Elwood Brehmer

Walker renews push for Fund earnings to fill deficit

Gov. Bill Walker called for continued budget cuts, more state wage freezes, fuel tax increases and again proposed using Permanent Fund income to shrink Alaska’s $3 billion-plus annual deficit in his 2018 fiscal year budget package released Thursday.

The administration’s $4.21 billion fiscal 2018 operating budget plan would modestly cut unrestricted General Fund, or UGF, spending by $47 million over the current, 2017 fiscal year budget.

Slope lease sales generate $36 million in state, federal bids

Hopeful companies spent nearly $17.8 million to win leases on more than 630,000 acres of state parcels in one of the most fruitful North Slope oil and gas lease sales in the past 20 years.

The sealed bids were opened at state offices in Anchorage Wednesday morning.

Winning bids for North Slope leases totaled more than $16.9 million for 599,880 acres — the second-largest sale by acreage and the third-largest amount spent by industry since the state started areawide sales in 1998, according to DNR.

BlueCrest starts drilling, gets state loan modification

BlueCrest Energy got its $30 million loan with the state reworked days after the rig at the center of the deal began drilling its first oil well.

The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority board of directors unanimously approved modifications to the terms of its loan to BlueCrest on Dec. 1, which officials of the Texas-based independent say were necessary after Gov. Bill Walker vetoed most of the funding to pay the state’s 2017 fiscal year oil and gas tax credits.

It’s official; Alaska Airlines can buy Virgin America

Alaska announced Dec. 6 via a press release that the U.S. Justice Department has approved the $4 billion merger after a lengthy review of the deal for antitrust issues.

Executives of Alaska Air Group Inc., the airline’s Seattle-based parent company, have said since the purchase was announced in early April that they expected it to be approved without issue, although it took longer than planned.

Fights over oil taxes and the fiscal cliff

The incoming Alaska Legislature is going to face the same daunting fiscal issues as its predecessor, but the Walker administration is hoping the impending session will at least have a different theme.

“We don’t want the 2017 legislative session to be dominated by fights over oil taxes, we just don’t. I can’t stress that enough,” said Tax Director Ken Alper said during a Thursday morning address to the Resource Development Council for Alaska. “We actually have bigger issues in front of us right now, mainly Alaska’s fundamental imbalance: our giant structural budget shortfall.”

Port defendants argue Anchorage has no claim to state, federal project funds

The defendants in the Municipality of Anchorage’s lawsuit over its failed port expansion project have banded together to demand the city’s claim for monetary damages be tossed because they contend it has yet to specify what exactly it seeks to recoup.

Attorneys for Anchorage-based PND Engineers filed a joint summary judgment motion in U.S. District Court of Alaska Nov. 21 on behalf of co-defendants Integrated Concepts and Research Corp. and GeoEngineers, a Seattle-based firm that consulted on the long-dead project.

Pebble suits proceeding; DNR rebuts reclamation report

Pebble Limited Partnership is asking for legal fees to wrap up one lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency and hopes to settle another out of court.

The company pursuing the embattled massive copper and gold mining project in the Bristol Bay area filed a motion in U.S. District Court of Alaska Nov. 22 to recover $227,056 in attorneys’ fees stemming from a suit filed in October 2014 in which Pebble claimed the EPA withheld documents after a Freedom of Information Act request.

Gov’s veto forces loan modification for Inlet producer

BlueCrest Energy is asking state borrowers to amend the terms of a $30 million oil project loan after the state failed to pay tax credits the company was expecting.

Documents outlining the loan amendments were attached to the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority board of directors Dec. 1 meeting agenda posted on the authority’s website.

Permanent Fund starts FY17 with 3.86% return

Alaska’s money managers are off to a solid start in the first months of the state fiscal year.

The Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. announced Monday that it earned a 3.86 percent return, or $2 billion, in the first quarter of the 2017 fiscal year on its namesake fund, which had a total balance of $54.8 billion on Sept. 30. Of that, $9.7 billion was in the Fund’s Earnings Reserve account.

Doyon gas well strikes out; Ahtna work ongoing at Tolsona

Alaska Native corporations are 0 for 1 in their hunt for natural gas so far this year, but the search is still long from over.

Doyon Ltd. President and CEO Aaron Schutt said Nov. 17 that the Interior region corporation did not find a commercially viable resource from the well it drilled near Nenana this summer.

Independent explorers and the oil tax pendulum

The tune being heard from independents exploring on the North Slope has changed subtly but significantly over the past year.

A previous insistence throughout the winter and spring legislative sessions to keep the Alaska’s industry-favored oil production tax and credit system intact has dropped an octave to a message that hints the companies have accepted that change is coming — hopefully for the last time.

Murkowski lays out path on Arctic leases

Republicans have options to counteract the Obama administration’s move to pull Arctic waters from the federal offshore oil and gas lease plan, but they are far from immediate.

When the Interior Department released its 2017-2022 outer continental shelf, or OCS, lease plan document on Nov. 18 sans sales in Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi seas, the state’s leaders were instantly livid as environmental watchdogs rejoiced, tallying the news as a victory on the climate change front.

Obama administration culls Arctic OCS from five-year lease plan

Interior Secretary Sally Jewel reversed course and pulled Alaska’s Arctic waters from the latest federal outer continental shelf oil and gas leasing plan released Friday morning.

The final five-year OCS lease plan is the 2017-2022 oil and gas lease sale schedule for federal waters three to 200 miles offshore. It includes one Cook Inlet sale in 2021, but leaves out the large Arctic Beaufort and Chukchi seas, which were part of an earlier draft plan with one sale each.

AK LNG transition misses first benchmark in state takeover

The Alaska LNG Project handoff to state leadership is progressing, albeit slower than expected.

“Negotiations are continuing,” Alaska Gasline Development Corp. President Keith Meyer told the AGDC board of directors at a Nov. 10 meeting. “We did not meet our intended target of October for a signed agreement as we had talked about a number of months ago when this started. However, I would say that all things are moving well. I don’t detect anything that’s going to stop the process.”

New House Resource chairs ready to take on oil credits and AK LNG

The shakeup in state House control seemingly gave Gov. Bill Walker allies in leadership positions on fiscal issues, but the upcoming session will still be an uphill battle on the Alaska LNG Project.

Anchorage Democrat Reps. Andy Josephson and Geran Tarr will co-chair the House Resources Committee, the first stop for any oil and gas tax bills on their way through the legislative process.

Trump and a GOP Congress have chance to shape energy policy

Donald Trump’s election is generally viewed as a win for Alaska’s core resource industries, but whether or not it translates into better business in the Last Frontier will have much to do with his relationship with those on Capitol Hill.

Republicans unsurprisingly maintained control of the House after election Tuesday and also managed to hold serve in the Senate, if not by the slimmest of margins. As it stands, there are 51 Republicans firmly in U.S. Senate seats for the upcoming Congress.

ConocoPhillips can again grow its Colville River oil field

ConocoPhillips can again grow its Colville River North Slope oil field after a Nov. 4 decision by Natural Resources Commissioner Andy Mack that reversed an earlier disputed agency ruling.

Mack approved the major producer’s request to absorb 22 oil and gas leases totaling 9,146 acres into the Colville River Unit, which the company operates. Anadarko Petroleum Corp. holds a 22 percent working interest in the unit.

A day prior, Mack authorized the retroactive transfer of 15 of those leases to ConocoPhillips, setting the stage for the unit expansion.

Walker fires back after getting ‘D’ for business grade

Gov. Bill Walker took umbrage with the conclusion drawn by Alaska business groups that his policies have almost failed the state’s private sector.

The governor wrote a six-page point-by-point rebuttal to the “D” grade he received on the Alaska Business Report Card put out jointly by the Alaska Chamber, the Alaska Support Industry Alliance, the Resource Development Council for Alaska and Prosperity Alaska.

Dems pull trio of Republicans for new House Majority

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Alaska still has a bipartisan House Majority caucus, but it will be led by Democrats for at least the next two years.

The new House Majority leadership includes former minority leader and Anchorage Democrat Rep. Chris Tuck as majority leader, Dillingham Democrat Rep. Bryce Edgmon as House Speaker, and Republicans from Homer and Anchorage Reps. Paul Seaton as Finance co-chair and Gabrielle LeDoux as Rules Committee chair.

Nome Democrat Neal Foster will co-chair the Finance Committee alongside Seaton.

Live Election Results

While the nation elects a president, Alaska will decide whether it votes for familiar faces or throw out the incumbents in the Legislature.

Although there is a total of 50 races, the competititve races are far fewer.

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski is running against the Libertarian candidate Joe Miller, Democrat Ray Metcalfe and independent Margaret Stock.

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