Elwood Brehmer

Murkowski: Health care concerns heard ‘wherever I go’

With an opportunity to discuss nearly anything on their minds, a gathering of Anchorage realtors consistently steered an April 20 conversation with Sen. Lisa Murkowski back to health care.

Murkowski said the chief issue of concern raised at the Anchorage Board of Realtors lunch continued a trend among the many Alaskans she talks to.

Referendum effort looms over plan to use Fund earnings

JUNEAU — Getting a bill passed to use Permanent Fund income to pay down Alaska’s multibillion-dollar budget deficits might be only half the battle.

Both houses of the Legislature have now passed a version of Gov. Bill Walker’s plan to restructure the Permanent Fund and reduce the amount available for dividends.

If Walker signs such a bill, one of Alaska’s political icons is prepping to repeal it.

“The greedy eyes are out,” former Republican Senate President Clem Tillion said in an interview. “If they change the law, we will change it back.”

Senate rewrites House oil tax bill

JUNEAU — Senate Republicans have a new way to get the State of Alaska out from under its $700 million oil and gas tax credit obligation and it’s based on oil companies paying each other.

Chugach kills Snow River hydropower study

Public pushback persuaded Chugach Electric Association to punt on its proposal to build a $500 million-plus hydropower project at the headwaters of the Kenai River less than four months into a decade-long process.

The Anchorage electric cooperative announced late Thursday that it is canceling further study of a concept to dam the Snow River near Seward, which is the feeder system to Kenai Lake and the upper reaches of the Kenai watershed.

Senate on offense to start overtime

The Senate is starting overtime with all the balls.

It took all session, but the Democrat-led House Majority got the final pillar of its four-part fiscal plan — an income tax — passed on the 90th day of the regular legislative session.

With that, the majority Republicans in the Senate now have the House’s version of a broad-based tax, the 2018 fiscal year operating budget, a government draw on the Permanent Fund and an oil tax and credit bill to consider, none of which they like at all.

State files largest LNG permit application ever

The Alaska Gasline Development Corp. was ahead of schedule April 17 in checking a big “to-do” off its long list of steps to get natural gas off the North Slope.

AGDC filed its formal license application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission more than two months before the end of June goal set by corporation President Keith Meyer.

The AGDC board of directors unanimously passed a resolution at its April 13 meeting authorizing management to submit the Natural Gas Act Section 3 permit application.

Snow River hydropower concept meets immediate skepticism

The Kenai River always draws a crowd.

A standing-room only audience of more than 100 gathered April 17 in Anchorage at an informational public meeting put on by Chugach Electric Association to discuss the utility’s concept to dam the Snow River, which feeds Kenai Lake.

Oil production up for second year in a row

Don’t spend it all in one place.

Better than expected oil production and price figures mean the State of Alaska should have an extra $191 million when the 2017 fiscal year ends June 30, according to Revenue Commissioner Randy Hoffbeck.

In email, BP Alaska president details 2016 losses

BP Alaska President Janet Weiss has offered additional financial information about the company’s 2016 income after a reported $85 million profit became part of the political debate over oil taxes this week.

Big bills finally on the move as Legislature hits crunch time

Now we’re getting somewhere.

The House and Senate majorities still have large philosophical gaps to bridge, but the procedural pieces are being put in place to make that happen.

With less than a week to go in the voter-prescribed 90-day session on April 16, the House brought to the floor its version of Senate Bill 26, Gov. Bill Walker’s legislation to spin off Permanent Fund income to fund government, on April 12. An amended version of the Senate bill was passed out of the House Finance Committee April 11. The House passed the bill 22-18 along caucus lines.

DNR approves Pebble permit, with conditions

Natural Resources Commissioner Andy Mack approved Pebble Limited Partnership’s long-awaited land-use permit April 11 with stipulations that include a $2 million bond to backstop exploration cleanup.

The permit is for 12 months; Pebble had sought a permit through 2018.

Pebble applied for the miscellaneous land-use permit, or MLUP, last Oct. 13. MLUP approval for most activities is often little more than a formality, but next to nothing about Pebble is normal either, from the size of the project to the fervor it generates.

House sends oil tax rewrite to Senate

While many Alaskans were busy taking advantage of a warm spring weekend, House Majority coalition members were making up for lost legislative time by whisking their oil tax proposal onto the House floor.

A Finance Committee rewrite of House Bill 111 was introduced on Friday, moved from committee Saturday and voted on Monday. It passed the House on a 21-19 vote.

Anchorage Independent Jason Grenn was the lone majority caucus member to vote against the bill.

Changes at Anchorage operation won’t hurt rural utilities, AEA says

Rural utility operators are worried changes to how the Alaska Energy Authority handles their powerhouse projects will hurt the reliability of electrical service in communities across the state, but AEA officials say the fears are the result of a simple misunderstanding.

The usually quiet public testimony portion of the authority’s March 30 board of directors meeting was dominated by utility managers and local government administrators from small bush communities pleading with AEA directors to not close the authority’s north Anchorage warehouse.

State take quintupled BP profit in 2016

BP made $115 million worldwide last year and $85 million of those profits came from Alaska, according to the oil major’s 2016 annual report published April 6.

On the flipside, a BP spokesperson noted the company paid $464 million in taxes and royalties to the State of Alaska before realizing the $85 million in-state profit.

BP and its fellow North Slope producers have lobbied against a bill proposed by Alaska House Democrats to increase production taxes on the large Slope operators.

Anchorage utility consolidation pondered

Consolidation is the next natural step for Anchorage’s electric utilities to take in their ongoing efforts to reduce costs, according to a national consultant.

NERA Economic Consulting Director Kurt Strunk spoke March 30 to a small group of Anchorage business leaders about possibilities to mitigate energy price spikes in the city.

The roundtable discussion was the second in a series of meetings hosted by the Anchorage Economic Development Corp. about the state of the city’s electric utilities.

Incidents highlight spill response challenges in Cook Inlet

Thankfully, the Anna platform oil spill was not worse.

Hilcorp Alaska LLC, which owns the west Cook Inlet production platform and reported the spill from a pipeline April 1, estimates less than three gallons of oil made it into the water.

While some experts have said Hilcorp’s guess is a little premature, Cook Inlet Spill Response Inc. General Manager Todd Paxton said his organization’s responders did not find any oil to recover after the oil sheen was first spotted April 1.

Anchorage, railroad clash over split of federal funds

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and the Alaska Railroad Corp. are at odds over a longstanding stream of federal transportation grants that neither side will receive until the dispute is resolved.

The railroad took a $7.4 million loss in 2016 that CEO Bill O’Leary says is directly attributable to Berkowitz’s refusal to sign a joint letter the Anchorage mayor and railroad head must send to the Federal Transit Administration before $15.3 million in 2016 formula grant funds is released.

It is the first annual loss the Alaska Railroad has posted since 1999.

Chugach Electric inks deal with Furie for gas to 2033

A contract with a new producer means Alaska’s largest electric utility has secured a natural gas supply for the next 16 years.

Chugach Electric Association and Furie Operating Alaska signed a gas sale and purchase agreement March 3 for Furie to provide at least 20 percent of the utility’s natural gas needs through March 2033.

The firm supply portion of the contract commences in April 2023 for 1.8 billion cubic feet, or bcf, of gas over a 10-year term. Chugach already has contracts with other producers to mostly meet its gas needs until then.

Uber gets a lift from Senate authorization

Alaska is one step closer to putting a framework in place for transportation network, or ridesharing, companies such as Uber and Lyft, but local government officials across the state aren’t happy about it.

The state Senate passed Senate Bill 14 on March 23 to establish requirements for driver insurance coverage, background checks and a “zero tolerance” drug and alcohol policy, among other provisions.

Commission sticks with 10 days for comment on fracking

Nobody appears happy with the Alaska Oil and Gas Commission’s proposal for notifying the public about plans to hydraulic fracture oil and gas wells in the state.

The commission has suggested providing 10-day periods for public comment on well fracking applications immediately following the publishing of redacted versions of the applications to the commission’s website.

The proposed regulatory change followed a mid-December public hearing on the issue requested by Bob Shavelson, a director of the Homer-based local environmental watchdog group Cook Inletkeeper.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Elwood Brehmer