand is that Russian, Iranian, and Venezuelan energy creates problems for the world – given what it is used to finance – while American energy is a solution that can help us address high prices, inflation, and the needs of our allies.”

Republican U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan has similarly been a vocal advocate of banning Russian energy imports, but said Tuesday that Biden’s decision to ban Russian oil exports “should’ve happened weeks ago” and “is not enough.”

“We should NOT be reliant on brutal dictators,” Sullivan said. “The President needs to tell the truth: We CAN produce the oil and gas we need right here in the United States. Americans should NOT be paying outrageous energy costs.”

Republican U.S. Rep. Don Young said in a statement Tuesday that he welcomes the ban, but that “it shouldn’t have taken this long.” Young accused Putin of using Americans as “a piggy bank for an illegal war on Ukraine” and said Alaska is able to fill the void through its oil and gas industry.

“We can deliver an even bigger blow to Putin’s war machine by getting Alaska’s projects back on track and exporting crude oil and liquid natural gas to freedom-loving allies around the world,” Young said.

Alaska state lawmakers have also sought formal action in response to the war in Ukraine.

A bill sponsored by the Senate Resources Committee calls on Biden to use American oil and gas resources to replace oil imported from Russia and to increase oil and gas production in Alaska and other states “to fortify the economy and security of the nation.” A separate bill, sponsored by the Senate Rules Committee, condemns the invasion of Ukraine, endorses sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and demands that Russia stop “all hostilities against” and withdraw from Ukraine.

Dunleavy’s full press conference can be found on the governor’s Facebook page.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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