Tim Bradner

Wide coalition forms to oppose marijuana legalization

Alaska employers should brace for problems if a ballot proposition legalizing marijuana sales and use is approved in the November state general election, critics of the measure say.

Ballot Measure 2, legalizing marijuana, is virtual similar to a Colorado measure passed in 2012 that is now causing big problems in the state.

Hilcorp to 'hit ground running' on North Slope

Hilcorp Energy will move aggressively to ramp up production at three North Slope fields it will be operating in early January.

“We will hit the ground running on Jan. 1,” Hilcorp CEO Greg Lalicker said.

The company expects to close its acquisition of three North Slope producing assets and a share of the undeveloped Liberty field from BP before the end of the year, Lalicker told the Alaska Support Industry Alliance in a briefing Oct. 9.

Great Bear to resume winter exploration program

Great Bear Petroleum will be back drilling this winter on the North Slope. The company still hopes to prove up its concept that the huge shale formations of the North Slope, the source rock for large oil fields now producing, still hold oil that can be produced as it has in the Bakken shale of North Dakota and the Eagleford of Texas.

Great Bear plans three exploration wells this winter, targeting multiple conventional and unconventional reservoirs south of the large producing fields on the Slope, the company’s CEO, Ed Duncan, said in an interview.

No decision yet to repair Inlet platform

Hilcorp Energy workers have boarded the Baker offshore platform in Cook Inlet and have established that electrical systems and tankage are undamaged from an Oct. 3 fire, a company spokeswoman said.

No decision has been made by Hilcorp on repairing the damage and restoring gas production, Hilcorp spokeswoman Lori Nelson said.

At the time of the fire the platform was producing 5 million cubic feet of gas daily and selling to Enstar Natural Gas Co.

North Slope prices down $20/barrel since July

Bogged down in multiple-year, multi-billion dollar state budget deficits, Alaskans have been nervously watching North Slope oil production and hoping for an uptick.

They’ve largely forgotten about oil prices, the other side of the state oil revenue equation.

The news is not good, at least for the budget.

For consumers, however, it’s good news because it means lower fuel prices, although those prices are usually “sticky,” meaning they don’t fall as quickly as crude oil.

Budget crunch biggest challenge for bush caucus in 2015

The biggest challenge facing rural legislators in 2015 will be the tightening of state revenues and pressures to cut budgets, says Rep. Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, who headed the House “bush caucus” in the 2013-14 state Legislative session.

Rural lawmakers on the House and Senate Finance committees will have to keep an eagle eye on the budgets to ensure that, if reductions have to be made, rural programs aren’t singled out unfairly.

“It’s our biggest challenge,” Edgmon said in an interview with the Journal.

Judge orders state to remedy Native language assistance

A federal judge has scolded the state Division of Elections over the state’s poor assistance to voters who speak Native languages. The state has promised to better in the upcoming November general election to comply with her order.

Yup’ik and Gwich’in-speaking Alaskans sued the state over inadequate translation efforts. The two languages are historically unwritten, so the majority of the assistance in those two languages is oral.

Chukchi analysis still on track

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is moving step-by-step through a revised environmental analysis of Chukchi Sea offshore oil and gas development and expects to remain in schedule for a draft supplemental environmental impact statement, or SEIS, to be complete by late October.

The agency filed a report with the U.S. District Court in Anchorage Sept. 22 detailing its progress in compliance with a court order that bimonthly reports be filed.

Budget activist Keithley names House targets

Self-styled budget hawk Brad Keithley is naming names among legislators who he thinks aren’t doing enough to restrain state spending.

Some of those being named are pushing back. Keithley is an attorney and oil and gas consultant who is concerned about looming fiscal problems for the state and has said he is putting $200,000 of his own money to help elect candidates who support a sustainable state budget.

BP lays off staff after Hilcorp transaction

BP will be reducing its Alaska North Slope workforce by 475 as a part of the company’s sale of North Slope producing assets to Houston-based Hilcorp Energy and a restructuring of BP’s operations.

Hilcorp, a major independent, operates mature fields in the U.S. Gulf coast states and in Cook Inlet. The company specializes in taking over mature producing fields from major companies and investing in their rejuvenation.

Parnell, Walker stake out ground over Alaska LNG Project

The Alaska governor’s race may well turn into as much of a brawl as the slugfest in the state’s U.S. Senate race.

Incumbent Gov. Sean Parnell, who is running for reelection, and challenger Bill Walker, an independent, have staked out the natural gas pipeline and the Point Thomson gas field lawsuit as their first major battleground.

The subjects are familiar to both. Parnell considers the gas pipeline, now in a $500
million pre-engineering phase, and the settlement of the complex lawsuit at Point Thomson, as signature achievements of his administration.

Corps files document justifying CD-5 permit

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has provided an analysis to a federal court on its 2011 decision to approve a controversial permit for the ConocoPhillips CD-5 oil project on the North Slope now under construction.

Japan consortium hires firm to assess Port MacKenzie LNG plant

A small, upstart Japanese company is plugging away on its ambitious plan for a new medium-sized liquefied natural gas plant on upper Cook Inlet. Its goal is to beat North Slope producers in getting new Alaska LNG to Japan.

REI Alaska Inc.’s proposed 1 million-ton per year plant is pint-sized compared with what the industry-led consortium plans across Cook Inlet at Nikiski, a giant plant exporting 17 million to 18 million tons per year.

State insurers seek change to hold down premiums

The director of Alaska’s Division of Insurance says her agency is reviewing a request from health insurers Premera Blue Cross and Moda Health to adopt a “reinsurance mechanism” to hold down increases in premium costs in the individual Alaska health insurance market.

“We’re not closing the door on this. We’re looking at it,” said Division of Insurance Director Lori Wing-Heier.

“We’ve sent the proposal to a consultant for review to see if it can be done. It may also require legislation,” she said.

Balash heads to Japan with BP to market LNG

Marketing efforts for the Alaska LNG Project have formally started, passing another major milestone.

State Natural Resources Commissioner Joe Balash accompanied BP officials to Asia on the first formal sales trip for the giant project. “These were BP’s meetings. They set them up and handled the invitations, and we were invited to come along,” Balash said.

For the state, the trip’s purpose was to demonstrate the alignment between Alaska and the producer companies, Balash said in an interview before he departed.

FERC filing another important step for Alaska LNG Project

Step by step, the Alaska LNG Project is moving forward. The project made a big advance Sept. 5 with its application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to begin a pre-filing process for the project. 

Earlier this summer an application was submitted to the U.S. Department of Energy for a license to export liquefied natural gas, or LNG. Pre-Front End Engineering and Design work, or pre-FEED, which will cost about half a billion dollars, also got underway this summer.

Unsustainable operating budget threatens state savings

These are uncertain times for Alaska.

Public spending is a big part of our economy and the state government is running billion-dollar-plus deficits. If things continue as they are, we could be out of cash in six or seven years.

There is some good news: Oil production, which pays for 90 percent of our state budget, has been in long-term decline, but has recently stabilized, thanks to new efforts by North Slope oil operators.

State seeks federal judgment in push for ANWR exploration

The State of Alaska has asked a U.S. Alaska District Court to issue a summary judgment in its lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Interior over the federal agency’s rejection of a state plan to explore a part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The action was filed Sept. 8 in Anchorage. Judge Sharon Gleason will decide the issue.

Gleason must allow the federal government and the intervenors in the case time to respond to the state’s petition and for the state to respond to those filings. The current court schedule calls for this to take about six weeks.

Individual insurance pool to see sharp premium hikes

Health insurers have filed for substantial increases in allowable premiums on individual non-subsidized health insurance plans issued through the federal Affordable Care Act, or ACA.

Under state law the state Division of Insurance approves increases in health premiums. Permission for as much as a 37 percent increase in 2015 has been granted, according to the division.

Premera Blue Cross of Alaska, one of two companies filing the request, said the increase is needed to cover large losses the company suffered in 2014 in its Alaska individual insurance plans.

NordAq secures $90M investment to develop Alaska leases

A Chinese investment group has taken an investment position in NordAq Energy, an Anchorage-based independent oil and gas company working to develop gas discoveries in Cook Inlet and oil discoveries on the North Slope.

NordAq and Chinanx Investment Group, of Beijing, made the announcement Sept. 9.

This is the first equity investment by a Chinese company in a special oil and gas project although companies with links to China have bid recently in state oil and gas lease sales, according to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.


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