Elwood Brehmer

House committee approves increase in spill penalties

Legislation to increase penalties for fuel and oil spills is on the move in the House.

The House Resources Committee sent House Bill 322 to the Finance Committee Feb. 12 for consideration.

The bill, drafted primarily by Resources co-chair Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, would double most penalties the Department of Environmental Conservation can levy against spillers of oil, fuels and other hazardous substances including vessel waste water.

88 Energy adds to winter exploration program

A small Australian company will soon be adding to what is turning out to be a robust exploration season on the North Slope.

88 Energy received regulatory approval from the Division of Oil and Gas Feb. 5 to drill two exploration wells in a remote portion of the southern North Slope near the upper Kuparuk River.

Working under its operating subsidiary Accumulate Energy Alaska Inc., the company plans to drill and test the Bravo-1 and Charlie-1 oil exploration wells by April 30, according to its exploration plan submitted to Oil and Gas.

ISER: recession hitting downstream industries

A pair of new reports from the University of Alaska Anchorage indicate job losses are slowing but Alaska’s recession might not be over and current state spending levels might not be out of line when other factors are considered.

Alaska’s recession didn’t officially start until sometime in the latter half of 2015, but economic contraction in the state seemed almost inevitable when oil prices began falling about a year earlier in August 2014.

Senate Republicans reject Walker pick for District E seat

It’s back to square one in the process to replace former Mat-Su Sen. Mike Dunleavy.

Senate Republicans announced early Feb. 14 that they rejected Gov. Bill Walker’s appointment of Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assemblyman Randall Kowalke, a Republican from Willow, to fill the Senate District E seat.

Walker stirred the political pot Feb. 9 when he picked Kowalke because he was not one of the three individuals local Republican Party representatives selected for the governor to pick Dunleavy’s replacement from.

BP bounces back from 2016 with $3.4B profit in 2017

While BP Alaska leaders are celebrating the success of stemming production decline from the aging Prudhoe Bay oil field despite belt-tightening in the industry, the company’s global executives on Feb. 6 celebrated the announcement of a $3.4 billion profit in 2017.

AEDC: recession fading despite ongoing state financial issues

Anchorage is pegged to lose about another 1,000 jobs this year, but the analysts that track the numbers closely believe it could be the last year of a shrinking economy in the city.

Anchorage Economic Development Corp. CEO Bill Popp said during the group’s annual forecast luncheon Jan. 31 that the job losses this year will continue to be widespread amongst the various sectors of the city’s economy. However, the workforce reductions are expected to be smaller in almost every industry than what has been endured in the past two years of recession.

Mallott, Sullivan meet with top Canadians on transboundary issues

Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott and Sen. Dan Sullivan watched Super Bowl LII together in Ottawa and spent time strategizing on their approach to the next day’s meetings.

They were there to discuss issues as far-reaching as ocean debris, missile defense and the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canadian federal officials as well as provincial and First Nations leaders, according to Sullivan, but the priority topic brought up in every discussion was that of Canadian mines at the headwaters of rivers that terminate in Alaska.

Permanent Fund value hits $64B at fiscal year midpoint

It was a good news-bad news kind of day for Alaska Permanent Fund managers.

While the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. reported strong returns of 8.45 percent and a total Fund value of $64 billion in the first half of the 2018 fiscal year on Monday, domestic markets were also down sharply for the second consecutive trading day.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed Monday at 24,345, down more than 7 percent from the start of Friday trading.

CP rebounds, buys Anadarko Slope interests for $400M

ConocoPhillips reported its largest quarterly earnings in more than three years Feb. 1 when the company announced a profit of nearly $1.6 billion for the fourth quarter of 2017.

In Alaska, ConocoPhillips reported adjusted earnings of $283 million for the quarter and $652 million total for 2017. It also purchased all of Anadarko Petroleum Corp.’s North Slope assets for $400 million.

Alaska Air Group nets $1B in ’17 as Virgin integration continues

Alaska Air Group Inc. reported profits of just more than $1 billion in 2017 after its first full year owning Virgin America, but is still managing challenges associated with its purchase of the former competitor.

The Seattle-based parent company of Alaska Airlines also posted a $367 million profit for the fourth quarter of 2017, which compared to $814 million full-year 2016 and $114 fourth quarter 2016 profits.

Alaska Air Group executives announced the quarterly and year-end results in a Jan. 25 conference call with investors.

Oil tax bill gets chilly reception from industry

State Revenue Department officials say the oil production tax increase being debated in the House would not change bottom lines much at current market prices but company leaders stress it would further cement Alaska’s poor reputation in the oil and financial sectors.

Tax Division Director Ken Alper testified to the House Resources Committee Jan. 26 that the proposal to raise the minimum gross production tax from 4 percent to 7 percent would increase the state’s tax take by 54 cents per barrel at oil prices of $70 per barrel.

EPA’s unexpected decision welcomed by Pebble opponents

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s unexpected Jan. 26 comments expressing his environmental concerns about the Pebble mine were welcomed by mine opponents and reflected in the stock price of Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., which is the sole owner of the prospective copper and gold project.

Slope well review reveals no issues beyond those flagged by BP

An emergency engineering review of all North Slope wells ordered last October by state regulators did not reveal any significant issues but a regulation change is still likely.

The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission issued the emergency directive to North Slope production and exploration companies Oct. 30 after it was determined a BP well at Prudhoe Bay Drill Site 2 that failed and sprayed about 100 gallons of oil last April did so largely due to its outer surface casing being set in the permafrost — and the permafrost thawing and subsiding.

Alyeska, Prince William Sound council clash over tug training

Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. is at odds with the advisory group that monitors oil tanker activities in Prince William Sound over how far Alyeska’s tugboat operators should have to go to demonstrate they can operate safely in poor weather and wave conditions.

The Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council board unanimously passed a resolution Jan. 18 insisting that oil tankers and their tug escorts should not be allowed to operate in the Sound if weather conditions deteriorate beyond what has been deemed safe for training.

Producers celebrate Slope as House takes up another tax hike

Alaska leaders of the largest oil producers in the state are pointing to the recently-reversed production decline curve as proof the state’s oil tax system is working, but House Majority leaders contend Senate Republicans have forced them to again propose an oil tax increase to ease the state’s projected $2.7 billion budget deficit.

ConocoPhillips to drill Putu with unprecedented mitigation steps

ConocoPhillips is finally ready to drill into a small and long-sought piece of the North Slope, but only after agreeing to employ mitigation measures largely thought to be unprecedented, particularly for a single well.

The Putu 2 exploration well is scheduled to be spudded in early February and finished in late April with completion of a well sidetrack, according to ConocoPhillips spokeswoman Amy Burnett.

King Cove road deal checks another item on Alaska to-do list

Alaska’s congressional delegation celebrated another victory enabled by the Trump administration Jan. 22 when the Republicans revealed the details of a land swap allowing construction of a road out of the remote village of King Cove near the tip of the Alaska Peninsula.

The land exchange between the Interior Department and King Cove Corp., the area Native village corporation, will provide a 12-mile right-of-way through a portion of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.

Missile defense gets major boost from latest bill

While the Republican tax overhaul was dominating year-end headlines, a major piece of bipartisan legislation became law that also has significant implications for Alaska.

The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, signed by President Donald Trump in mid-December, allocates $699 billion to Defense agencies in the coming year.

Broad support of the annual Defense funding bill is nothing new, but wrapped in this NDAA is nearly every provision of Sen. Dan Sullivan’s Advancing America’s Missile Defense Act.

Politicians, stakeholders want conditions for Juneau utility sale

Alaskans with addresses from North Pole to Washington, D.C., are objecting to the proposed sale of the Juneau electric utility by its current Washington state-based owners to a large Ontario utility.

The cause for the North American geography mini-lesson is what will happen if the Regulatory Commission of Alaska approves the sale including the 78-megawatt Snettisham hydroelectric facility that provides up to 75 percent of Juneau’s base load power supply.

Initiative sponsors turn in signatures as BBNC shifts to neutral

Advocates of strengthening Alaska’s salmon habitat protection took a big step forward when they dumped roughly 49,500 signatures on the front desk of the Division of Elections Anchorage office Jan. 16.

The signatures from Alaskans statewide were collected by Stand for Salmon, the nonprofit aimed at reforming anadromous fish habitat permitting requirements via the ballot initiative they’ve dubbed “Yes for Salmon.”


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