Elwood Brehmer

Flint Hills refinery closure makes for higher-priced asphalt

As paving season peaks, getting asphalt to construction sites across Alaska has become more complicated and expensive since Flint Hills Resources closed its North Pole oil refinery.

The real price of asphalt oil has spiked about 20 percent over last year — about $150 per ton — for construction projects in Fairbanks and more remote locations, Exclusive Paving General Manager Travis Cline said.

The reason for the cost increase is asphalt oil used for state Transportation Department Northern Region projects must now be trucked up from Tesoro’s Nikiski refinery.

Mat-Su officials to meet with feds over $12.3M ferry bill

Matanuska-Susitna Borough officials are prepping for negotiations with the U.S. Transportation Department to resolve $12.3 million the borough owes the feds for its failed ferry plan.

In all, the Mat-Su Borough received $21.2 million from the Federal Transit Administration from three grants awarded between 2002 and 2009 to jumpstart ferry service across Knik Arm between Port MacKenzie and Anchorage.

Financing plan OK'd for Interior Energy Project gas plant

The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority board of directors unanimously approved a key deal with its Interior Energy Project partner at its Aug. 25 meeting in Anchorage.

The North Slope LNG Concession Agreement, as it is known, between AIDEA and Northern Lights Energy LLC, a subsidiary of MWH Global Inc., puts a legal framework in place as the AIDEA-MWH team works towards a financing plan for the North Slope liquefied natural gas plant — the foundation of the plan to truck LNG down the Dalton Highway to customers in and around Fairbanks.

Anchorage kicks off new port work; $300M needed to finish

The Municipality of Anchorage officially hit the reset button on its port project Aug. 18 with the kickoff of a weeklong design work session.

Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan told a group of nearly 50 stakeholders gathered at the Port of Anchorage offices that he is confident in their ability to jumpstart the stalled construction project.

Court says CIRI can push for Kenai gas royalties

A federal South Texas Bankruptcy Court has ruled that Cook Inlet Region Inc. can continue its quest through the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission for natural gas royalties from the state and Buccaneer Energy.

Judge David Jones signed an agreement between CIRI, Buccaneer and creditors Aug. 18 to lift a stay the court had put in place on the Alaska commission proceedings while Buccaneer, its creditors and the court attempted to sort out the Houston-based independent’s bankruptcy. The agreement was filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas Aug. 14.

Anchorage commercial real estate market going strong

Commercial real estate in Anchorage remains in high demand, according to Reliant Advisory Services founder Per Bjorn-Roli.

He addressed the Anchorage Building Owners and Managers Association, or BOMA, Aug. 8.

“The new construction market continues to be very attractive,” Bjorn-Roli said.

New commercial Class A vacancy declined from 7.4 percent to 4.8 percent over the year beginning in June 2013, he said. Over the same time, existing Class A vacancy grew slightly, from 4.4 percent to 4.6 percent in Anchorage.

Eielson named preferred location for F-35s

The U.S. Air Force announced Eielson Air Force Base is its preferred location for two new squadrons of F-35 fighters Aug. 7, less than a year after the base avoided losing an F-16 squadron.

“Today, Alaska is a huge winner in this, but so is the nation because there is no question about our military readiness in Alaska,” Sen. Mark Begich said at a press conference held in Anchorage immediately following the announcement.

With budget cuts a reality, added fees likely in UA system

Officials at the University of Alaska are trying to cope with nearly $17 million in budget cuts.

The university system’s budget struggle is a casualty of the state’s larger budget problems.

On the surface, the $924.8 million system-wide total budget for the 2015 fiscal year is $12.5 million more than last fiscal year. However, with a budget that is generated from four major sources of revenue, the story is more complicated than that.

Enstar workers strike after rejecting contract

Enstar Natural Gas Co.’s Alaska operations employees went on strike at 6 a.m. Aug. 11.

The striking workers are at Enstar’s Anchorage, Kenai Peninsula and Matanuska-Susitna area branches, according to a release from the United Association of Plumbers and Steamfitters Union Local 367 that represents the Enstar employees.

The union and the natural gas utility have not been able to settle differences over retirement benefits, and Enstar has not negotiated fairly, the union claims.

EPA holds first public hearing on proposal to veto Pebble

Two minutes at a time, the Environmental Protection Agency heard directly from Alaskans how they feel about the agency’s proposal to block Pebble mine development.

At an Aug. 12 public hearing in Anchorage, 133 attendees testified before EPA Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran and Bristol Bay Management Lead Richard Parkin about the unprecedented use of the agency’s Clean Water Act Section 404(c) authority to ban a project before permit applications are filed if it determines there would be an adverse affect on fish and wildlife habitat.

Mat-Su pondering how to pay $12.3M ferry bill

The Federal Transit Administration wants $12.3 million back from the Matanuska-Susitna Borough for the borough’s failed Knik Arm ferry plan.

Acting FTA Administrator Therese McMillan sent a letter to Mat-Su Borough Manager John Moosey Aug. 5 demanding repayment of the grant money. The $12.3 million is the portion of approximately $21.2 million in grants approved for the project that the borough has spent.

The letter states that the borough has 30 days to repay the Transportation Department agency before FTA begins collections through administrative offset.

Enstar employees go on strike

Enstar Natural Gas Co.’s Alaska operations employees went on strike Monday morning.

The striking workers are at Enstar’s Anchorage, Kenai Peninsula and Matanuska-Susitna area branches, according to a release from the United Association of Plumbers and Steamfitters Union Local 367 that represents the Enstar employees.

The union and the natural gas utility have not been able to settle differences over retirement benefits, and Enstar has not negotiated fairly, the union claims.

Health, safety 'overkill' is the norm on Slope

POINT THOMSON — North Slope work is big business representing thousands of workers and billions of dollars, and nothing is taken for granted to keep the oil and gas machine running safely and efficiently.

ExxonMobil’s Point Thomson Construction Site Manager Carlos Rivera said each first-timer to the natural gas field is initiated with 90 minutes of safety training and proper health protocol.

No. 2 trade partner South Korea eager for more Alaska ties

The South Korean ambassador to the United States said the bond connecting the countries is strong and Alaska that remains a key trading partner with the East Asian country.

“I can say without any blush on my face that the relationship between Korea and the United States has never been better,” Ambassador Ahn Ho-Young said to Anchorage Chamber of Commerce members Aug. 4.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of formal relations between South Korea and the U.S. following the end of the Korean War, Ahn said.

AEDC: economic outlook good despite gov't spending cuts

Continued good days are ahead for the Anchorage economy, at least according to the Anchorage Economic Development Corp.

AEDC President and CEO Bill Popp said the group is optimistic about the coming years and expects about annual growth of 1 percent or more in the number of jobs in Anchorage through 2017.

“We continue to set records on an annual basis in terms of the total number of jobs available in Anchorage,” he said.

Feds ask Mat-Su for ferry grants back

The Federal Transit Administration wants $12.3 million back from the Matanuska-Susitna Borough for the borough’s failed Knik Arm ferry plan.

Acting FTA Administrator Therese McMillan sent a letter to Mat-Su Borough Manager John Moosey Aug. 5 demanding repayment of the grant money. The $12.3 million is the portion of approximately $21.2 million in grants approved for the project that the borough has spent.

The letter states that the borough has 30 days to repay the Transportation Department agency before FTA begins collections through administrative offset.

Alaska Air reports another record quarter

At Alaska Air Group Inc. records are indeed made to be broken. Leaders of the parent to Alaska Airlines reported a record second quarter net income of $157 million.

The results reported July 24 are a 50 percent increase in profits versus the $105 million second quarter of 2013 and mark the company’s eighth record net income in the last nine quarters. It was also Alaska Air Group’s 21st consecutive profitable quarter.

Operationally, President and CEO Brad Tilden said Alaska Airlines had the highest on-time performance among the eight major domestic carriers at 88 percent.

Icebreakers top US Arctic needs during House testimony

The challenges behind melding the Arctic needs of the State of Alaska and federal agencies were exemplified during a July 23 House subcommittee meeting.

Representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard, Navy, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Science Foundation and the State of Alaska testified to what they need to operate in the Arctic. Topping the list in the testimony before the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee was icebreaking capability.

Crowdfunding transforms business investing, spreads risk

Crowdfunding is not just for cash anymore.

Danae Ringelmann, co-founder of Indiegogo, the world’s largest crowdfunding website, said what was once thought of as a niche funding mechanism is now attracting businesses and projects for countless reasons.

“Indiegogo is actually a lot more than an alternative form of financing,” Ringelmann said. “It’s doing something very fundamental in the whole financial equation, and that is it reduces risk and specifically market risk and execution risk.”

Ambler Road proponents dismiss conflict of interest claims

Concerns over a proposed mine access road in Northwest Alaska are unfounded, the state and a mining company proponent of the project claim.

According to Nancy Wainwright, an attorney with law firm Trustees for Alaska representing the village of Ambler, Dowl HKM has performed work on the Ambler Road project for the state and was contracted previously by Vancouver-based NovaCopper.

Dowl HKM is a national transportation infrastructure engineering and environmental consulting firm.

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