Elwood Brehmer

Wind power storage generating heat, displacing diesel

President Barack Obama has long touted an “all of the above” energy strategy for America. In Western Alaska, a small group of villages is putting the rhetoric to work.

By implementing a complex power management system in four Kuskokwim Bay-area communities, the team at Intelligent Energy Systems has started to employ wind power for heat, expanding the use of a renewable energy source typically limited to electric generation.

Pebble sues EPA over attempt to veto mine

The Pebble Limited Partnership took the Environmental Protection Agency to court May 21 and claimed the agency is illegally overstepping its bounds by attempting to block a mine before the permitting process begins.

In a statement released in conjunction with Pebble’s complaint filed in U.S. Alaska District Court, company CEO Tom Collier said the plea to the court to stop EPA’s actions is not an attempt to strip the agency of its regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act. Rather, he said, it is an attempt to ensure guidelines set by Congress are followed.

Hecla CEO: Bright future for Greens Creek

Prospects are strong at the Greens Creek silver mine near Juneau, according to senior leadership at the mine’s operating company.

Hecla Mining Co. President and CEO Phil Baker said in a May 22 interview with the Journal that the 2013 drill results at the mine are some of the best he’s seen in his 13 years with the company.

“We have a mine plan that’s 10 years but we fully expect that it will go well past that,” Baker said.

Corps of Engineers gains flexibility for Alaska projects

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has more leeway to develop and maintain marine infrastructure in Alaska under the latest version of legislation that governs the Corps’ authority.

Under the proposed Water Resources Reform and Development Act unveiled by a congressional conference committee May 15, ports and harbors in many of Alaska’s outlying communities would be included in the remote and subsistence harbors program that prioritized projects for funding in Hawaii and the U.S. territories but left Alaska out in the 2007 version of the bill.

Pebble sues EPA over attempt to veto mine

The Pebble Limited Partnership took the Environmental Protection Agency to court May 21 and claimed the agency is illegally overstepping its bounds by attempting to block a mine before the permitting process begins.

In a statement released in conjunction with Pebble’s complaint filed in U.S. Alaska District Court, company CEO Tom Collier said the suit is not an intent to strip EPA of its regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act, but rather an attempt to ensure guidelines set by Congress are followed.

Commerce Dept. focusing on addressing energy problems

Alaska Commerce Department Commissioner Susan Bell highlighted the wide-ranging work her department is involved in across the state in a May 19 speech to the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce.

Bell said dealing with the ever-present energy issues the state faces are “central” to the mission of many of the 13 agencies in the broad Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development.

Kenai company leading the way on unmanned aircraft radar

With a little hard work, Kenai’s John Parker might just be able to answer the biggest question facing the Federal Aviation Administration: Can manned and unmanned aircraft coexist?

Parker, founder of Integrated Robotics Imaging Systems Ltd., acquired exclusive patent rights to a prototype “sense and avoid” radar for unmanned aerial vehicles in early April from a University of Denver research team.

“My phone’s kind of been ringing off the hook since it went public that I’ve got this thing,” Parker said.

Sealaska posts $35M loss

Sealaska Corp. reported a $35 million net loss for 2013 in its annual report released May 14.

The Southeast Alaska Native corporation attributed much of the bad year to a $26 million operating loss from one of its construction subsidiaries that offset profits in other businesses in a corporate release.

Pebble cites EPA emails were biased

Pebble mine developers claim they have proof Environmental Protection Agency officials acted with bias and a pre-determined mindset when examining the potential risks a mine could pose to Bristol Bay fisheries.

Coast Guard to move slowly into the Arctic

The U.S. Coast Guard unveiled its draft plan for increased Arctic operations over the next decade at open houses held across Alaska May 12-16.

The preferred alternative action in the draft environmental assessment of USCG Arctic Operations and Training Exercises matches the growth in maritime Arctic activity expected in the coming years with an appropriate USCG presence, 17th District Arctic Planner James Robinson said at an Anchorage open house May 13.

Inspector General to investigate EPA Bristol Bay process

The Office of Inspector General for the Environmental Protection Agency asked EPA Region 10 officials for a list of names, documents, dates and spending associated with developing the Bristol Bay watershed assessment when it notified the office May 2 that a review of the assessment process would be conducted at the request of Pebble Limited Partnership and members of Congress.

Fairbanks flight opens unmanned aircraft test site

A small and unassuming unmanned aircraft made a short flight Monday in Fairbanks that signified a big step in aviation, Federal Aviation Administration chief Michael Huerta said.

The quad-rotor Aeryon Scout’s flight of less than five minutes at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Large Animal Research Station officially made the Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration the second operational unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, test site in the country.

Pebble to EPA: mine veto would overstep authority

The group working to develop the Pebble copper-gold deposits in Southwest Alaska responded April 29 to the Environmental Protection Agency’s possible move to preemptively block the mine.

In a detailed and blunt 60-page document, the Pebble Limited Partnership laid out five claims describing how it believes the EPA overstepped its authority and damaged the federal environmental permitting process when it announced its intent to begin work to preemptively veto a wetlands permit for a mine plan that has yet to be filed.

Skagway ferry dock still salvageable, service suspended

Ferry service has been suspended to Skagway through May 9 after the town’s ferry terminal dock sank without warning; however, it appears the dock is salvageable.

Skagway Borough Manager Scott Hahn said early April 30 that he was told the floating dock would be operational in about a week.

Workers from a local marine contractor were able to refloat the dock April 29, according to an Alaska Marine Highway System update on the project. The dock will immediately receive an intense inspection to determine what parts need to be replaced and why it sank in the first place.

Alaska Air Group starts 2014 with another record profit

Alaska Air Group Inc. is on a major roll. The airline company announced it earned $94 million of first quarter net income in its earnings report April 25.

The quarterly profit more than doubled the $37 million of net earnings from quarter-one of 2013 — also a record at the time — and marks the company’s 20th consecutive money-making quarter, and it’s seventh record quarterly return over the eight quarters.

Seattle-based Alaska Air Group is the parent to Alaska Airlines and regional carrier Horizon Air.

AIDEA, AEA approve $75 million-plus for statewide energy

More than $75 million in financing for energy projects from the North Slope to Prince of Wales Island in far Southeast was approved Thursday by the joint Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority and Alaska Energy Authority board.

FAA approves GPS device to improve emergency response

The Federal Aviation Administration has expanded options for pilots wishing to participate in an Alaska-specific emergency response program.

Mapping company DeLorme’s inReach GPS is now an approved device for use in the Enhanced Special Reporting Service, according to FAA’s Alaska Flight Services office.

Along with the SPOT Global Phone and Spidertracks devices, pilots with an inReach can sign up for the service, which allows them to contact emergency responders outside of cell phone and radar range — most of Alaska.

Employee training caters to tour travelers with disabilities

A group in Juneau is doing what it can to make sure everyone gets a chance enjoy the natural beauty of Southeast Alaska.

Southeast Alaska Independent Living Inc., or SAIL, is offering training, equipment and other assistance to tour business owners hoping to make their shops or services more disability friendly with its Accessible Tourism Program.

University of Alaska items top $2.1B budget

The University of Alaska was a big winner when the Senate passed its $2.1 billion version of the state capital budget.

In the Senate, $195 million was added to Gov. Sean Parnell’s 2015 fiscal year budget proposal to fully fund an overhaul of the combined heat and power plant at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Another $35.6 million was added to complete the UA Anchorage campus engineering building and associated parking garage.

CIRI seeks customers for Fire Island phase two expansion

Cook Inlet Region Inc. wants to double the size of its Fire Island wind farm, but first it needs someone to buy the extra power.

Suzanne Gibson, vice president of the wholly owned CIRI subsidiary Fire Island Wind LLC, said the company must secure a power purchase agreement with a Railbelt utility “as soon as possible” in order to fit its construction window.


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