AJC Web

Assembly eases Anchorage marijuana setbacks

The Anchorage Assembly freed up more marijuana space for Anchorage on Feb. 23, but further limited the already scarce zones in Chugiak and Eagle River.

The new rules seem a win-win for the two Assembly members it concerned, Amy Demboski and Patrick Flynn.

 The reconsideration holds the intent of the final Assembly land use package passed on Feb. 9 — which was packed with amendments adding additional restrictions to Chugiak and Eagle River — while partially responding to industry panic of overregulation in Anchorage.

Army chief says Alaska 4-25 troop reduction should wait

U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley said he wants to delay proposed force reductions at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson at least a year in testimony to a Senate committee Feb. 24.

The revelation came as Sen. Lisa Murkowski questioned Milley during a Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing.

Greens Creek mine reports record silver production in 2015

Hecla Mining Co. announced annual results that included record silver production at its Greens Creek mine near Juneau.

Greens Creek had production of 2.6 million and 8.5 million ounces of silver in the fourth quarter and full year of 2015, respectively, an increase of 4 percent and 8 percent over the same periods of 2014.

Proposed mining tax increase gets poor reception at Feb. 19 hearing

JUNEAU — Miners opposed to a proposal by Gov. Bill Walker to raise taxes on the state’s top-producing mines got help from an unexpected source Feb. 19.

Alongside the miners testifying against the tax increase was Graham Neale, director of the center for mine training at the University of Alaska Southeast.

“Now is the time to evaluate how the state can attract investment,” Neale said, explaining that a tax increase might do the opposite.

If mine developers are frightened away from Alaska by higher taxes, that would leave students of his program without jobs.

EDITORIAL: Liberal lockstep on Court will sink Obama’s nominee

The Wall Street Journal

 

With the death of Antonin Scalia, Democrats and the media are graciously offering Republicans an ultimatum: Give them control of the Supreme Court now, or they’ll use the vacancy as a political club to hold the White House and retake the Senate. False choices don’t get more false than that.

FISH FACTOR: World market continues to squeeze Alaska sockeye

Early signs point to continuing headwinds in world markets for Alaska salmon.

Global currencies remain in disarray, the ongoing Russian seafood embargo is diverting more farmed salmon to the U.S., and tons of product remains in freezers from back-to-back bumper sockeye runs. (The majority of Alaska’s salmon goes to market in frozen, headed and gutted, or H&G, form.)

One plus: aggressive market promotions have kept reds moving briskly at retail outlets at home and abroad and removed some of the back log.

Virgin Galactic rolls out new space tourism plane

MOJAVE, Calif. (AP) — Virgin Galactic rolled out a new version of its SpaceShipTwo space tourism rocket Feb. 19 as it prepares to return to flight testing for the first time since a 2014 accident destroyed the original craft, killing a pilot and setting back the nascent industry.

A Land Rover with Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson standing through the sunroof pulled the ship in front of an audience inside a hangar at Southern California’s Mojave Air & Space Port, where it was assembled.

Movers and Shakers 2/28/16

Denali Federal Credit Union has promoted Lily Li to executive vice president and chief operating officer, and Dale Fosselman to chief corporate development officer. Li most recently served as the Credit Union’s chief operating officer, and previously worked as senior VP of central operations, and as vice president, internal audit and compliance. Prior to joining Denali, Li was involved in accounting and auditing with the Municipality of Anchorage, KPMG and several Alaska banks. She is a CPA and a NAFCU Certified Compliance Officer.

ADFG closes early Kenai kings

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued an emergency order on Feb. 18 closing the Kenai River early king salmon run to sport fisheries. The closure will be in effect May 1 – June 30. 

The closure responds to a low forecast. Biologists forecast a return of 5,206 fish for the early king run. The optimal escapement goal for early-run Kenai River king salmon is 5,300 to 9,000. If the run does come in as forecasted, it will rank one of the lowest on record, 29th of the 31 years ADFG has been counting.

Wells Fargo report bleak for Alaska on strong dollar, weak oil

Wells Fargo economists released an investment update for 2016, and little of the news looks pleasant for Alaska.

The report, entitled “Navigating Risk in a Year of Change,” advises investors to shrug off the appearance of market volatility in 2016.

“We started the year very differently than we started the year ever before,” said JoEllen Weatherholt, an Alaska investment strategist with Wells Fargo.

AK LNG talks ‘unlikely’ to meet deadlines

A lack of progress in negotiations between the state’s producer partners on major Alaska LNG Project agreements is likely to throw the project off schedule, according to a key member of the Walker administration.

Deputy Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Marty Rutherford said in an interview that BP, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil are still working on the structure of the Alaska LNG Project’s critical Gas Balancing Agreement after more than a year of negotiations.

Cotten, council get earful from trawlers

PORTLAND, Ore. — An administrative push to keep fishing jobs in coastal communities is butting heads with the trawl industry claiming they provide the jobs in the first place.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council will continue studying a bycatch reduction plan unpopular with Gulf of Alaska trawlers. The option, known as Alternative 3, would allocate individual bycatch caps to groundfish vessels in the Gulf of Alaska rather than the target species.

Utilities purchase share of Beluga gas field

Anchorage’s electric utilities have partnered to purchase part of a Cook Inlet natural gas field, a move that secures a long-term fuel supply and could save ratepayers up to $9 million per year, utility leaders said Monday.

City-owned Anchorage Municipal Light and Power and Chugach Electric Association agreed to purchase ConocoPhillips one-third interest in the Beluga River Unit gas field for a total of $152 million. Under the agreement ML&P will own 70 percent of the unit share and Chugach will take the remaining 30 percent.

Juneau hydro developer has plan for clean, stable heat

Duff Mitchell is doing his damndest to get Alaska’s capital off of fuel oil.

The director of Juneau Hydropower Inc. announced plans for a seawater-sourced district heat system for Downtown Juneau Feb. 9 at the Juneau Economic Development Council’s annual Innovation Summit.

The science behind the renewable energy is nothing new; it’s already being used on a smaller, and cooler, scale to heat the Alaska Sealife Center in Seward and the Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute in Juneau.

ConocoPhillips absorbs $4.4B loss; nets just $4M in Alaska

ConocoPhillips’ fiscal situation looks a lot like the State of Alaska’s after the company posted a 2015 net loss of $4.4 billion in its year-end financial results released Feb. 4.

While Alaska leaders are contemplating cutting the Permanent Fund Dividend to help fund the budget, ConocoPhillips announced it was slashing its dividend from 74 cents to 25 cents per share.

Combined with reductions in capital expenditures to $6.4 billion from the $7.7 billion plan announced in December, the two moves will save the company $4.4 billion in 2016.

AG wants permission to investigate Bill Allen

Alaska Attorney General Craig Richards and Sen. Dan Sullivan joined forces in Anchorage Feb. 5 to announce the state’s intent to pursue longstanding allegations of sexual abuse and trafficking of a minor against former Alaska business leader Bill Allen.

Richards sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch Friday requesting she cross-designate the State of Alaska with authority to investigate and potentially prosecute Allen in federal court for violating the Mann Act.

Juneau bars some materials for marijuana concentrates

JUNEAU — Anybody attempting to make marijuana concentrates using butane, propane or any other such chemical had better think twice. Not only could using these gases result in a potentially deadly explosion, they will now result in misdemeanor charges, too.

Obama vows to press on after Clean Power Plan setback

WASHINGTON (AP) — The administration of President Barack Obama is vowing to press ahead with efforts to curtail greenhouse gas emissions after a divided Supreme Court put his signature plan to address climate change on hold until after legal challenges are resolved.

The Feb. 9 surprising move by the court is a blow to Obama and a victory for the coalition of 27 mostly Republican-led states and industry opponents, who call the regulations “an unprecedented power grab.”

Obama vows to press on after Clean Power Plan setback

WASHINGTON (AP) — The administration of President Barack Obama is vowing to press ahead with efforts to curtail greenhouse gas emissions after a divided Supreme Court put his signature plan to address climate change on hold until after legal challenges are resolved.

The Feb. 9 surprising move by the court is a blow to Obama and a victory for the coalition of 27 mostly Republican-led states and industry opponents, who call the regulations “an unprecedented power grab.”

EDITORIAL: Omnibus energy bill a chance for bipartisan progress

Since becoming chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Sen. Lisa Murkowski hasn’t been sitting on her hands.

In addition to routine legislation and a host of bills on priorities of the day, she has spent much time crafting a gargantuan omnibus energy bill that, if passed, would be the first such successful legislation in almost a decade.

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