The Environmental Protection Agency halved the number of staffers attending an annual Anchorage forum on issues like climate change in response to a request from President Donald Trump's transition team.
Trump transition official Doug Ericksen told Alaska's Energy Desk in an email that the EPA was directed to limit staff at the conference to save money on travel. "This is one small example of how EPA will be working cooperatively with our staff and our outside partners to be better stewards of the American people's money," Ericksen wrote.
Alaska Forum on the Environment Director Kurt Eilo says even some Anchorage-based EPA employees were pulled, as were some who would have traveled from Seattle and Washington, D.C.
Climate change is a major issue in Alaska. One town has had to move further back from its shoreline position because of rising seas caused by climate change.
"We got a phone call from the local office of EPA, and we were informed that EPA was directed by the White House transition team to minimize their participation in the Alaska Forum on the Environment to the extent possible," Eilo said.
Eilo said he was given three days' notice that 17 instead of 34 staffers would attend.
One session had to be canceled as a result.
He said there is concern about what the halved EPA delegation foreshadows.
"There's a lot of uncertainty among folks here at the forum," Eilo said. "There's concern about the tribal programs, there's concern about how we're going to address things like climate change in the next upcoming administration."