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Vol. 27, No. 26 Week of June 26, 2022
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Oil patch insider: Plaque honoring geologist Gil Mull goes up; Brune back-up for Lt gov

Kay Cashman

Petroleum News

Amidst a severe mosquito bombardment at 8:30 a.m. on June 18, Tom Homza and Bob Swenson installed a plaque in remembrance of renowned Alaska geologist Charles G. “Gil” Mull in a rock garden in front of the Arctic Interagency Visitor Center in Coldfoot, Alaska, on the southern slopes of the Brooks Range.

The plaque, which contained a brief bio of Gil, was placed on an existing wall in the rock garden that contained two sizable Kanayut formation boulders.

The significance of the Kanayut is that it’s a particularly beautiful rose-colored chert pebble conglomerate that records the erosion of an ancient mountain belt.

The plaque effort was an accomplishment of a loosely connected group of 83 people with no board of directors, or other type of organizational structure, except that they all admired Gil Mull.

“We’re just a bunch of his friends,” one participant told Petroleum News, asking not to be identified. “We don’t have a leader or a spokesperson,” he said, “although Gil mentored some of us.”

Coldfoot is more a truck stop than a town. It’s about the halfway point between Fairbanks and the Beaufort Sea coast at Mile 175 on the Dalton Highway, also known as the Haul Road.

Originally named Slate Creek, Coldfoot was founded as a gold-mining camp in 1898. The name changed when many prospectors got “cold feet” upon winter's arrival and headed back south. At its turn-of-the-century peak, Coldfoot boasted a gambling hall, two roadhouses, seven saloons, a post office and a brothel. By 1912 it was nearly a ghost town.

At the end of the Dalton Highway is Deadhorse, an unincorporated community that was established to support oil development in the giant Prudhoe Bay oil field.

The community consists mainly of facilities for companies providing supplies and services for Prudhoe, other nearby oil fields and the trans-Alaska oil pipeline which transports oil from Prudhoe to Valdez on Southcentral Alaska’s coast.

According to the website of the Arctic Interagency Visitor Center, it is a partnership between three federal agencies that manage the public lands along the Dalton Highway: the Bureau of Land Management (the Utility Corridor), the National Park Service (Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Yukon Flats, Kanuti and Arctic National Wildlife Refuges). The Alaska Geographic Association is the visitor center’s not-for-profit cooperating partner and operates its bookstore.

The group wants to give special thanks to BLM’s Bill Hedman at the visitor center. “We couldn’t have done it without him; he was very helpful and enthusiastic,” one of the geoscientists told PN.

Another project (there are a few others) the group is working on is the Charles Gilbert “Gil” Mull Field Camp Scholarship; a project spearheaded by Geosciences Professor Michael Whalen of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

In literature Whalen prepared about the scholarship fund, he wrote: “In memory of Gil Mull (1935-2021), family and friends are raising funds for the Charles Gilbert Mull Field Camp Scholarship intended for geology students at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF). The scholarship will allow students to attend a geology field course of their choice.”

The group’s goal is to build a minimum endowment of $25,000, which will provide a UAF scholarship in perpetuity.

If you would like to contribute by mail, note the Charles Gilbert Mull Field Camp Scholarship in your correspondence, and address to:

University of Alaska Foundation

Attn: Fund and Gift Services

PO Box 755080

Fairbanks, AK 99775

You may also contribute online with the UA Foundation (, by selecting Designation “Other” and writing in Charles Gilbert Mull Field Camp Scholarship and completing the online form.

Please contact Prof. Michael Whalen by email with any questions at [email protected]

These efforts have morphed to include a broader “Pioneers of AK geology” series of panels, not just Gil, the group’s periodic email said.

This Geologic Materials Center effort was announced at a recent Alaska Geological Society board meeting. A committee has been formed to set up criteria etc. This effort will also require funding.

Another accomplishment of the group was getting a 2022 Geological Society of America session in Denver, Colorado, dedicated to Gil. Meeting dates: Oct. 9-12.

If you would like to join the group’s email list, email Tom Homza at [email protected]


Brune new back-up Lt gov

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has named the head of the state’s environmental protection agency as the person second in the line’s state of succession.

In a June 20 memo, Dunleavy designated Jason Brune, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, the replacement for Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer if Meyer is unable to perform his job.

The memo arrived 10 days before Michael Johnson, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development, is set to leave his job. Johnson is the state’s current No. 3 officer.

The role of designated successor comes with no additional power or authority, but Brune could become governor if both the governor and lieutenant governor are incapacitated or otherwise unable to perform their jobs.

In that case, he would serve as acting governor until a special election is held.

Brune’s designation is subject to legislative confirmation if Dunleavy is re-elected and Brune stays the designated successor. If Dunleavy loses re-election this fall, the newly elected governor would name a new No. 3 official.

Well known in the resource community, Brune was named DEC commissioner by Dunleavy on Nov. 26, 2018.

Brune has been senior director of land and resources for Cook Inlet Region Inc., was public affairs and government relations manager for Anglo-American and prior to that executive director of the Resource Development Council of Alaska.

He has served on the Alaska Sealife Center Board, Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Endangered Species Act Recovery Team, Tyonek Tribal Conservation District Board, the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Public Advisory Committee and numerous other business and civic organizations.

While at CIRI, 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. He also worked to identify priorities for addressing Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act contaminated lands.

Brune has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Carleton College and did graduate work in environmental science at Alaska Pacific University.

- Jim Brooks, Alaska Beacon. Petroleum News’ Kay Cashman contributed to this piece.

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