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DEC History

When Alaska became a state in 1959, protection of Alaska's ecosystems fell to the Department of Health. In 1971, the Alaska Legislature formed the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, transferring authority to the new department. The legislation set out DEC's mission as follows: "to conserve, protect and improve its (Alaska's) natural resources and environment and control water, land and air pollution in order to enhance the health, safety, and welfare of the people of the state and their overall economic and social well being." For 50 years DEC has been working to do just that.

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DEC Accomplishments and Timeline

1945 - 1970

1945: Lack of Water Treatment

According to a 1949 study by the Alaska Department of Health entitled "Public Health Progress in Alaska," there was not a single complete public water treatment plant in the entire territory. "Only l0% of the sewage disposal systems in Alaska can be considered adequate. Existing sanitary facilities in many areas are outmoded, unsuited to the physical environment, or are no longer adequate to meet present needs..."

1949: Water Pollution Control Board

Territorial legislation became much more specific about environmental quality. Amendments to the laws of Alaska called for establishment of water quality standards, examination of waters, construction of public water supply systems, and review of water supply plans. It also called for standards for the collection, treatment and disposal of sewage. A Water Pollution Control Board was established to carry out much of this work.

1950: First Alaska Science Conference

The National Academy of Sciences' National Research Council sponsored its first Alaska Science Conference to define some of Alaska's problems. Cold weather engineering was at that time a major obstacle to providing and operating sanitation facilities in Alaska.

1959: Alaska Statehood

Congress voted to admit Alaska to the union on July 7, 1958 and it officially became a state on January 3, 1959. As state government was organized, and the departments of Health and Welfare were combined to form the Department of Health and Welfare. The Water Pollution Control Board was abolished at that time, with the duties carried out by the new department.

1971 - 1980

1971: Creation of DEC

On July 1, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) comes into being, formed from part of the Health Department's Environmental Health Division. Responsibilities transferring to DEC involve air, land and water quality, plus solid waste and pesticides.

1971: Infrastructure Matching Grant Established

In 1970 there are no municipal secondary sewage treatment plants operating in the state, which, with a growing population, presents potentially severe health hazards, and in several cases results in disease outbreaks. In one example, during the winter of 1970 nearly half the City of Cordova contracts gastro-intestinal illness when Eyak Lake is used as an emergency water supply. The Alaska Legislature recognizes the problem and creates the Municipal Matching Grant Program for public water and sewer project design and construction.

1972: Air Quality

DEC recognizes that a growing population and expanding industrial activities will cause an increase in air pollution. On May 26, Alaska's first air quality regulations takes effect. The regulations set standards to control particulate matter, sulfur dioxide and visible emissions.

1972: Creation of the Clean Water Act

The first Federal Water Pollution Control Act was enacted in 1948, and is rewritten in 1972 to contain comprehensive provisions for restoring and maintaining all bodies of surface water in the U.S. Its passage also creates a system of grants for construction of municipal sewage treatment plants.

1972: Creation of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)

The federal Clean Water Act is amended to create the (NPDES) program. Initially, its main focus is to control point source pollution from publicly owned treatment works and wastewater from industrial operations. States are required to certify that discharges authorized by these federal permits would not violate the State's water quality standards.

1972: Village Safe Water

The Village Safe Water Program begins to provide funding to Alaska's smaller communities (second class and unincorporated cities with populations of 25-600) for safe drinking water systems and adequate sewage and solid waste disposal facilities, vital to community health.

1973: Wastewater Disposal Regulations

At the time DEC was formed, the State already had domestic and industrial wastewater statutes and regulations. DEC adopts new wastewater disposal regulations, which implement DEC's statutory authority to review public and private property subdivisions, as well as other aspects of mainly domestic wastewater collection, treatment and disposal.

1973: Solid Waste Regulations Established

The State's first solid waste management regulations come into effect, establishing standards for safe, sanitary solid waste disposal. The Department's Solid Waste Program also begins providing technical assistance and training, enforcing the regulations, and administering the Solid Waste Management Permit Program.

1974: Trans-Alaska Pipeline

DEC monitors the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline to ensure Alaska's environment and public health are protected. Monitoring duties include reviewing compliance with the terms of permits for solid waste disposal, sewage, and wastewater treatment and air emissions from equipment used to dry rock aggregate. DEC staff respond to complaints and violations, including oil spills. Permits required by other agencies, such as for the placement of the pipeline over fish bearing streams, are reviewed by DEC staff to prevent air, land, and water quality violations.

1974: Creation of the Operator Assistance Program

As Alaska grows, many communities expand beyond the capacity of their public water, sewer, and solid waste facilities, and some communities do not have these services. Building new facilities and replacing or expanding old ones was, and still is expensive. Operators that do not have adequate training and poor maintenance pose a danger to public health and lead to expensive repairs. DEC's Operator Assistance Program is created to provide extensive training and certification for operators, enabling communities to safely run their facilities.

1974: Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments

The Safe Drinking Water Act requires the EPA to set minimum standards for water contaminants and for State drinking water programs. In 1978 Alaska is granted primary enforcement authority, or "primacy", for the federal program.

1976: Toxic Substances Control Act - Pesticides

Congress passes the Toxic Substances Control Act, to regulate the manufacture, processing, distribution and use of all new chemicals. DEC begins carrying out the U.S. EPA pesticide regulations to prevent environmental damage to vegetation, crops, wildlife, or humans from the improper use of pesticides.

1976: Creation of the Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)

In response to increasing problems the U.S. faced from its growing volume of municipal and industrial hazardous waste, the RCRA is passed, regulating the facilities which generate, treat, store or transport hazardous waste. The act also bans open dumps and establishes criteria for the siting of landfills.

1976: Tanker Safety Law

In an effort to safeguard against oil spills, the Alaska legislature enacts the "Tanker Safety Law," requiring that large oil terminals and tank vessels operating in the state provide DEC with spill contingency plans, and proof of financial responsibility to compensate for damages in the event of a spill. As a result of this legislation, DEC's oil pollution control program is formed.

1977: Trans-Alaska Pipeline Completed

After 3 years and 2 months and $8 billion to build, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline is completed. The first oil moved through the pipeline on June 20, 1977, since then more than 18 billion barrels have been transported through the pipeline.

1977: Creation of the Alaska Coastal Management Program (ACMP)

After the passage of the National Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, Alaska adopted the Alaska Coastal Management Act. As a result, guidelines and standards are established for development along the coast. Local communities are provided with funds to develop coastal management programs, oversee the responsible development of coastal uses and resources, federal activities within the coastal zone, and activities on the Outer Continental Shelf.

1978: Alaska Primacy for Drinking Water

Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the EPA grants DEC primary enforcement authority for federal drinking water rules in Alaska. Alaska benefits from in-state oversight by DEC staff who are familiar with the unique, local conditions and challenges of providing clean, and safe drinking water.

1979: Clean Water Act Permits

DEC begins to certify federal Army Corps of Engineer dredge and fill permits and EPA National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permits under the Clean Water Act, which require state review of projects that take place in surface waters and wetlands.

1979: Juneau Air Quality

Particulate monitoring begins in Juneau's Mendenhall Valley showing concentrations exceeding health standards. This area of Juneau suffers from elevated levels of particulate pollution from woodsmoke caused by air inversions, a phenomenon caused by cold stationary air, and an entrapping ring of mountains. At this time, the cooperative woodsmoke monitoring/enforcement program is regarded as the nation's best at controlling woodsmoke.

1980: Air Permit Reform

In 1980 DEC streamlined State permits to establish air quality increments. An increment is a measure of how much of a pollutant (for example, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter), can be added to the ambient air before air quality will significantly deteriorate. The establishment of increments dropped the number of increment consuming permit actions needed to about 100 facilities.

1980: Budget Reduction

After the formation of the Oil Pollution Control Program, the oil industry challenged the laws enacted in 1976, and in June 1978 the federal courts struck down the Coastal Protection Fund and the tanker standards contained in the Act. As a result, DEC's Oil Pollution Control Program budget is reduced by 75%, jeopardizing the State's ability to respond to oil spills. By 1980, the Alaska Legislature had corrected the 1976 law maintaining the legal integrity of the State's program.

1980: "Superfund" Law Takes Effect

Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, the "Superfund" law. The Act created a special tax to go into a Trust fund, commonly known as the Superfund, to investigate and clean up abandoned or uncontrolled hazardous waste sites. This law included a one-time appropriation to help states complete site surveys and inspection processes mandated by RCRA. Alaska's share is $60,000.

1981 - 1990

1981: Vehicle Emissions

Air quality in Anchorage and Fairbanks is exceeding the national standards for carbon monoxide emissions from vehicles at this time. In 1981 Alaska is successful in obtaining a Mobile Emissions Test Facility from the EPA to investigate cold climate inspection and maintenance strategies, alternative fuels and state of the art devices. The program successfully demonstrated the importance of vehicle inspection and maintenance in reducing carbon monoxide emissions. In 2011, the combination of new technology and fuels are enough to lower emissions, and the program ended.

1981: First Hazardous Waste Law

Alaska's hazardous waste law is passed, establishing a hazardous waste program within DEC. State law directed DEC to take all actions necessary to receive authorization from the EPA to administer the RCRA hazardous waste program in Alaska, in lieu of the federal government.

1981: Remote Maintenance Worker Program

Alaska's Remote Maintenance Worker Program began with a single employee in St. Mary's. The new program provided skilled assistance and training to communities to keep their water and sewer systems running. Having trained, qualified operators enabled systems to run efficiently and last longer before repairs or replacement became necessary. Money spent on Remote Maintenance saves the state millions of dollars in capital replacement costs.

1981: DEC Gains Environmental Health Duties

Executive Order 51 transferred the majority of environmental health functions from the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Health and Social Services to DEC. The Division of Seafood and Animal Industries is formed within DEC, and the new division develops dairy cattle regulations to prevent the introduction of livestock diseases.

1982: Brucellosis-free

The U.S. Department of Agriculture declares Alaska cattle and swine "Brucellosis-free.", ensuring the protection of public health, and facilitating the export of Alaska livestock and farmed animals such as reindeer.

1983: Prevention of Significant Deterioration Program

EPA delegates the Prevention of Significant Deterioration Program to Alaska. The program requires permits for major sources of air pollution. The permits allow for construction or alteration of a pollution source, plus initial operation to the point that an operating permit is required.

1984: The Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)

Congress strengthened RCRA, and the Alaska Legislature revised hazardous waste statutes in the same year. New provisions are added to State laws, including a mandate to seek EPA authorization to administer a State hazardous waste program in accordance with RCRA.

1984: First Hazardous Waste Site Analysis

DEC published the first report on hazardous waste sites in Alaska. The information in the report is based on a formal assessment of 45 of the worst managed sites out of 100 sites known in the state.

1984: Division of Environmental Health

The Division of Environmental Health is created, transferring DEC's environmental health functions into one division. The Division at this time includes oversight of drinking water, food safety and sanitation, landfills, and pesticides.

1985: Vehicle Emissions Regulation

DEC's Vehicle Inspection and Maintenance programs begin in Anchorage and Fairbanks. The programs conduct research on motor vehicle emissions in extreme cold conditions to find more effective control strategies to reduce carbon monoxide emissions to protect air quality. Citizens are encouraged to install engine block heaters and plug in their vehicles in weather colder than 20F. .The program originated from the work of the DEC's Mobile Emissions Test Facility in 1981.

1986: First Water Quality Assessment

Under the Clean Water Act, DEC is required to submit biannual reports to the EPA on the health of state water bodies. Monitoring is conducted by DEC staff, municipalities and other agencies to determine which waterbodies are impaired by pollutants. In 1986 Alaska's first statewide water quality assessment is released.

1986: Safe Drinking Water Act Amended

The U.S. Congress further amends the Safe Drinking Water Act to set mandatory deadlines for the regulation of key contaminants, to require monitoring of unregulated contaminants, to establish benchmarks for treatment technologies,, to bolster enforcement powers,, and to provide major new authorities that promote protection of ground water resources.

1986: Oil and Hazardous Substance Release Prevention and Response Fund

House Bill 470 established the Oil and Hazardous Substance Release and Response Fund to provide readily available funds so that DEC staff can respond immediately to investigate, contain, and clean up spills, and to remediate contaminated sites.

1986: Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) Established and Amended

EPA funding establishes a permanent Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) program under DEC's air and solid waste sections. Congress passed the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA), amending CERCLA. SARA stresses the importance of permanent remedies and innovative treatment technologies, required Superfund actions to consider standards and requirements found in other State and Federal environmental laws and regulations, increased State involvement in every phase of the Superfund program, and increased the focus on human health problems posed by hazardous waste sites. As a result of the deadly chemical release in Bhopal, India and a smaller release months later in Institute, West Virginia, Title III of SARA requires companies to report the quantities of chemicals stored on their premises and the amounts of toxic substances released into the atmosphere. It requires states to establish State Emergency Response Commissions to address statewide planning for chemical spills and to create local emergency planning committees, which would develop local response plans, receive the chemical reports from industry, and make information available to the public. Title III is also known as the Emergency Planning and Community-Right-To-Know Act.

1987: Clean Water Act Amendments

Congress amends the Clean Water Act to include nonpoint source pollution control requirements and toxic controls. In addition, the amended Act phased out federal construction grants and replaces them with State revolving loan programs.

1987: Hazardous Waste Regulations

The Hazardous Waste Program develops and adopts hazardous waste regulations. The program provides technical assistance and workshops to help specific industries reduce their generation of waste and to understand hazardous waste management requirements.

1988: Rural Wastewater Needs

Without adequate water and sewer facilities, Alaska's native communities suffer, health is threatened, and economic development is restricted. In 1988 Congress passed a bill specifying that Alaska Native villages could qualify for grants to address wastewater needs by providing funding for infrastructure vital to community health.

1988: Oil and Hazardous Substance Spill Response Section Created

The Oil and Hazardous Substance Spill Response Section is formed in response to spills and contamination by hazardous chemicals and oil. In 1988 Alaska has about 850 sites on Federal, State, and private land where the soil or water is so contaminated that it poses a health hazard to people living and working nearby.

1989: Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

On March 24, the Exxon-Valdez tanker strikes Bligh Reef, tearing open the hull and spilling crude oil into Prince William Sound. At least 11 million gallons of oil spread over 11,000 square miles of ocean, impacted 1,300 miles of beaches, and tragically affected multiple wildlife populations. Spill response efforts stretch over three years, during which DEC personnel monitor Exxon's cleanup activities. To this day, crude oil can be found on some beaches. Until the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill, the Exxon-Valdez spill is the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.

1989: Seafood Safety Oversight

Following the March 24th Exxon Valdez oil spill, DEC seafood and sanitation inspectors prevent the harvest of oil-contaminated fish and inspect potentially contaminated boats.

1989: Lead Ban

The DEC implements a program that bans lead pipe and solder in repairs and new construction of drinking water systems that connect to public water supplies. Exposure to lead can seriously harm a child's health and cause well-documented adverse effects such as damage to the brain and nervous system, slowed growth and development, learning and behavior problems, and hearing and speech problems.

1989: Alaska Clean Water Fund

The Alaska Clean Water Fund begins operation. The fund provides low interest loans to Alaskan municipalities and other qualified entities for financing wastewater and water quality related projects.

1989: No Dumping

The U.S. Coast Guard introduces regulations banning the dumping of trash at sea from the state's large maritime industry Maritime trash is now required to be accepted by coastal communities for on-shore disposal as the result of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships annex (known as MARPOL) to a 1989 international high-seas marine litter treaty.

1989: Pacific States/British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force

DEC enters into an agreement with Oregon, Washington, California and British Columbia to form the Oil Spill Task Force to address concerns following the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. The State of Hawaii joins the Task Force in 2001. The Task Force collaborates to collect, and share data on oil spills, and promotes regulatory safeguards to improve prevention, preparation, and responses to oil spills.

1990: The Oil Pollution Act

As a direct result of the Exxon-Valdez oil spill, Congress enacts a greatly expanded piece of legislation, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, known as "OPA 90." Some of the results of this broad-reaching act include establishing the National Contingency Plan, industry requirements for oil spill response plans, and requiring double-hulled tankers for shipping crude oil out of Prince William Sound.

1990: Creation of Water Quality Nonpoint Source Program

The water quality program receives federal grants for implementing a nonpoint source program to help prevent pollution from these causes. In Alaska, common sources of nonpoint source pollution include urban runoff, domestic animals, road construction, timber harvests, off-road vehicles, boats, septic systems, agriculture, and people damaging shorelines when angling or building structures.

1990: "Cold Start" Legislation Enacted

An amendment to the Clean Air Act requires higher "cold start" efficiency in new cars. For more than a decade Alaska had been working on "cold start legislation" as a revision to the federal Clean Air Act. This would require automobile makers to design cars to produce low carbon monoxide emissions at 20 degrees Fahrenheit, and the EPA would then certify vehicles at that temperature.

1990: Wastewater Regulations Revisions

Major revisions made to the regulations on subdivision and sewer system plan review spell out submittal and approval criteria to make the reviews more consistent and predictable.

1990: Spill Response Legislation

In the wake of the Exxon-Valdez disaster, the Alaska Legislature passes multiple spill bills. The laws levy a 5-cent-per-barrel surcharge on Alaska oil to continually finance the Response Fund and call for DEC to develop a state master spill response plan for oil and hazardous substances spills. Another law creates the Storage Tank Assistance Fund to help owners/operators of underground storage tanks meet a federal deadline for spill prevention measures or tank closure by 1998. Other legislation creates the State Emergency Response Commission, a Hazardous Substance Spill Technology Review Council, and a Citizen's Oversight Committee for Oil and Hazardous substances.

1990: Pesticide Regulations Revised

DEC revises its regulations to prevent pesticide contamination in drinking water supplies.

1990: Environmental Health Duties Expand

DEC's Division of Environmental Health broadens its Food Safety and Sanitation duties. State food service regulations are revised to include guidelines for bottled water and vacuum packaged food producers. The program initiates a statewide pool and spa operator training program using a nationally­ recognized program as a template. Alaska lawmakers fund a State reindeer inspection program.

1990: Green Star Established

DEC establishes the Green Star Program in Anchorage, a community-based environmental leadership program to demonstrate that businesses using environmentally responsible practices can save money and attract customers. The pioneering program is a partnership between DEC, the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, and the Alaska Center for the Environment.

1990: Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990

Congress adopts a sweeping reform of the Clean Air Act adding Title III for Hazardous Air pollution, Title IV for acid rain and Title V requiring states to develop Operating Permit Programs (modeled after the Clean Water Act National Pollution Discharge Elimination System program). The reform also adds provisions to protect stratospheric ozone.

1991 - 2000

1991: Spill Prevention and Response Division Created

DEC creates a new division to manage all of its oil and hazardous substance spill response and cleanup programs: spill prevention, planning and management, contaminated sites cleanup, and the Spill Response Office. DEC also institutes a statewide contaminated sites database.

1991: Department of Defense Site Cleanup

Due to its location, Alaska plays a critical role in national defense. During World War II and the Cold War of the 1980's, many defense operations in Alaska saw the spilling or disposing of oil and other hazardous substances on-site. Facilities no longer needed for defense were often abandoned, with many buildings, debris and contaminants left behind. As a result, the State and the Department of Defense enter into a Defense State Memorandum of Agreement for cooperative cleanup efforts of military sites. Now DEC works closely with DOD to ensure that sites are properly prioritized, characterized, and cleaned up to safe levels in accordance with state laws and regulations.

1991: Underground Storage Tanks

DEC completes underground storage tank regulations, and the new state Underground Storage Tank Assistance program is put in place. The program is provided grants and low-income loans for people to remove or upgrade underground storage tanks to modern standards.

1991: Anchorage Tank Farm Investigation

DEC begins investigation into emissions of benzene and other hazardous air emissions from the Port of Anchorage tank farms and adopts storage tank and truck loading regulations to mitigate the potential resulting increase in cancer risk.

1992: Joint Federal/State Unified Plan and Subarea Plans

DEC enters into a partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard and EPA to develop joint plans for oil and hazardous substance response. The "Unified" Federal/State Coastal/Inland Oil and Hazardous Substance Preparedness Plan is published in 1994. This Unified Plan describes the strategy for a coordinated Federal, State and local response to a discharge, or substantial threat of discharge of oil and/or a release of a hazardous substance within the boundaries of Alaska and its surrounding waters. In addition to the Unified Plan, ten geographic Subarea Contingency Plans are adopted that address responses to most probable releases, and worst-case discharge in order to cover the expected range of spills likely to occur in a specific region within Alaska. Plans are reviewed and revised every five years.

1992: Clean Air Act Amendments and Methyl Tert-butyl-Ether

The 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments mandates that oxygen be added either seasonally or year- round to gasoline in specific parts of the country to reduce ozone in the summer or carbon monoxide in the winter. In November 1992, about 200 residents in Fairbanks reported headaches, dizziness, irritated eyes, burning of the nose and throat, coughing, disorientation, and nausea after Methyl Tert-butyl-Ether (MTBE) had been added to gasoline as an oxygenate. DEC responded by successfully removing MTBE from the state even before it became recognized nationally as a product that posed an issue for public health and for ground water contamination.

1993: Household Hazardous Waste Collection Program

The Household Hazardous Waste Collection program begins in Southeast Alaska. This followed a test program conducted in 1992 in northern Southeast Alaska in coordination with the Department of Community and Regional Affairs' collection of scrap metal and junk vehicles using a tug and barge. DEC and the Southeast Conference of Mayors, an organization of local governments, worked together to develop the program.

1993: DEC Nearshore Response Project

DEC, the U.S. Coast Guard, and several spill cooperatives in Alaska launch a project to identify and develop spill response equipment that could be positioned in coastal communities. The project is completed in 1994 with equipment purchases and demonstrations, plus formalized agreements with the communities of Kodiak, Naknek, Dutch Harbor, Haines, Wrangell, Juneau, and Ketchikan.

1993: Clean Air Regulation

Alaska adopts AS46.14 to meet the Clean air Act amendments of 1990 specifying that Alaska's regulations be no more stringent than federal requirements unless special procedures are followed.

1994: Alaska Materials Exchange

DEC forms the Alaska Materials Exchange, an industrial "garage sale" cooperative effort with industry to recycle and reuse materials of all kinds. In its first year of existence the exchange achieved $360,000 in cost savings for a variety of businesses throughout Alaska. The program is now operated by Green Star, a non-profit organization founded in part by DEC.

1994: Spill Response Fund Changed

Legislation divides the Response Fund into two accounts and splits the "nickel a barrel" conservation surcharge. For every five cents collected per barrel of crude oil, two cents would go to a new Response Account and three cents to a Prevention Account. The fund is renamed the Oil and Hazardous Substance Release Prevention and Response Fund.

1995: Department Reorganization

DEC reorganizes in a move to bring greater consistency across the state. The previous geographically-based arrangement of regional and district offices is eliminated, and the Department is restructured according to program and function, creating DEC's five statewide divisions. Those Divisions are Spill Prevention and Response, Air Quality, Environmental Health, Water, and Administrative Services. The Division of Environmental Quality is eliminated.

1995: Governor's Council on Rural Sanitation

The Governor's Council on Rural Sanitation is formed to develop a recommended course of action to improve rural sanitation conditions. DEC is tapped as the coordinating agency. A final report is published in February of 1998.

1995: Local Response Agreements

Recognizing the importance of local involvement, DEC begins working with local communities to provide for coordinated and effective response to oil and hazardous substance spills and to expand the network of resources available to protect human health and the environment from the risks associated with these spills.

1996: State Discretion on Landfills

DEC initiates federal legislation, which passed the U.S. House on March 7, giving the State the discretion to exempt remote landfills from certain federal requirements and thereby prevent steep operational cost increases, while still protecting the environment and human health.

1996: King Salmon Air Force Cleanup

DEC enters into a three-party agreement with the EPA and the Air Force for the investigation and cleanup of the King Salmon Air Force Station's North and South Barrel Bluffs. The agreement is the first of its type in the nation, involving a state, the Air Force, and EPA without a Superfund listing. This agreement recognizes the State of Alaska as the final decision maker in resolving disputes.

1996: Regional/Statewide Hazmat Response Team

DEC staff meets with Anchorage and Fairbanks community officials to discuss options for developing and maintaining a Regional Hazmat Team (later becoming a Statewide Hazmat Team). Community Spill Response Agreements are developed to reimburse Anchorage and Fairbanks Hazmat Teams for responses outside of their normal jurisdiction.

1996: Tanker Escort Upgrades

DEC collaborates with the oil industry, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens Advisory Council to research and decide upon the performance and design features for building new tractor tugs to serve as a safety back-up for oil tankers leaving Valdez. A risk assessment study revealed that using tugboats to assist tankers is the single best tool to prevent tanker accidents.

1996: Hazardous Waste returns to EPA

Due to budget cuts, DEC returns hazardous waste inspection and enforcement duties to the EPA, but continues to guide Alaskans through the complex federal hazardous waste regulations.

1996: DEC Receives Hammer Award

DEC's Seafood Processing Program, along with the Seattle district of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the states of Washington and Oregon, is awarded the Hammer Award for work on a joint inspection form and the creation of a district-wide (WA, OR, AK) database on seafood inspections. The Hammer Award is given in recognition of efforts to "reinvent" government.

1996: Alaska Drinking Water Fund

Congress amends the Safe Drinking Water Act to create a revolving loan fund for potable water infrastructure. In response, the Alaska Legislature establishes the Alaska Drinking Water Fund which provides low interest loans to Alaska municipalities and other qualified entities for financing drinking water projects.

1996: Household Hazardous Waste Collection Expands

The Household Hazardous Waste Collection program expands to Prince William Sound communities.

1997: M/V Kuroshima Grounding

The M/VV Kuroshima breaks away from its anchorage in Summer Bay on Unalaska Island, near Dutch Harbor. Winds in excess of 100 knots drive the tanker into Second Priest Rock damaging several of its fuel tanks, spilling approximately 39,000 gallons of bunker C oil. During the response, DEC institutes the first Unified Command website, including the posting of situation reports, digital images and other information which gave the public immediate access to response information. In 2002, Kuroshima Shipping agrees to settle natural resource damage claims and funds are made available for restoration of injured natural resources.

1999: Alaska Cruise Ship Initiative

DEC brings together the EPA, U.S. Coast Guard, Southeast Conference, and over thirty cruise ship industry representatives to agree on steps to improve cruise ship waste management, and disposal practices. As a result, new laws are put in place to monitor cruise ship practices, and enforce stricter pollution prevention practices to Alaska’s marine environment and coastal shorelines.

2000: Strengthening Alaska’s Oil Spill Safety Net

The legislature passes SB 273 to require Non-tank vessels (watercraft of 300 or greater gross registered tons, which has an oil storage capacity of over 6,000 gallons), and Railroad Cars which carry oil to have oil spill prevention and contingency plans, spill response contractors in place, and proof of financial responsibility. The new rule covers large cargo and cruise ships, large fish processor vessels, and large public vessels engaged in commerce, such as the Alaska State Ferries.

2000: Alaska Incident Management System (AIMS) Guide for Oil and Hazardous Substance Response

In order to produce a framework that will work within the unique conditions of spill response in Alaska, a work group comprised of DEC, industry, the U.S. Coast Guard, EPA, and spill cooperatives produces the first edition of the AIMS Guide. The Guide customizes the National Contingency Plan (NCP), and the National Interagency Incident Management System (NIIMS) to meet the needs of spill response in Alaska, and is consistent with the latest update published by the Western States/British Columbia Task Force Field Operations Guide update workgroup, and the U.S. Coast Guard Incident Management Handbook. The Guide will yield substantial savings to all users by providing useful guidelines for the Alaska spill response community.

2001 - 2010

2001: Cruise Ship Sampling Requirements Enacted

Alaska state law sets standards and sampling requirements for the underway discharge of blackwater in Alaska that are identical to the blackwater/sewage standards in the federal law, enacted in 2000. However, because of the high fecal coliform counts detected in graywater in 2000, the state law also extends the effluent standards to discharges of graywater. Sampling requirements for all ships took effect in 2001, as did effluent standards for blackwater discharges by large cruise ships (defined as providing overnight accommodations to 250 or more). The new law prompted large cruise ships to either install advanced wastewater treatment systems that meet the effluents standards, or to manage wastes by holding all wastewater for discharge outside of Alaskan waters.

2001: Alaska Fish Tested for Mercury

DEC began testing fish in 2001. In 2003, results from a study conducted by the DEC’s seafood and food safety laboratory documented that mercury levels were very low in the most frequently consumed fish from Alaska. Mercury, a naturally occurring heavy metal, accumulates in fish and marine mammals. It is also released into the air through coal burning and industrial pollution. Exposure to mercury can cause serious health problems. Analysis of the Alaska samples revealed low levels of all heavy metal contaminants tested. Since 2001, DEC has collected over 13,700 samples and analyzed over 10,500 samples from 108 different species. The studies show that most of Alaska’s fish are low in contaminants and safe to eat.

2001: TAPS Shooting Bullet Hole Response

On October 4, an oil spill occurs when the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) is shot with a high- power rifle. The spill is approximately 80 miles north of Fairbanks near the community of Livengood. Alaska State Troopers and pipeline security staff apprehended the alleged shooter within hours. Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, with the assistance and oversight of DEC and EPA, as well as other State agencies, quickly responds to the release. After 36 hours, the bullet hole had been permanently plugged, North Slope oil production resumed at the normal pace, and the flow through the pipeline is restored. Approximately 175,793 gallons (of the estimated 285,600 gallons of spilled product) is recovered.

2002: Alaska Beach Grant Program

Alaska's beach program is formed with an EPA grant that is part of a nationwide effort to decrease water-borne illness for fecal contamination at public beaches. The grant allows DEC to provide funds to local communities, tribal governments, and water shed councils to collect water quality samples at recreational beaches throughout the state.

2002-2003: Expansion of Statewide Hazmat Team

Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack, additional Homeland Security funding becomes available for more local community Level A Hazmat teams, plus the formation of the 103rd Civil Support Team to respond to Weapons of Mass Destruction incidents.

2003: First Air Quality Operating Permits

DEC issues its first round of Title V operating permits. Title V, or Operating Permits are issued to air pollution sources after the source has begun to operate. These permits are designed to reduce violations of air pollution laws and improve the enforcement of those laws. Fees are also collected to fund all reasonable permit program costs.

2003: First Brownfield Grant

DEC receives its first Brownfield Grant. The Brownfield Program is established by the EPA to clean up and reinvest in properties that are hampered by the presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. The grant helped create a Brownfield Program within DEC. Since that time DEC has been able to work with the responsible parties of impaired sites around Alaska, and the department has done extensive outreach and education on revitalizing troubled properties.

2003: Illegal Drug Manufacturing Sites

The manufacturing of methamphetamines produces fumes from a variety of chemicals which presents a hazard to the public. An increase in clandestine methamphetamine drug manufacturing labs in Alaska drives new legislation aimed to help property owners have their property declared fit for use after being cleaned. Under the newly passed legislation, DEC is required to provide cleanup guidelines for property owners, keep a list of laboratories to be used for evaluating samples, and maintain a list of properties identified as illegal drug manufacturing sites such as meth labs.

2004: Reformed Alaska’s Food Safety Program

The new law requires food-handling operators to be trained and certified by DEC. This new program provides equal protection statewide. It holds owners and operators responsible for knowing how food becomes contaminated or spoiled and assures that standard operating procedures protect their customers. DEC moved from relying solely on DEC spot inspections of the past to mandatory every-day management systems – a significant improvement in food safety.

2004: Potential Places of Refuge (PPOR) Guidelines

PPOR are pre-identified sites used to repair or off load fuel from a vessel in distress in order to minimize the potential of pollution to the environment. Sites must be in a sheltered location with adequate water depth. DEC co-authors the Alaska Regional Response Team's PPOR Guidelines with State and Federal resource agencies, local spill response experts and local stakeholders. Following publication of the guidelines, specific PPOR sites are selected and incorporated into area-specific plans across the state.

2004: M/V Selendang Ayu Grounding

In December the bulk carrier M/V Selendang Ayu, unable to restart the engines after repairs, drifts in the Bering Sea at the mercy of a major storm. Several unsuccessful attempts are made to take the vessel into tow, but the storm proves too powerful and the ship grounds on Unalaska Island, breaks in two, and spills an estimated 335,000 gallons of intermediate fuel oil and marine diesel fuel. The U.S. Coast Guard rescues most of the crew, but six of the vessel's crewmembers perish during the rescue attempt. Along with U.S. Coast Guard and the responsible party, DEC mounts a spill response effort to address the 70 miles of oiled shoreline that require treatment, and the cleanup effort concludes in June of 2006.In addition, DEC works proactively to prevent contamination of crab, pollock, and other fisheries and aggressively monitors seafood processors to protect the commercial fisheries and subsistence users.

2004: Air Quality Control Permits

DEC streamlines two major permitting programs and implements a minor permit program to reduce cost and timing to both the State and clients.

2005: Environmental Health Laboratory

DEC opens the new State of Alaska Seafood and Food Safety Laboratory. This state-of -the-art laboratory provides testing, certification, and surveillance support for the food, water and veterinary programs of the State of Alaska.

2005: Alaska Food Code Updated

The Alaska Food Code is updated to include an enhanced food safety program, Active Managerial Control (AMC). AMC requires food establishments to have standard operating procedures and a self-assessment process conducted by trained and certified food protection managers and food handlers.

2006: GC-2 Oil Transit Line Release

On March 2, a BP well pad operator discovers a leak in a transit line that delivers oil to the trans-Alaska pipeline from Gathering Center 2 located in the Prudhoe Bay oil field on the North Slope. Approximately 200,000 gallons of crude oil is released, the largest oil spill on the North Slope to date. An investigation confirms that the leak occurred as a result of internal corrosion and the line is replaced. Clean-up work is completed in May 2006. In 2007, BP pleads guilty to negligent discharge of oil and pays a fine of US $20 million.

2006: Environmental Health Laboratory and Avian Influenza

The National Animal Health Laboratory Network certifies DEC's Environmental Health Laboratory to test for avian influenza. House Bill 380 broadens the State Veterinarian's ability to control animal diseases that threaten public safety.

2006: Spill Tactics for Alaska Responders (STAR) Manual

DEC funds the contract and participates in the work group to produce the STAR Manual. The manual provides oil spill response tactics specific to Alaska. It is available for use by the response community, including Federal, State, local, industry and spill response organizations throughout the state. The Manual is also valuable as a field guide and training aid for oil spill responders. Spill Tactics for Alaska Responders (STAR) Manual

2007: Emergency Towing System

As a result of the M/V Selendang Ayu, grounding in 2004 and the near grounding of another freighter in Unalaska in 2007, DEC works with the City of Unalaska and others to develop the Alaska Emergency Towing System (ETS) and places ETS packages in Unalaska, Anchorage, Kodiak, Sitka, and Adak.

2007: Alaska Risk Assessment Project

DEC launches a comprehensive assessment of the condition of Alaska's oil and gas infrastructure. The engineering analysis is a thorough, independent appraisal of the condition of oil and gas facilities, and identifies facilities and systems that pose the greatest risk of failure, along with measures to reduce those risks.

2008: APDES Program approved by EPA

EPA approves DEC's application for delegated permitting authority under the Alaska Pollutant Discharge Program (APDES). Under the Clean Water Act, EPA had been the permitting authority to issue wastewater discharge permits in Alaska. The APDES program is implemented in four phases; in the first phase in 2008, Alaska begins issuing permits for facilities in the seafood and timber industries, and domestic sewage treatment facilities. DEC assumed full authority to administer the wastewater and discharge permitting and compliance program for Alaska on October 31, 2012. With primacy, permit requirements can be better tailored to Alaska's unique conditions and the State has a greater role in project planning.

2009: Fairbanks Flint Hills Refinery Sulfolane Contamination

Sulfolane is found in approximately 350 drinking water wells north of the refinery's property boundaries. Flint Hills immediately begins to provide drinking water to affected residents. Sampling is started to see how far the sulfolane had spread from the refinery. Affected properties are provided with city water connections (if available), bulk water tanks, bottled water, or point-of-entry treatment systems to remove sulfolane from well water.

2009: Drift River Terminal Facility

The Drift River tank farm holds crude oil before it is loaded onto oil tankers for transportation to refineries. The tank farm's location has been controversial since the 1989/90 eruption of Mount Redoubt when the resultant lahars (or volcanic mudflows) caused extensive flooding at the facility. On April 4, 2009 a major volcanic eruption from Mount Redoubt renewed these concerns. However, this time the tank farm was not flooded. When it is considered safe, the tanks are emptied of oil removing the risk of a major oil spill. In 2018 Hilcorp completed a 90$-million project to transport crude oil to the Nikiski refinery by pipeline. This eliminates the need for oil tankers and the Drift River oil terminal, which was decommissioned.

2010: Emergency Towing System Project Pays Off

In December of 2010, the Emergency Towing System is deployed from Unalaska to assist the disabled cargo vessel Golden Seas. This equipment, along with the availability of an appropriately sized towing vessel, helps avert a possible grounding and oil spill similar to the Selendang Ayu.

2010: Princess Kathleen Wreck Fuel Recovery

The passenger vessel SS Princess Kathleen grounded and sank with no loss of life near Point Lena, Juneau in September 1952. A recent increase in reports of tar balls and sheens in the area prompts suspicion that the historic wreck is leaking fuel. DEC and the U.S. Coast Guard stand up a Unified Command to assess the condition of the sunken vessel and volume of fuel onboard and then to remove as much fuel as possible. 130,000 gallons of bunker oil is removed from the wreck.

2011 - 2021

2011: Cook Inlet Risk Assessment

DEC, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council launch the Cook Inlet Risk Assessment for oil spills from vessels.

2011: Earthquake and Tsunami Strikes Japan

The earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, 2011 claims at least 16,000 lives and sweeps an estimated 5 million tons of debris into the Pacific Ocean. As early as December 2011, tsunami-generated marine debris begins arriving on Alaska's coastline. DEC leads Alaska's response in the coming years to the marine debris generated by the tsunami. The Government of Japan gives $5million to support marine debris cleanup operations.

2012: APDES Completed

With the final transfer of authority from the EPA, DEC assumes full authority to administer the wastewater discharge permitting and compliance program in Alaska. Permitting and compliance activities are now conducted by staff with expertise and understanding of Alaska's unique circumstances when applying the Clean Water Act requirements.

2013: Kulluk Grounding

While Shell is towing its offshore drill rig Kulluk to Washington state, rough seas from a winter storm cause multiple towline breaks and the vessel grounds on Sitkalidak Island. DEC joins the large response mounted to free the grounded vessel, which remains on the shore for several days. No fuel is spilled in the incident.

2013: Alaska Oil Spill Technology Symposium

DEC hosts the first Alaska Oil Spill Technology Symposium in Fairbanks with State, Federal, industry and academic partners to share information on spill response science and technology specific to Alaska.

2014: Air Quality - Final Regulations and State Implementation Plan – Fairbanks North Star Borough

In November 2014 DEC proposes regulations and amendments to the State Implementation Plan (SIP) to address Fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5) within the Fairbanks North Star Borough Nonattainment Area. The regulations are designed to help improve the wintertime air quality in the Fairbanks North Star Borough nonattainment area and the SIP is a plan required by the federal Clean Air Act. The regulations become effective on February 28, 2015.

2015: Legalization of Cannibis

Ballot measure 2 legalizes the recreational use of cannabis. Regulations are developed for disposal of marijuana waste and FAQs are developed for wastewater disposal at growing or processing facilities. The Division of Air Quality begins management of odor complaints.

2015: Spill Prevention and Response Division Reorganization

The Prevention and Emergency Response Program is combined with the Industry Preparedness and Pipeline Program to form the Prevention, Preparedness and Response Program. The new program improves efficiency, resulting in cost savings, and better communication with the regulated industry. The division now has three components, the Contaminated Sites, Response Fund and the Prevention, Preparedness and Response Programs.

2015: Tsunami Marine Debris Disposal

Using funds from the Japanese Government, a massive marine debris cleanup operation was conducted. The effort involved state and federal agencies, private industry, and local, and international non-profit organizations. The operation lasted approximately three weeks and required 1, 176 helicopter trips, 3,397 “super sack” loads, and 717 bundles of marine debris. The debris was loaded onto a 300-foot barge and shipped to the lower 48 for disposal.

2016: Water Innovations for Health Arctic Homes Conference

To address the problem of over 3,000 homes lacking running water and a flush toilet in Alaska, a conference is convened to bring together Alaskan, U.S., and international experts, international engineers, health experts, researchers, community members, policymakers, and innovators. They discuss water and sewer services in remote Arctic and sub-Arctic communities, and how to make the delivery of these services more reliable, affordable, and sustainable. Participants showcase their water system prototypes, developed to provide more affordable methods for delivering drinking water and sewage disposal services to rural Alaska.

2016: Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)

PFAS are "forever chemicals" found in consumer products such as cookware, food packaging, etc. In Alaska, releases of PFAS into the environment come mainly from firefighting foams. In 2016, DEC publishes cleanup levels for PFAS and the EPA issues lifetime health advisory levels for these compounds in drinking water.

2017: ISO 17025 Accreditation for the Environmental Health Laboratory

The American Association for Laboratory Accreditation grants the Environmental Health Laboratory ISO 17025 accreditation. This achievement allows the State to provide regulatory food testing in compliance with FDA requirements for a quicker response to food-borne illness outbreaks.

2018: Water Quality Anti-Degradation Policy

The Federal Clean Water Act requires states to have policy and implementation methods to protect water quality by determining whether, and to what extent, water quality maybe lowered by proposed activities. After years of collaboration and input from the public, policy makers, and industry, the revised regulations are approved by the EPA on July 26, 2018.

2018: Alaska Regional and Area Contingency Plans Adopted

In the fall of 2015, the State of Alaska, Coast Guard, and EPA began work to evaluate the existing Joint Federal/State Unified Plan and Subarea Planning framework (see 1994), and compare it to that of the rest of the nation’s, and explore the possibilities of adopting the planning format and policies of the rest of the United States. Alaska’s Oil and Hazardous Material Planning system met the regulatory requirements, as they existed in 1994. Over the 20 years since their inception, however, federal agencies issued policy directives and regulatory guidance to Coast Guard Sectors and EPA Regions, to implement policy changes and lessons learned following large-scale responses. In 2018, the Unified Plans and the ten Subarea Plans were superseded by the Alaska Regional Contingency Plan and four Area Contingency Plans. The new planning format better supports planners and responders to achieve a coordinated and effective response to pollution while aligning with national planning standards. Area Contingency Plans are reviewed and revised annually by regional Area Committees.

2019: Drone Technology

DEC begins the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), often called drones, for monitoring, inspections, and to improve the quality of data collection. UAVs allow DEC staff to see things they couldn't otherwise without climbing ladders, walking on rooftops, or flying overhead. DEC will also be able to evaluate remote watersheds, and measure and track environmental changes over time because of the drone's ability to take preprogrammed images from the same altitude and position. DEC staff are able to use a drone in 2019 to obtain the first-ever current image of an extremely rugged and remote watershed for a public water system, which had previously been inaccessible.

2019: Fairbanks Sir Quality

DEC works with Fairbanks businesses, residents, local governments, and stakeholder groups to produce a Draft Serious SIP to meet federal requirements to reduce fine particulate matter (PM2.5) air pollution. DEC met the December 15 deadline to adopt final regulations and the SIP per the consent decree with EPA and Earth Justice, putting Fairbanks on a path to healthier air quality.

2019: Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

With support from ADOT&PF, DEC prioritizes drinking water wells at risk of PFAS contamination, requires and conducts drinking water sampling, and ensures alternative drinking water is provided to people with wells contaminated by PFAS. DEC aligns its policies with EPA's for laboratory monitoring and action levels for provision of alternative water. The Department posts all data online to ensure transparency and public availability. DEC also permits the first incinerator in the country to test the efficacy of burning PFAS contaminated soils, providing a local solution to a local problem.

2019: Tank Farm Spills

DEC conducts courtesy inspections at Class 2 (small) oil storage facilities in 20 rural communities, and provides outreach and education to other facilities across the state to help prevent spills. These facilities represent a significant portion of the Department's emergency spill response actions.

2019: Improved Food Safety Complaint Process - Yuck Line

DEC implements a cell phone number (Yuck Line) which can take calls, texts, photos and videos, and also creates an online submission form. This increases the number of submitted complaints, helping the program identify unsafe and unsanitary conditions that could cause foodborne illness in Alaska.

2019: Rural Sanitation

DEC creates a micro-loan process through the Alaska Clean Water and Alaska Drinking Water Loan Funds intended for small sanitation infrastructure improvement projects in rural communities. Loan subsidies under the program allow a portion of the loans to be forgiven (similar to a grant).

2019: Multi-agency Response to Invasive Species

DEC creates general pesticide permits to strengthen the State's ability to combat elodea and invasive fish. The general permit will allow the Departments of Natural Resources and Fish and Game to start work within 15 days, compared to the average of 70 days previously required to issue an individual permit.

2020: Woodstove Change Out Program

The EPA awarded $14.7 million in grant funding to DEC to help the Fairbanks North Star Borough improve air quality. Grant funds are used to reduce harmful fine particle air pollution from woodsmoke through a woodstove changeout program operated by the borough.

2020: Testing for COVID-19 in Wastewater

Studies show that untreated wastewater can be tested for COVID-19 in a community. DEC works with the University of Alaska, Anchorage to create a COVID-19 virus testing and surveillance system for wastewater in Alaska's communities. This effort assists the State to monitor the epidemic and identify problem areas.

2020: Supporting Alaska's COVID-19 Response

DEC supported the State of Alaska's COVID-19 response efforts by loaning laboratory staff to the Department of Health and Social Service's (DHSS) Public Health division and to the Alaska State Virology Laboratories to assist with COVID-19 testing, Food Sanitation and Safety staff to the Critical Infrastructure Sustainment Branch of the Response to help review COVID-19 transmission prevention plans, and staff with geographic information system (GIS) skills to assist the DHSS Data Team with daily updates to the COVID-19 Data Hub.

2020: Supporting the Regulated Community while Protecting Public Health and the Environment during COVID-19

In order to help prevent the transmission of the COVID-19 virus, DEC limits regular on-site inspections, and develops and implements the ability to perform effective virtual inspections to ensure facilities are operating properly and in compliance with permit conditions and other requirements. Program staff across all of DEC's divisions proactively engage with the regulated community, answer questions, and offer guidance on situations where COVID-19 has or could interrupt regular operations. DEC provides flexibility for requirements where there is low risk to human health or the environment to do so if COVID-19 restrictions make them difficult to meet. This includes allowing for reasonable delays in document or regular compliance test submissions, professional re-certifications or license renewals, and payments for fees and loans.

2021: Alaska Seafood Testing

The Government of Japan announced that it in 2023, it plans to release treated radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear plant. In response, DEC is expanding testing for gamma radiation in Alaska seafood through funding from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The expansion includes using a Portable Gamma-ray Analysis System to collect more samples, in more locations, and test additional species to evaluate for gamma radiation and potential local environmental contaminants.

Former Commissioners & Deputies

Commissioner Biographies

Term Commissioner Deputy Commissioner Governor
1971-1974 Max Brewer Jerry Reinwand William Egan
1975-1982 Ernst Mueller Jerry Reinwand, Demind Cowles, Glen Atkins Jay Hammond
1983-1984 Richard Nevé Chris Noah William Sheffield
1985-1986 Bill Ross Amy Kyle  
1987-1990 Dennis Kelso Amy Kyle Steve Cowper
1991-1994 John Sandor Mead Treadwell Walter Hickel
1995-1996 Gene Burden Michele Brown Tony Knowles
1997-2002 Michele Brown Al Ewing, Kurt Fredriksson  
2003-2004 Ernesta Ballard Kurt Fredriksson Frank Murkowski
2005-2006 Kurt Fredriksson Dan Easton Sarah Palin
2007-2009 Larry Hartig Dan Easton Sean Parnell
2010-2014 Larry Hartig Dan Easton, Lynn Kent Sean Parnell
2014-2018 Larry Hartig Alice Edwards Bill Walker
2018 to present Jason Brune Lynn Kent, Emma Pokon Mike Dunleavy

Commissioner Biographies

Clifton Brewer portrait

Max Clifton Brewer (term 1971-1974) Commissioner Brewer was appointed by Governor Egan. He was arctic scientist, geophysicist, geological engineer, environmentalist, educator, and philosopher, and is best known for his expertise in the scientific field of permafrost. He was the director (1956-1971) of the Naval Arctic Research Laboratory (NARL) in Utqiagvik, Alaska (formerly known as Barrow) where he established and managed the NARL ice stations in the Arctic Ocean.

Deputy Commissioner: Jerry Reinwand

Ernst Mueller portrait

Ernst W. Mueller (term 1975-1982) was one of a number of conservation activists to campaign for Jay Hammond for governor of Alaska in the 1974 election and go on to serve in Hammond's administration.

Deputy Commissioners: Jerry Reinwand, Deming Cowles, Glen Atkins

Richard Nevé portrait

Richard Nevé (term 1983-1984) was appointed by Governor Sheffield. He was a previous director of the Seward station of the Marine Science Institute and was an international expert on paralytic shellfish poisoning.

Deputy Commissioner: Chris Noah

Bill Ross portrait

Bill Ross (term 1985-1986) was also appointed by Governor Sheffield. Bill came to Alaska in 1975 as a newly hired drug and alcohol counselor for the City and Borough of Juneau, before being appointed Commissioner In 1985. After DEC, Bill founded Ross Strategic, a company that supports government agencies, nonprofits and other organizations in environmental, natural resource and public health issues. Ross Strategic has offices in Seattle, Washington, Oregon and Texas.

Deputy Commissioner: Amy Kyle

Dennis Kelso portrait

Dennis Kelso (term 1987- 1990) was appointed by Governor Cowper. Kelso was the Commissioner when the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound on March 24, 1989. He was one of the first people on board assessing the magnitude of the problem. Kelso worked on the cleanup and spill aftermath for two years. He advocated passage of the federal Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

Deputy Commissioner: Amy Kyle

John Sandor portrait

John Sandor (term 1991-1994) was appointed by Governor Hickel. His career began with the Forest service when he came to Alaska in 1953 to work on surveys of the Tongass National Forest. After his retirement he became the Commissioner of the department. One of his favorite quotations was "if a task you've once begun, do not leave until it's done. Be the labor great or small, do it well, or not at all."

Deputy Commissioner: Mead Treadwell

Gene Burden portrait

Gene Burden (term 1995-1996) was appointed by Governor Knowles. His career has included service as Alaska's Commissioner of Environmental Conservation; law practice; and extensive mediation of natural resource disputes that have included forestry, air permitting, water quality, habitat, marine spill prevention, and oil and gas exploration and development.

Deputy Commissioner: Michele Brown

Michele Brown portrait

Michele Brown (term 1996-2002) was appointed Commissioner of the department in 1996, by Governor Tony Knowles. Ms. Brown was a former DEC deputy commissioner and an assistant attorney general in the Alaska Department of Law, where she represented and advised the Departments of Environmental Conservation, Natural Resources, Fish and Game, and Community and Regional Affairs. In that position, she worked extensively on the Exxon Valdez spill response to deal with many of its legal, regulatory, and enforcement problems. Ms. Brown attended college at the University of California, Berkeley, and received her law degree from the University of California, Davis.

Deputy Commissioners: Al Ewing, Kurt Fredriksson

Ernesta Ballard portrait

Ernesta Ballard (term 2003-2004) was appointed by Governor Murkowski. Prior to joining the governor's cabinet, Ballard had a consulting practice specializing in regulatory strategy with an emphasis on integrated management systems for protection of the environment, health and safety. Ballard was appointed in 1997 by President Clinton to serve on the Board of Governors of the United States Postal Service where she chaired the Audit Committee. From 1983-86, Ballard was the regional administrator of Region 10 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Deputy Commissioner: Kurt Fredriksson

kurt fredriksson portrait

Kurt Fredriksson (term 2004-2006) was appointed by Governor Murkowski. He was the first Commissioner at DEC to work his way up through the ranks in non-appointed classified positions. His career has included senior management positions in Alaska's state government including Senior Project Analyst at the Governor's Office of Governmental Coordination and Executive Director of Alaska's Coastal Management Program. Kurt earned his M.S. in Environmental Studies and his B.A. in Geography at California State University, Fullerton in 1974 and 1976 respectively.

Deputy Commissioner: Dan Easton

larry hartig  portrait

Larry Hartig, DEC's longest serving Commissioner (term 2007-2014) was appointed by Governor Palin. Prior to his appointment he was in private practice with the Anchorage law firm of Hartig Rhodes Hoge & Lekisch, PC. Mr. Hartig worked primarily on environmental, natural resources, and commercial matters. His practice included assisting clients in obtaining environmental and other permits for natural resource development projects, as well as projects involving environmental compliance and cleanup of contaminated properties. He also worked in the Land/Legal Department of Alyeska Pipeline Service Company between 1972 and 1976 during the permitting and construction of the Trans Alaska Pipeline System.

Deputy Commissioners: Dan Easton, Lynn Kent, Alice Edwards.

jason brune portrait

Jason W. Brune was appointed by Governor Dunleavy as the Commissioner on December 3, 2018. Prior to his appointment, Mr. Brune was the senior director of land and resources at Cook Inlet Region Inc. (CIRI), an Alaska Native Corporation. Mr. Brune oversaw and participated in the development and administration of CIRI's 1.6 million acres of subsurface resources, including oil, gas, minerals, sand and gravel, and coal. He supervised the team's staff, environmental contractors, stakeholder management, and legal review, while building relationships with CIRI's villages. Mr. Brune also worked to identify priorities for addressing contaminated lands. Prior to working at CIRI, Mr. Brune worked for Anglo American as the company's public affairs and government relations manager. Brune is also the former executive director for the Resource Development Council. He has a bachelor's degree in biology from Carleton College and his graduate work was in environmental science at Alaska Pacific University.

Deputy Commissioners: Lynn Kent, Emma Pokon

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