Walker Hopes to Reframe POTUS Perspective

Gov. Bill Walker on April 18. 2015. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)
Gov. Bill Walker (File photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

President Obama’s visit to Alaska is now less than a week away, and he’s not the only one with an agenda for his stay in the 49th state.

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“It’s an exciting time for Alaska. We don’t have a lot of presidents who stop here unless they’re low of fuel,” Gov. Bill Walker said today, at a press conference outlining his goals for the presential visit.

For the White House, climate change is the theme of the visit. The president plans to spotlight Alaska’s melting and erosion as signs that climate change is real, and to bolster support for his carbon-reducing energy policies.

Walker hopes to draw the president’s eye to a few other matters.

“We have an opportunity with this trip to tell our own story,” Walker said.

The governor wants Obama to see Alaska’s need for more oil development — to refill the pipeline and fund state government. Walker says Obama’s decision to let Shell drill in the Chukchi Sea suggests the president does not intend to use evidence of Alaska’s warming as a reason to block future oil development.

“I don’t think so. If I he had taken a different position on offshore I’d be more concerned about that,” Walker said. “The fact that he’s said yes to offshore — so I’m not as concerned he’s going to say that.”

When Obama tours Alaska towns struggling with climate change, Walker says he hopes the president sees how expensive it is for the state to mitigate the damage.

“I’ll be talking to him about, you know, we can’t be limited from access to our resources, from the financial standpoint, and be expected to relocate villages at the same time,” Walker said. “So that’ll be the discussion we have.”

Walker says the White House has assured him the president doesn’t plan any surprise announcements during the trip, and he intends to ask about that again this week.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Liz here.

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