Elwood Brehmer

Permanent Fund trustees seek inflation-proofing bill

The folks in charge of Alaska’s largest asset made few, but significant, requests of the Legislature at their meeting Sept. 28.

The Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. Board of Trustees unanimously passed a resolution directing corporation executives to pursue legislation to strengthen inflation-proofing mechanisms for the corpus of the $61 billion Permanent Fund, and passed motions requesting an exemption from state procurement codes and to add up to 10 new employees to its Juneau headquarters.

First look at Nanushuk released

The details of how Armstrong Energy plans to develop its billion-plus-barrel North Slope Nanushuk oil prospect are now public after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released the draft environmental impact statement for the project.

Tucked between ConocoPhillips’ large Alpine and Kuparuk River fields, the Nanushuk project in the Pikka Unit is expected to produce upwards of 120,000 barrels per day of conventional light oil at its peak rate.

Habitat initiative proponents argue appeal in Superior Court

Is there discretion in the term “significant adverse effects?”

That is the question at the center of the court debate over a ballot initiative aimed at reforming Alaska’s permitting laws to better protect salmon habitat from large development projects.

The Department of Law doesn’t think so, and Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Bakalar stressed as much during about 90 minutes of oral arguments Oct. 3 in Anchorage for Stand for Salmon’s appeal of Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott’s rejection of the initiative, which was based on a Department of Law recommendation.

Walker talks special session in Anchorage

Gov. Bill Walker is making one last push for his plan to end the state’s ongoing multibillion-dollar budget deficits.

On Sept. 20 Walker released a proposal for what members of his administration describe as a capped 1.5 percent payroll tax; others have called it a modified head tax.

On Sept. 22 he formalized the prospect of a special legislative session to address the state’s finances starting Oct. 23 that he previously told legislators to expect when he signed a proclamation making it official.

State loses another court fight over Roadless Rule

The courts have not been kind to the State of Alaska when it comes to the Roadless Rule.

Federal District Court Judge for the District of Columbia Richard Leon threw out the state’s lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture Sept. 20, ruling the conservation regulation enacted more than 15 years ago was properly promulgated.

Multiple state administrations and Alaska’s congressional delegation have fought against implementation of the Roadless Rule in Alaska, contending the Clinton-era regulation has severely damaged Southeast Alaska’s once robust timber industry.

Progress for Interior gas project with supply contract

Interior Energy Project leaders can finally see the light from a small, blue flame at the end of the tunnel.

Gene Therriault, the former Fairbanks-area state senator who of late has led the project to expand natural gas availability in his hometown, outlined the terms of the key natural gas supply contract Pentex Alaska Natural Gas Co. recently secured with Hilcorp Alaska to underpin the whole operation during the Sept. 21 Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority board meeting.

Valdez tug transition on track, Alyeska official says

WHITTIER — The major move to a new oil tanker escort firm in Valdez is going well according to Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. managers.

“All the vessels, based on schedule analysis and the visits we make to the shipyards, are on schedule,” said Mike Day, the manager of Alyeska Ship Escort/Response Vessel Systems, or SERVS.

Day reported to the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council board of directors at its Sept. 14 meeting in Whittier on the progress of the SERVS operator transition from Crowley Maritime to Edison Chouest Offshore.

State works to formalize method for assessing oil and gas properties

Some of the affected parties are raising concerns as state tax assessors are finalizing a methodology for valuing oil and gas properties other than the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System for the first time.

Alaska Petroleum Property Assessor Jim Greeley said in an interview that the way the state currently assess values for oil and gas properties isn’t new; it’s been phased in over the last five years.

However, the means for assessing the industry’s often complex and extremely expensive infrastructure has never been spelled out in state regulations, according to Greeley.

Report recommends improvements for ferry system

Insulating the state ferry system from annual political battles is one of the biggest things lawmakers can do to improve its operating efficiencies, according to a draft report released Sept. 13.

The Alaska Marine Highway System Reform Initiative draft report highlights the potential benefits the system could obtain from being converted into a public corporation as well as being forward funded by the state Legislature.

DNR starts work on North Slope road network

The Department of Natural Resources is trying to take advantage of what it sees as a convergence of fortuitous events to build a network of roads across the western Arctic.

The Arctic Strategic Transportation and Resources, or ASTAR, project hatched out of a series of conversations Gov. Bill Walker had with North Slope Borough Mayor Harry Brower Jr. late last year about ways the state could support North Slope villages, DNR Commissioner Andy Mack said in a Sept. 12 interview.

Slope producers doing more with less

Alaska’s oil workforce has been hit hard by low prices, yet the companies in the state have managed to buck a longstanding trend and increase production for the last two years. So what gives?

For state Labor Department Economist Neal Fried, the curiosity in the numbers goes back further than when oil prices started tumbling from the $100-plus per barrel plateau in August 2014.

Hilcorp advances plan for cross-Inlet oil pipeline

Hilcorp Energy is moving ahead with its $75 million plan to ship oil across Cook Inlet.

Harvest Alaska, Hilcorp’s pipeline subsidiary, filed applications with the Regulatory Commission of Alaska Sept. 8 requesting approval to expand the Inlet’s pipeline network and ultimately pipe oil from west Inlet facilities to the Andeavor refinery in Nikiski.

The project includes constructing new subsea and onshore pipelines as well as repurposing a cross-Inlet gas pipeline into an oil line to feed the refinery at Nikiski.

Ahtna apologizes to state regulators after $380K fine

Ahtna Inc. leaders admitted the Native corporation’s drilling subsidiary repeatedly failed to comply with state regulators’ demands over several months, but at the same time asked the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to lessen the resulting $380,000 in fines that the corporate officials feel are excessive.

Ahtna CEO Tom Maloney said during a Sept. 12 AOGCC appeal hearing that the company has the “deepest sorrow” for the internal communications failures that led the commission to levy the fines.

Mallott rejects salmon habitat ballot initiative

Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott denied an application on Sept. 12 to put a voter initiative on the 2018 statewide ballot that would have tightened the state’s permitting requirements for development projects with the potential to impact salmon streams.

Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Bakalar wrote a Sept. 6 letter to Mallott recommending he not certify the initiative because it would strip the Legislature of its power to allocate resources — in this case salmon habitat — and thus violate the Alaska Constitution.

Ballot measure would give greater say to ADFG

Alaska fishing groups concerned about the impacts that large-scale development projects could have on salmon habitat are pushing to reform the state’s permitting requirements through a voter initiative on the 2018 ballot.

Railbelt utilities make progress to pool resources

Leaders of Alaska’s largest electric utilities hope to have a green light from state regulators to form new infrastructure management companies in a little more than a year.

State rejects Point Thomson expansion plan

The Alaska Division of Oil and Gas has denied ExxonMobil’s plan to expand the Point Thomson North Slope gas project because it doesn’t live up to a prior settlement between the state and the company, according to Director Chantal Walsh.

In a detailed six-page letter dated Aug. 29, Walsh wrote to ExxonMobil Alaska Vice President Cory Quarles that the Point Thomson Expansion Project Planning Plan of Development, or POD, is far too vague and offers no commitment that the company will live up to the 2012 Point Thomson Settlement Agreement.

Coast Guard commandant keeps up push for icebreakers

U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft has one very clear message: the country needs more icebreakers.

Zukunft reiterated that point time and again during an Aug. 24 speech to members of the Alaska policy nonprofit Commonwealth North in Anchorage.

He recalled a conversation he had with then-National Security Advisor Susan Rice when Rice asked him what President Barack Obama should highlight shortly before the president’s extended trip to Alaska in late August 2015.

Court rules on PFD veto lawsuit

JUNEAU — The Alaska Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Bill Walker acted within his authority in reducing the amount set aside for checks to state residents from Alaska’s oil-wealth fund last year.

The decision, released Aug. 25, affirms a lower court decision that sided with the state in the dispute over Alaska Permanent Fund dividends.

Rodell reflects on Fund at $60B milestone

The Permanent Fund is many things to many Alaskans.

It’s the State of Alaska’s way of transforming finite resources into potentially perpetual wealth.

It’s the source of undoubtedly one of the most popular government programs ever envisioned, the Permanent Fund Dividend.

It’s always a reliable topic for lively debate.

At more than $60 billion, it’s currently worth about $83,000 per Alaskan.

To Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. CEO Angela Rodell, it’s also beautiful.

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