Elwood Brehmer

Gov’s budget aimed at economic recovery

Gov. Bill Walker’s budget proposal released Friday afternoon focuses on paying down growing state obligations and bolstering Alaska’s economy, actions which administration officials say should in the long run help address the ongoing budget deficits.

House majority won’t push income tax again

Legislative leaders from both parties claimed success when reviewing 2017 despite achieving little to solve the state’s most pressing issue: ongoing multibillion-dollar budget deficits.

Democrat House Speaker Bryce Edgmon and Republican Senate President Pete Kelly spoke Wednesday about the year’s legislative sessions and their expectations for the upcoming session that starts Jan. 16 to a lunch gathering of the policy analyst group Commonwealth North in Anchorage.

‘Aggressive’ timeline for AK LNG needs one year for permitting

State gasline officials have made headway of late with potential buyers and investors in the Alaska LNG Project, but progress on the regulatory side has been harder to come by.

The Alaska Gasline Development Corp. filed an environmental impact statement application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, for the $43 billion project in mid-April. At nearly 60,000 pages, AGDC leaders said they believed it to be the largest EIS filing in the history of the National Environmental Policy Act process, which became the federal permitting standard in 1970.

AIDEA approves deal with gas utility for Interior Energy Project

The Interior Energy Project is finally on its way to Fairbanks.

After nearly five years of analysis, negotiations, debate and a wholesale route change, the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority on Dec. 7 transferred control of the project to the Interior Gas Utility.

The IGU is owned by the Fairbanks-North Star Borough and will take over the plan to expand natural gas use in the area.

AGDC gets interest from Tokyo, questions from lawmakers

Legislators got their first chance to publicly question Alaska Gasline Development Corp. officials about a recent agreement with Chinese companies to advance an LNG export project during a Dec. 4 hearing.

Meanwhile, AGDC executives in Japan were busy putting the finishing touches on the state-owned corporation’s latest pact to cooperate on developing the $43 billion Alaska LNG Project with potential customers.

ANWR clears Senate, Young named to conference panel

The northern edge of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is almost open for business after some late maneuvering by Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

With the inclusion of Murkowski’s provision to open the ANWR coastal plain to oil exploration in the Senate’s tax reform bill, the Alaska congressional delegation is as close as it has ever been to what would be a landmark victory for the Republicans.

In statements following the Senate’s Dec. 2 early morning vote, they described it as a way to jumpstart Alaska’s economy and improve national security by producing more oil domestically.

Ahtna subsidiary gets reduction in huge fine at Tolsona well

(Editor's note: This story has been updated to include a response by Ahtna Inc.)

State regulators substantially reduced the penalty issued to an Ahtna Inc. drilling subsidiary to $92,000 in a final order issued Wednesday morning after company leaders admitted to the gas well violations and rectified them.

Doyon keeps up Nenana drilling; touts gas alternative to Cook Inlet

Doyon Ltd. is sticking with its oil and gas exploration program near Nenana.

Despite past challenges, the Interior Alaska Native regional corporation announced Nov. 28 that it plans to drill another exploration well in the frontier basin west of Fairbanks next summer.

The Totchaket-1 well will be drilled based on the results of a 64 square-mile 3D seismic program shot early this year, according to a Doyon release.

Company leaders think their years of exploration around Nenana are close to paying off.

Walker touts trade relations with China after gasline talks

Gov. Bill Walker is hopeful the inroads his administration has made with top-level officials in the Chinese government through cooperation on the Alaska LNG Project can be parlayed into partnerships for other industries.

The governor outlined his plans to bolster Alaska-China trade during a Nov. 21 press conference mainly focused on the state’s gasline Nov. 9 agreement with three government-owned Chinese companies.

Murkowski adds Tongass timber, Roadless rule repeal to budget bill

Sen. Lisa Murkowski has made headlines of late for her push to open part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration but she’s also using her position in the Senate to angle for more resource activity in Southeast Alaska.

Murkowski chairs the Appropriations subcommittee covering the Interior Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Forest Service, which released its $32.6 billion discretionary 2018 budget for those agencies Nov. 20.

Effort to open ANWR clears one more hurdle

Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s legislation to open the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration cleared another hurdle as expected Nov. 28, but one more big jump remains.

The ANWR provisions passed the Senate Budget Committee as part of the Republicans’ tax overhaul on a 12-11 party-line vote. The next and final stop for the controversial legislation is the Senate floor, where debate is sure to be lengthy and contentious.

The House passed its tax and budget plan Nov. 16.

Report shows Medicaid savings largely from travel cost-shifting

Reforms to Alaska’s Medicaid program are producing savings but state budget officials still expect costs to rise up to $75 million next year.

Provisions in the state Medicaid reform legislation that passed in 2016 with overwhelming bipartisan support saved the state more than $30 million in fiscal year 2017, according to companion reports issued Nov. 15 by the departments of Health and Social Services and Law.

Hilcorp boost Inlet output; Eni preps long well

Most state officials are encouraged about the incremental increase in Alaska’s North Slope oil production because of the impact it could on state finances, but Hilcorp Energy is drilling to produce more from the state’s original oil basin as well.

Hilcorp Alaska Vice President Dave Wilkins said the company drilled nine oil wells into its Cook Inlet fields this year and, as a result, expects to increase its Inlet oil production from about 12,000 barrels per day in January to more than 15,500 barrels per day by year’s end.

More exploration approved at Icy Cape

Alaska Mental Health Trust Land Office officials are spending the winter reviewing the results of last year’s drilling campaign and preparing for another at their Icy Cape heavy mineral prospect.

Those results were promising enough for the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority Board of Trustees to approve $3 million in October to spend on more exploratory drilling next year, according to Trust Land Office Executive Director Wyn Menefee.

Mixed reaction to AK LNG-China letter

Gov. Bill Walker and his gasline team touted an agreement signed Nov. 8 with three Chinese mega-corporations as the largest step the state has ever taken towards finally putting together a North Slope natural gas project.

After a few days to digest the situation, legislators’ reaction has been more subdued.

ConocoPhillips plans for busy exploration season

It’s going to be a busy winter for ConocoPhillips.

The company that has led exploration into the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska west of the existing North Slope oil fields is heading back into the federal lands to drill four more greenfield wells early in 2018, according to spokeswoman Natalie Lowman.

Unpaid tax credits, logistical issues slow Inlet producers

A pair of small companies working in Cook Inlet are trying to overcome funding shortfalls stemming from the State of Alaska not yet making good on promised tax credit refunds.

Furie Operating Alaska and BlueCrest Energy, both Texas-based independents, had to interrupt their 2017 work plans because expected tax credit repayments from the state did not come through.

Brooks Range Petroleum seeks more time as Mustang delayed again

Brooks Range Petroleum Corp. leaders are asking state regulators for another year to bring their small and long-delayed North Slope oil project to fruition.

Bart Armfield, CEO of Anchorage-based Brooks Range wrote in the 2018 plan of development document for the company’s Mustang oil project submitted to the Division of Oil and Gas Oct. 23 that first oil is not expected now until early 2019.

The 2017 plan, submitted to and approved by the division last fall, pegged first production for this December. According to what Armfield wrote, that isn’t close to happening.

Port gets new name, but problems remain

The Port of Anchorage is no more.

No, it did not slough off into Cook Inlet overnight, though parts of it have.

Rather, the Anchorage Assembly changed its name to the Port of Alaska on Oct. 24, a gesture intended to emphasize the importance of the ailing infrastructure to all of Alaska, not just its largest city.

Regardless of the name, the price tag to keep it in service for the next 75 years remains at upwards of $700 million.

Steve Ribuffo

Walker, AGDC sign gasline agreement with 3 China cos.

Gov. Bill Walker’s administration announced a big step forward for the $40 billion Alaska LNG Project late Wednesday in the form of a multi-level agreement with three Chinese mega-corporations to advance the project.

President Donald Trump and China President Xi Jinping attended the signing of the joint development agreement in Beijing, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

Walker said there is still work to be done before a final investment decision is reached but the agreement has the five key players to make the trans-Alaska gasline project go.

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