Elwood Brehmer

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.

Supreme Court hears arguments in PFD veto lawsuit

Forty years to the day after the oil that generated the revenue to capitalize the Permanent Fund started flowing, the Alaska Supreme Court heard arguments over who controls distribution of the annual dividend payments of the Fund’s investment income.

Anchorage Democrat Sen. Bill Wielechowski said the Permanent Fund Dividend is the primary reason Alaska has the lowest income inequality in the nation.

“The PFD is unique; there’s nothing else like it in Alaska or the country for that matter,” he said to open his argument.

State opens season for AK LNG Project

It’s open season for the Alaska Gasline Development Corp.

That’s not to be confused with open season on AGDC, which legislators skeptical of the state-owned corporation leading and continuing the roughly $40 billion Alaska LNG Project have had on its biggest proponent, Gov. Bill Walker.

AGDC’s open season to reserve pipeline and liquefaction capacity in the Alaska LNG Project started Thursday, June 15, and will run through Aug. 31, President Keith Meyer said during the corporation’s board of directors meeting, also Thursday.

Marine highway supporters look for new ideas amid challenges

The M/V Tustumena is again on the disabled list for most of the season as the state nears drafting its replacement.

Earlier this month the Alaska Marine Highway System announced the “Rusty Tusty,” as the state ferry is affectionately known to many, would be out of service until at least Aug. 15 after inspectors uncovered more damage to steel in the Tustumena’s engine room.

Innovation targeted at teacher turnover, remediation

The leaders of Southcentral school districts and a nationally renowned University of Alaska Anchorage program are blending high school and college in an attempt to cure the state of multiple education ills.

The Anchorage School District recently took over the Alaska Middle College from the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District, which is expanding the program in its own territory.

Eni files plan to explore federal Arctic OCS leases

Italian oil major Eni Petroleum is preparing to drill four exploration wells into offshore federal territory from its manmade North Slope island in state waters.

If approved by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the work program would take 18 months, according to the proposed work plan Eni submitted to the agency. The work would start with the drilling of the first well in December and end when the flow test of the final well is complete in May of 2019.

Oil prices, policy uncertainty prompt Caelus to postpone well

Caelus Energy won’t be drilling new wells on the North Slope next winter for a host of reasons.

As a result, Alaskans will have to wait at least another year to see whether the company’s promising but remote Smith Bay oil prospect, which Caelus leaders have touted to be a 6 billion-barrel discovery, lives up to its billing.

Final Railbelt electric plan cost estimate nears $900M

The Alaska Energy Authority is sticking with its belief that one of the state’s most critical pieces of infrastructure needs close to $900 million of improvements to truly be both reliable and efficient.

AEA’s final Railbelt Transmission Plan completed this spring concludes there are $885 million worth of projects to improve the economics and reliability of the electric grid from the southern Kenai Peninsula to Fairbanks.

No repeat of Prudhoe standoff as state approves 2017 plan

State Department of Natural Resources officials have approved BP’s work plan for the Prudhoe Bay oil and gas field without issue, a year after state demands for new information led to a summer-long standoff over the annual report.

Division of Oil and Gas Director Chantal Walsh approved the 2017 Prudhoe Bay Plan of Development May 25 in a letter to BP Alaska management.

Judge in LIO case denies owners’ request to enter new evidence

A request for new evidentiary hearings in the $37 million lawsuit brought by the owners of the now-vacant Downtown Anchorage legislative information office against the Alaska Legislature was shot down in a Wednesday state Superior Court ruling.

Judge Mark Rindner’s order means the case will likely be decided on the facts already presented — and was a win for legislators.

Zinke orders new looks at Arctic oil development

It’s safe to say the Alaska Oil and Gas Association won the day Wednesday.

Not only did new Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke deliver the keynote address at the association’s annual conference, he signed a secretarial order directing Interior agencies to review management and leasing of the North Slope National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and conduct a new oil and gas resource assessment of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain.

According to Zinke, it is believed to be the first secretarial order signed in Alaska.

Matson completes sulfur-scrubbing exhaust upgrades

Much of what Alaskans buy locally is now getting here on cleaner ships.

Pacific shipper Matson Inc. announced in May that its containership, the Matson Anchorage, is now outfitted with a “wet scrubber” system aimed at eliminating sulfur emissions from the ship’s exhaust.

The Matson Anchorage was the last of the company’s three Alaska-dedicated vessels to get the exhaust scrubbers. The Matson Kodiak and Tacoma were outfitted with the system last year.

Zinke: Role for Alaska in US ‘energy dominance’

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke hasn’t been in Alaska long, but he’s got one of the state’s unofficial mottos down.

“Fill the pipeline,” he said during a May 30 press conference in Anchorage.

“The president has said ‘energy dominance,’ and the only way that energy dominance is possible is through the great state of Alaska,” Zinke continued.

State regulators hit Ahtna with $380K fine for gas well violations

(Editor's note: This story has been updated to inlcude new information in a June 1 statement from Ahtna Inc.)


An Ahtna Inc. subsidiary has racked up $380,000 in fines from the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission for allegedly ignoring mandates to monitor and report the conditions of a natural gas exploration well it drilled last year.

Hilcorp looks ahead after Inlet incidents

Hilcorp Alaska leaders are ready to look ahead after a rocky start to 2017.

The company currently has two drilling rigs working in Cook Inlet, on the Steelhead and King Salmon platforms, and recently announced a $75 million plan to ultimately reduce oil tanker traffic in the Inlet.

Hilcorp found itself making unwanted headlines starting in early February when it reported a natural gas leak from one of its subsea pipelines in the central Inlet Middle Ground Shoal oil field offshore from Nikiski.

Delays continue to beset Interior gas project

Long challenged by unavoidably thin economics, the Interior Energy Project is now facing other pressures that are starting to force the hands of its developers.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently changed its classification of winter air quality problems in the Fairbanks North Star Borough from “moderate” to “serious.”

$37 million claim against Legislature gets day in court

The owners of the former Downtown Anchorage Legislative Information Office building contended in a May 19 state Superior Court hearing that legislators did not afford them appropriate recourse on a $37-million contract claim after the Legislature decided to leave the six-story building last year.

Senate passes its version of oil tax credit reform

Now the oil tax debate in the Legislature can really start.

The Republican-led Senate passed House Bill 111, this year’s oil tax credit legislation, on May 15 by a 14-5 vote along caucus lines.

On May 16, a concurrance vote in the House failed 17-22, setting up a conference committee process for the bill.

House Finance co-chair: Committee will restore AK LNG funds

A last-minute move by the state Senate to pull $50 million dedicated to the Alaska LNG Project and spend it on other state services will be reversed in the House Finance Committee, according to committee co-chair Rep. Paul Seaton.

The Homer Republican, who is a member of the Democrat-led House Majority, said in an interview Friday that he and fellow Finance leader Rep. Neal Foster, D-Nome, have no interest in de-funding the Alaska Gasline Development Corp., which is leading the project, at this point.

New life for North Slope 100 million years in the making

All of a sudden, Alaska has more than 400,000 barrels per day of new oil potential.

The North Slope, dismissed by many in recent years as a has-been conventional oil basin unable to keep up with the hip-now-with-it-and-wow shale mania of the Lower 48, is on the verge of reinvention.

In just the past year, Caelus Energy, ConocoPhillips and the Armstrong Energy-Repsol partnership have all announced oil discoveries capable of producing up to, or well in excess of, 100,000 barrels per day.

And they’re all related.


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