Elwood Brehmer

Unpacking House Bill 111

Once Gov. Bill Walker signs House Bill 111 into law, cashable tax credits to oil and gas companies working in Alaska will be a thing of the past.

But the bill that became contentious in legislative debates — despite House Democrats, Senate Republicans and Walker agreeing on the major aforementioned policy change — has many other subtle but substantive provisions.

For starters, it does not end all tax credits, or even all of them related to oil and gas projects.

Bristol Bay study stands, but EPA moves to halt its finding

Is Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt just putting the shoe on the other foot?

The EPA announced July 11 that it was starting the process to withdraw the proposed determination reached under President Barack Obama’s administration to prohibit large-scale mining in Bristol Bay — a roundabout way of saying the Pebble mine project.

A 90-day public comment period on the proposed withdrawal is now open through Oct. 17.

S&P joins Moody’s in downgrading state

S&P Global Ratings has made good on its warning, joining Moody’s Ratings Service in downgrading the State of Alaska’s credit ratings once again as legislators struggle to mend the state’s increasingly tattered finances.

S&P knocked the State of Alaska-backed general obligation rating down one notch to AA from AA+ early July 18, citing a “continued lack of agreement on fiscal reforms to return the state to structural balance,” in a statement accompanying the action.

Unfinished business remains for Legislature

Gov. Bill Walker thanked legislators for repealing the state’s remaining oil and gas tax credits, discussed the highlights of a recent governors conference and outlined his view for getting the state to a long-term fiscal plan in a ranging press conference Monday.

While Walker was in Rhode Island over the weekend attending the National Governors Association summer meeting, he said he stayed awake until about 4:30 a.m. Sunday to watch legislators do the clock limbo to pass House Bill 111 before the special session ended Sunday at midnight.

Credit agency downgrades Alaska

As promised, the State of Alaska’s creditworthiness has taken another hit, just not from the latest raters to warn it was coming.

Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the state’s general obligation debt rating from Aa2 to Aa3 late Thursday with a continued negative outlook — equivalent to a downgrade from AA to AA- on the scale commonly used by other agencies.

It is the third time in less than two years that Moody’s has downgraded Alaska, each time citing the state’s continued multibillion-dollar annual budget deficits.

ConocoPhillips putting LNG plant in deep freeze

Unable to find a suitable buyer, ConocoPhillips is preparing to fully shut down its once-renowned Kenai LNG plant.

ConocoPhillips spokeswoman Amy Burnett wrote in a statement Wednesday that the company is preparing to put the plant into long-term shutdown mode this fall.

“The reduced operations will focus on continued preservation of the facilities for future LNG exports,” Burnett wrote.

House maneuver proposes no deductions on oil taxes

Despite being locked in a rhetorical battle over who can compromise more, House Democrats and Senate Republicans still can’t agree on what the state should offer in lieu of refundable oil tax credits.

The sides held an overall rather odd conference committee meeting on House Bill 111 Wednesday afternoon with Democrat members in Anchorage and Republicans teleconferencing from Juneau, where the Senate has reconvened.

ExxonMobil working on plan for Point Thomson gas at Prudhoe

With the Alaska LNG Project far from a sure thing, ExxonMobil is preparing to stuff natural gas from its Point Thomson field into the Prudhoe Bay oil and gas pool in order to make good on its 2012 settlement with the State of Alaska.

ExxonMobil outlined the major, long-term project concept in the 2017 Point Thomson unit plan of development it submitted to the Division of Oil and Gas June 30.

Utilities pitch expansion at Bradley Lake hydroplant

Railbelt utility leaders want the Alaska Energy Authority to approve a $46.4 million expansion of the Bradley Lake hydroelectric plant.

AEA management is on board with the proposal, but during the June 29 AEA board meeting, members questioned both as to why they should approve the project when transmission line constraints already prevent what is the lowest cost power source in the region from being used to its full potential.

New year, same stalemate

It might be the peak of summer, but it feels a lot more like Groundhog Day in Alaska politics.

Gov. Bill Walker held a press briefing at noon July 10 at which he again urged legislators to pass the bills needed to cure the state of its massive annual deficits. The budget deficit was about $2.5 billion for the 2017 fiscal year that ended June 30.

“I know I’ve been critical of the Legislature as a whole; it’s about getting the job done,” Walker said at the state Atwood Building in Anchorage.

House Majority counters Senate offer on oil tax credits

With less than 10 days left in the year’s second special legislative session and a laundry list of critical issues left to tackle, House Democrats offered Senate Republicans their own compromise to tentatively end the omnipresent oil tax debate.

The Democrat-led House Majority coalition issued a statement Friday afternoon saying its members would agree to just end North Slope oil tax credits this year on the premise the Legislature would again revamp the overall production tax next year.

Murkowski takes another crack at energy bill; OCS review opens

As promised, Sen. Lisa Murkowski is taking another shot at the major task of updating the country’s energy policy.

Murkowski introduced the Energy and Natural Resources Act June 28. The omnibus energy reform bill is pretty much a continuation of the Energy Policy Modernization Act, which died last December when House and Senate conference committee negotiations stalled.

State, Korean gas buyer agree to collaborate on AK LNG

The state gasline corporation reached a preliminary agreement with one of the largest LNG buyers in the world June 28 in Washington, D.C.

Alaska Gasline Development Corp. President Keith Meyer and Korea Gas Corp. CEO Seung-hoon Lee signed a memorandum of understanding that puts in place a framework for the two state-run corporations on opposite ends of the LNG trade to work on development of, and possibly investment in, the $40 billion Alaska LNG Project.

Senate wants end to oil credits now, reconvening July 10

State Senate Republicans pitched their latest plan to once and for all end refundable oil and gas tax credits much sooner than later.

Senate President Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, said at a Thursday morning press conference in Anchorage that a combination of lower-than-expected oil prices and fewer exactable budget cuts than Republican majority members wanted has made ending the program immediately an urgent matter.

Despite delays, Brooks Range says Mustang will produce in ’17

The company developing a small North Slope oil field with the help of $70 million in funding from the State of Alaska says the project will finally come together this winter after years of delay.

Anchorage-based independent Brooks Range Petroleum Corp. plans to have oil flowing from its stalled Mustang project in December, according to the development plan the company submitted to the Division of Oil and Gas.

Interior Dept. grants state survey permit for King Cove road

The State of Alaska is preparing to build a long-debated road on the Alaska Peninsula as legislation authorizing the project inches its way through Congress.

Gov. Bill Walker said in a June 26 statement from his office that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke called him that morning to notify the governor that the Interior Department had granted the state permission to survey a route for a road between the communities of King Cove and Cold Bay.

Sun hasn’t set yet on ANWR

Alaska oil advocates lauded Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s order directing federal agencies to reevaluate the oil and gas potential within the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but what did it get them?

The answer, unsurprisingly, will largely depend on how much money is willing to be spent and who will spend it.

BP: time of transition for energy markets

Improved efficiencies at nearly every level of the energy game has put markets in flux, according to BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy released in June.

For Alaska, that has led to a buyer’s market in the global LNG trade, fading coal demand and oil prices that will be “lower for even longer,” BP Alaska Commercial Vice President Damian Bilbao said.

Bilbao presented the highlights of the company’s annual report to the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce June 26.

Hilcorp spends $3.95M on Inlet leases

Hilcorp Alaska LLC was the big, and only, winner in both the state and federal Cook Inlet oil and gas lease sales June 21.

The company spent $3.95 million on combined 20 tracts on state land and in state and federal waters.

Hilcorp was also the only bidder in both sales and is the primary producer of oil and gas in the Inlet.

ISER: State payments to local governments doubled over decade

State spending has grown to comprise nearly 30 percent of all revenue for Alaska’s local governments in recent years, according to a report from the University of Alaska Institute of Social and Economic Research published June 19.

State support to Alaska’s 19 boroughs and municipalities grew from a near-term low of 12 percent of the average borough budget in 2004 to an average of 28 percent in 2015, the most recent year for which adequate data was available, study author and ISER economist Mouhcine Guettabi said.

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