House Resources Committee digs into carbon credits

Hot air or hot market for Alaska? Lawmakers want answers.
Some estimates say that carbon management can bring billions of dollars in revenue to the state of Alaska. Lawmakers asked for more information today.
Published: Mar. 10, 2023 at 7:31 PM AKST
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - The House Resources Committee on Friday hosted Verra, a nonprofit that works worldwide to evaluate and ensure the value of carbon credits, during a discussion of one of the two major carbon management bills put forth by Gov. Mike Dunleavy, H.B. 49.

Passage of the bill would result in the establishment of a carbon offset program for state lands. One way that carbon offsets works is for companies responsible for high emissions from fossil fuels to buy so-called “credits” by investing in resources such as trees that naturally offset the harmful impacts of carbon.

The hearing today allowed lawmakers to raise the question of how the state can ascertain the true value of the “credits,” and to use the phrasing of Rep. Mike Chenault, not a “pig in a poke” — that the credits sold at market value to high-emissions companies are worth what estimates say they are.

Some members of the committee voiced concern that the credits could turn out to be “hot air.”

Rep. Jennie Armstrong indicated she felt hesitant about the security underpinning the value of carbon credits, and doesn’t want the state to catch a case of buyer’s remorse down the road.

“I have a lot of concerns around the additionality, the different methodologies, it’s like a ‘choose your own adventure’ historical harvest, documented management activities. It’s kind of choosing which one will maximize the money,” Armstrong said. “I want money for the state but I also want to do things that are legit.”

Armstrong also raised the question of accountability.

“If the projects don’t work out, are those businesses still going to want to invest in and work with us in Alaska?,” Armstrong said.

Verra’s Forest Carbon Innovations Manager Spencer Plumb likened the function of his organization to a quality assurance team.

“A good corollary might be the sustainable seafood label, they have to show they are meeting certain practices,” Plumb said.

Plumb told lawmakers about the variety of stakeholders engaged with certifying carbon credits.

“Do we set a high enough bar for Alaska? That is work that you all will have to do,” Plumb said. “They work for our standard, but not every place that wants to encourage this will have the same opinion on that.”