Japan boosts estimated need for LNG

Japan’s largest natural gas utility now expects that the same forces fueling rapid increases in demand for gas in the United States will propel gas consumption in Asia much higher than forecast.This means there could be more room for Alaska gas in Asia than is currently thought possible. North Slope producers have looked at the Asian market but have concluded that slow economic growth in the region, coupled with ample supply from other countries, make an Alaska project to export liquefied natural gas, or LNG, to Asia uneconomic.The North Slope producer companies are now working on a plan to ship Alaska gas to the contiguous United States via a new overland pipeline.Shigeru Muraki, manager of supply for the Tokyo Gas Co. Ltd., told state legislators in Juneau on Feb. 15 that use of gas in Japan for electrical generation is increasing faster than expected. Muraki spoke in Juneau to a combined meeting of the Senate Resource Committee and the Oil and Gas Committee of the State House.Consumers in Japan are concerned about the environmental effects of traditional fuels like oil and coal and the safety of nuclear power plants, Muraki said. Natural gas is seen as a cleaner fuel with fewer greenhouse gas emissions.Muraki said his company foresees demand for LNG reaching as much as 135 million metric tons per year in 2010, or 109 million tons annually in a "low growth" case. The region now consumes about 80 million metric tons of LNG yearly.Extensions of current contracts can continue to supply about 80 million tons yearly to the East Asia region, but Tokyo Gas expects to see new demand for 28 million to 53 million tons yearly on top of existing supply, he said.Muraki’s message to Alaska that Asia is interested in North Slope gas was welcomed by Yukon Pacific Corp., a company that has been working to develop an LNG export project in Alaska."Their new demand projections are about 50 percent higher than what people expected 10 years ago," said Jeff Lowenfels, president of Yukon Pacific. "We always felt the demand for gas would be there, but others were more cautious."Muraki said Tokyo Gas has contracts sufficient to meet its growth to 2005 and will be looking for new supplies of LNG after that. But Korea and possibly Taiwan will be buying additional LNG before 2005, according to the Tokyo Gas analysis. Muraki said China will soon be entering the LNG market as well, looking for supply.Alaska and Sakhalin, in the Russian Far East, are seen by Tokyo Gas as possible sources of major new supplies of LNG, Muraki said. In Sakhalin, two consortiums led by major Western oil companies are planning projects to export gas to Japan and Korea.A group led by Shell Oil is planning an LNG project, expected to be in production in 2006. A second consortium led by Exxon Mobil Corp. is planning a gas pipeline to northern Japan and expects to be in production in 2008.Muraki said the LNG pricing picture is complicated by the growth of gas in the market. The price of LNG in the Pacific is now linked with crude oil, in terms of units of energy. But as more and more gas is used for electrical generation, its cost is weighed by utilities against coal, nuclear, hydro and other energy sources.Also, if gas is brought into Japan by pipeline from Sakhalin, LNG -- which is transported by ship -- must be competitive with gas moved by pipeline.The effects of this is that LNG may become "decoupled" from crude oil in price, which could lead to a lowering of the price utilities are willing to pay because it will be competing with pipeline gas, coal and other energy sources. Today it is mainly an alternative to fuel oil, Muraki said.Muraki also told legislators his company hopes to secure lower-cost LNG in the future. In new purchase agreements expected to be concluded soon, prices for LNG are expected to be about 10 percent lower than at present, he said.Yukon Pacific Corp., a subsidiary of CSX, the major U.S. transportation company, isn’t the only industry group looking at an LNG project. A consortium of Phillips Petroleum Co., BP, Foothills Pipe Lines and Marubeni, a Japanese trading company, is also studying the idea. This consortium, led by Phillips, has now focused its work on a possible spur pipeline to a southern Alaska LNG plant from a pipeline to the Lower 48 that would parallel the Alaska Highway.Muraki said that Australia, Indonesia and Malaysia, which now supply most of the LNG to Japan and Korea, will continue to be important suppliers to both countries.But increased regional demand for gas in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand to fuel domestic industrialization will limit future growth in LNG exports, he said.While there are very large supplies of gas in Qatar and Abu Dhabi in the Persian Gulf, LNG from suppliers there is now being sold in East Asia. In the future it may be more profitable to supply new LNG customers in India and eastern Mediterranean countries because of the long distance LNG tankers must travel to reach Japan and Korea, Muraki said.Tokyo Gas would like to obtain its future supplies of energy from diversified sources, Muraki said. Consumers in Japan and Korea are now too dependent on the Middle East and Southeast Asia, he concluded.

City's no-smoking ordinance covers more than restaurants

Anchorage’s new nonsmoking ordinance has raised concerns for restaurant owners but also for some office and commercial building operators. A health inspector from the city department dispatched to enforce the law helped outlined some answers for an industry group. Jason Froehle, one of five health inspectors, spoke Feb. 9 to the Building Owners and Managers Association of Anchorage at the Hilton Anchorage Hotel. "The Department of Health and Human Services enforces public health laws," Froehle said. "Secondhand smoke is an important public health issue." The ordinance, which took effect Dec. 31, prohibits smoking in many enclosed workplaces and enclosed public areas. The change effects restaurants, sports arenas, convention halls and other facilities, Froehle said. Anchorage Assembly members approved the legislation last June. Exemptions include some bars with no employees or customers younger than 21, plus bingo halls and pull-tab establishments, which must provide a smoke-free area for patrons, he said. Another exception includes offices not open to the public with four or fewer employees, he said. One possible example could be a small delivery company that has no walk-in traffic, he said. The city health department requires buildings that do fall under the ordinance to post no- smoking signs, typically at every entrance, Froehle said. Stickers can be obtained from the city health department. Also, every business affected by the ordinance must have a written policy onsite regarding nonsmoking conditions, he said. Business operators should inform employees about the policy, he said. The ordinance requires people to smoke a reasonable distant outside a building so smoke doesn’t drift back inside, he said. However, each workplace can have its own definition of how far is far enough to comply with the law, he said. Typically at least two inspectors visit a site where a complaint has been filed so they both agree that smokers are a suitable distance from the building and smoke is not drifting inside, he said. At Froehle’s municipal building, city officials have set 25 feet as a reasonable distance. Also, smoking is prohibited in public vehicles including buses, taxis, police cars, limousines and vehicles for designated use by city officials, he said. The city health department is enforcing the ordinance as complaints come in rather than visiting businesses, similar to health inspections performed by its inspectors. "When complaints about a business are made to Health and Human Services we send them a warning letter," he said. A second complaint is followed by a letter and a call from the health department. After a third complaint, the business is referred to a code enforcement officer or the Anchorage Police Department, he said. "We’re trying to make this as educational as possible and avoid getting ugly with this," he said. Those who do not comply with the ordinance face fines up to $300 for each violation and could receive penalties up to $1,000, he said. The city health office has issued several warning letters, and so far the ordinance has not been challenged in court, he said. Wording in the ordinance calls for a review at its one-year mark. The mayor, city health department and the police department will present a report to the Assembly detailing its effectiveness in reducing secondhand smoke, the number of violations and penalties, the practicality of enforcement, the ordinance’s economic impact and any possible revisions.  

Around the World February 25, 2001

STATEJoblessness jumpsJUNEAU -- Unemployment in Alaska increased 1.7 percent to 7.8 percent in January, following a typical midwinter pattern, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development reported.The number of unemployed Alaskans increased to nearly 25,000, said Rachel Baker, a labor economist.January is typically the peak month for unemployment in Alaska as seasonal industries reach a midwinter low point. Jobless rates moved higher in most areas of the state except Kodiak, where tanner crab, pollock and cod openings shrank the island’s unemployment rate from 13.3 percent to 11.4 percent. Prince of Wales Island had the highest rate at 19.1 percent.Retail trade, services, construction and government were the largest contributors to the loss of 7,100 jobs. Seafood processing employment provided the only employment boost in January, adding 3,200 jobs.Unemployment rates elsewhere in the state were:* Anchorage, 5 percent, up from 4.1 percent in December.* Matanuska-Susitna Borough, 9.6 percent, up from 7.3 percent.* Kenai Peninsula Borough, 13.1 percent, up from 10.4 percent.* Fairbanks North Star Borough, 7.2 percent, up from 5.4 percent.Judge rules for pulp firmANCHORAGE -- Alaska Pulp Co. has won another round in its ongoing claim of damages over the loss of its timber contract with the U.S. Forest Service.The U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled Feb. 14 that the forest service erred in modifying the company’s 50-year timber contract, due to run through 2011, following passage of the Tongass Timber Reform Act in 1990.Next up could be a further hearing to determine damages if the government does not appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.Alaska Pulp Co. is seeking $1.4 billion in damages.Phillips promotes MeyersAnchorage -- Phillips Petroleum Co. has promoted Kevin Meyers, senior vice president of Alaska production and operations, to executive vice president of Alaska production and operations. Meyers, 47, continues as president and chief executive of Phillips Alaska Inc. He was president and chief executive of Arco Alaska Inc. and senior vice president of Atlantic Richfield Co. when Phillips bought Arco’s Alaska assets last April.Shellfish rules to easeJUNEAU -- The state will change some of its proposed regulations for shellfish farming in response to an industry outcry that the rules made it too hard to get permits.Farmers hope that under milder rules the current "dismal" number of farms, which produce only about $500,000 a year of product, will grow, said Bob Hartley, former president of the Alaska Shellfish Growers Association.The state also will extend this year’s deadline for applying for site leases and farming permits to June 30, so applicants can meet the requirements of the new rules. The agency expects to offer revised rules for comment late this month.Thirty-eight shellfish farms produced about $485,000 worth of product in 1999, according to preliminary state figures. Most of that value came from oysters.NATIONEddie Bauer revampsDOWNERS GROVE, Ill. -- The Spiegel Group plans to close 25 Eddie Bauer stores this year as well as open 10 new stores with merchandise that extends beyond the retailer’s traditional casual, rugged style.The Downers Grove-based company has not announced which stores will be closed, but spokeswoman Debbie Koopman said Feb. 16 they are stores whose leases expire this year. She did not know how many employees would be affected.The closings, along with the new stores, will bring the number of Eddie Bauer stores to 451 nationwide by the end of the year, excluding outlets.For the quarter ended Dec. 30, Spiegel reported a 13 percent drop in earnings to $65.4 million or 50 cents a share, from $74.7 million or 57 cents a share a year earlier.Comparable-store sales at Eddie Bauer locations that have been open for at least a year fell 8 percent for the year and 9 percent in the fourth quarter. Net sales fell by 2 percent in the quarter to $670.3 million and 2 percent for the year to $1.75 billion.Kmart speeds checkoutTROY, Mich. -- Kmart plans to install speedier cash registers that should cut a customer’s checkout time by about 20 percent.The Troy-based retailer will allow IBM to replace registers in 2,100 Kmart stores with a faster, more powerful model. The deal is worth about $200 million.The machines -- along with faster printers, hand-held bar code scanners and improved in-counter scanners installed by Kmart last year -- are expected to cut the wait, Kmart spokeswoman Mary Lorencz said Feb. 15.Cashiers also will be able to tell customers when an out-of-stock item will be delivered or if the product is available at another store.Lorencz said 300 stores are using the machines and installation in the remaining outlets should be completed by 2002.Wal-Mart tops $2 billionNEW YORK -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, managed to cross the $2 billion earnings mark for the first time despite what executives described as a "challenging environment." The fourth-quarter results beat Wall Street expectations.For the three months ended Jan. 31, Wal-Mart earned $2.004 billion, or 45 cents per share, up 4.5 percent from $1.92 billion, or 43 cents per share, in the year-ago period, the Bentonville-based company said Feb. 20.Analysts surveyed by First Call/Thomson Financial were expecting 44 cents per share.Sales jumped 10 percent to $56.56 billion, up from $51.39 billion in the year-ago period.The results come as many merchants struggle with a slowing domestic economy and plummeting consumer confidence.United sets merger plansCHICAGO -- Its proposal to buy US Airways is still under federal review, but United Airlines is charging ahead with a marketing campaign to promote the benefits of the merged airline to consumers.A spokesman for United confirmed the plan Feb. 20, some six weeks before the U.S. Justice Department is expected to announce a verdict on the merger, which was announced nine months ago.Spokesman Matt Triaca would not confirm or deny a published report that newspaper ads touting the benefits of the enlarged airline will appear in mid-March, ahead of the government’s decision."It just makes smart business sense to be thinking about these things in the event the merger is approved," United’s Matt Triaca said. "We want to get out there and tell our customers about it."Compiled from business wire services.

Pollock group gives $1 million to study Steller woes

Alaska’s pollock industry is donating more than $1 million for research on sea lion declines and ecosystem changes in the Bering Sea. The Pollock Conservation Cooperative, a group of companies that operate catcher-processor vessels in the Bering Sea, gave the money to the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.Fifty-nine Alaska communities are partial owners of these companies. Research began last spring when the PCC provided $385,000 to UAF. An additional $637,000 was awarded in January to support research and a research endowment, as well as two fisheries faculty positions."Alaska’s Bering Sea pollock fishery is the nation’s largest fishery," said Trevor McCabe of the At-Sea Processors Association, the PCC members’ trade group. "We want to protect this amazing resource, and to do so, we must learn everything we can about the ecosystem that sustains it. This is the first of a multiyear research effort by our industry sector, and it is just the beginning.""We welcome the partnership with the state’s pollock industry to understand what’s causing changes in the Bering Sea," University of Alaska President Mark Hamilton said in a press release. "Their generous gift to the university will help our scientists answer important questions that will improve fisheries management and help unravel the causes of marine mammal declines."Eat fish, see betterWomen who breast-feed their babies, or who eat oily fish while pregnant, have children with better than normal visual development. That’s the conclusion of researchers at Bristol University in England, who have examined eyesight development of more than 400 children at the age of 31/2 years."Our results suggest that children whose mothers ate oily fish in pregnancy or who were breastfed reach the adult depth of perception sooner," said researcher Cathy Williams. "As far as we know this is the first time that diet in pregnancy has been shown to be associated with a child’s visual development."Oily fish is the richest source of DHA, a fatty acid that is an important structural component of neuronal membranes in the brain. Williams said DHA is also present in breast milk but not in standard formula milk.Department seeks hikeThe Alaska Department of Fish and Game is requesting an increase of nearly $122,000 in its 2002 budget for the Board of Fisheries and local advisory committee support.The board would get $76,700 of the request, to make up for a $71,000 reduction imposed by the Senate last year. The remaining $45,000 would primarily be used to help local advisory committee members in remote areas to send representatives to fish board meetings.The House Finance Subcommittee will send a formal recommendation to the full committee later this month.Copper River scoop?Salmon from the Columbia River could scoop Copper River as the year’s first fresh salmon. Seafood Trends reports that the run of Columbia River king salmon could be about 364,000 fish this spring, well above last year’s 179,000 kings.That makes it the largest salmon run since the Bonneville Dam was built in 1938. Last year the Columbia yielded a small commercial catch of about 400 king salmon. There is also the possibility of a small experimental fishery in April to test a new type of gillnet.Kodiak-based free-lance writer Laine Welch can be reached by e-mail at ([email protected]).

February-Issue-1 2001

UA, industry come together, develop course to train Alaskans for jobs in Alaska

Something like half the workers at the Tesoro Alaska Co. refinery in Nikiski are in their 40s and 50s, said plant manager Rod Cason. When they retire, Tesoro will need qualified replacements. That is the sort of need to be filled by a new two-year degree program an industry coalition has arranged with the University of Alaska -- including the Soldotna campus of Kenai Peninsula College."I don’t need to tell you how important it is to have our own people hired for jobs," Holly Norwood, manager of quality control and operations analysis, told the North Peninsula Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 8."I am very interested in making sure Alaskans get hired for Alaska jobs."The university’s process technology program is part of a work force development and renewal program developed by the Alaska Process Industry Career Consortium, which includes partners from the oil and gas, mining and power generation industries, education, government, labor and communities.Norwood said the consortium and the Mining and Petroleum Training Service worked with the university to develop a curriculum that supplements existing petroleum technology, instrumentation and electronics education programs.The process technology program, taught at the university’s Soldotna, Anchorage and Fairbanks campuses, covers topics from pumps and turbines to instrumentation, safety and quality control. It leads to a two-year associate of applied science degree. Norwood teaches a course titled Introduction to Process Technology.She said industry no longer can afford on-the-job training."Development of the computer and advanced technology go hand-in-hand," she said. "Competitive efficiency has become an issue. He who has the best-trained workers is going to be able to make their widgets cheaper."A decade ago, workers simply came and did their jobs, Norwood said.Today, "the worker has to be very knowledgeable about yield structure and how that affects the bottom line," she said.In addition, complex environmental and safety regulations took effect beginning in the early 1990s, and those have produced the need for a more sophisticated work force, Norwood said. She expects that to show in the quality of the workers required for new facilities, such as the experimental gas-to-liquids plant BP is building in Nikiski."You have to have an education in multiple disciplines, plus the environmental and safety ramifications of every decision made," she said.Norwood said she expects 24 students to graduate from the KPC program in December. By May 2002, another 30 graduates will be available, she said. BP already has been quizzing members of the present class at KPC to see how much they have learned.Jack Brown, who represents Nikiski on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly, praised the program."I have heard from a lot of companies that there aren’t enough trained Alaskans. This will really fill a void," he said.Cason said the training program will bring big benefits."Even with contractors for turnaround (the periodic overhaul and maintenance at the refinery), we end up bringing in people just out of high school that don’t have a lot of training," he said. "This will give those guys some background. They’ll know what an exchanger or a tower is before they show up."The process technology program cannot turn out graduates too quickly.Norwood said Tesoro will need 330 workers for the turnaround scheduled this spring. Some must have skills not available here, but 243 workers could be hired locally.However, Tesoro estimates that construction of the BP gas-to-liquids plant could require 250 workers, and turnaround at the liquefied natural gas plant Phillips Petroleum Co. operates in Nikiski could require 50 workers. Add Tesoro’s need, and the demand is for 543 workers.Tesoro estimates there are just 200 qualified workers available locally.Those are just rough estimates, Norwood said. However, they suggest the industry may have to look elsewhere to fill several hundred peninsula jobs."Tesoro will request workers from contract suppliers," she said.Don Schreiner, Cook Inlet manager for VECO Construction Inc., said VECO can import workers from other parts of the state if necessary.Mark Nelson, president of Alaska Petroleum Contractors, said APC could do the same. But even when APC built processing equipment for the Alpine oil field, it was surprising how much qualified labor was available on the Kenai Peninsula, he said.

Building in the Valley

Problems at Port MacKenzie are causing the new managers of the state’s fastest growing borough to take a step back. Four months ago the Matanuska-Susitna Borough experienced a clean sweep. It now has a new borough mayor, three new assembly members and a new borough manager who all say the honeymoon was a lot shorter than they had hoped. The first sign of trouble came from the very place the previous administration placed the bulk of its energy: Port MacKenzie. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced in November that core samples from the port showed a lack of structural stability. Borough Manager John Duffy said another set of samples is being analyzed by the Corps right now. "The Corps of Engineers told us that initial samples showed the port could not withstand a moderate to large earthquake. The port was supposed to be built strong enough to handle such natural disasters and remain economically viable." Last month the Corps told the borough that its most recent samples suggest that the port is sitting on unstable clays that may be creating a "failure in progress." The report went on to say that the Corps recommends limited use of the port until the investigative team has had a chance to complete its investigation.

Shellfish farmers complain they were locked out of hearing; panel to investigate

State fish managers are taking heat from shellfish farmers and being investigated by the Legislature’s joint Administrative Regulation Review Committee. According to the weekly publication "Laws for the Sea," Rep. Lesil McGuire of Anchorage said the committee will research complaints from persons and groups that they were not allowed to testify via teleconference at department hearings on shellfish regulations.Others said they traveled to Anchorage for the hearing "only to find the doors locked."Farmers have for years criticized state fishery managers’ handling of shellfish farming applications, especially those for giant geoduck clams, both for their slow progress and policy decisions.Ketchikan-based Alaska Trademark Shellfish and other farm applicants sued the department last year for "outrageous and offensive" actions relating to its permit application and policy development decisions. The suit sought $600,000 in damages, but was dropped when the department agreed to complete the permit process on a specified schedule last year. Deadly raysCod spawn in relatively deep water, but their larvae then float near the surface. According to Seafood.com, researchers now believe that at this surface level, the tiny fish are vulnerable to the effects of ultraviolet radiation.Zoologist Michael Lesser at the University of New Hampshire found in lab experiments that 90 percent of Atlantic cod larvae died within 12 days of exposure to UVA and UVB radiation, whereas exposure to UVA radiation alone resulted in 61 percent mortality."These levels of UVB radiation occur at seven to 12 meters in Gulf of Maine waters, where cod embryos and larvae are known to develop," Lesser said.About 99 percent of juvenile cod are thought to be eaten by predators before they can reproduce. Lesser argues that the survival rate could be even lower if rising UV radiation levels are included in the calculation.He believes this "byproduct of ozone depletion and global warming" may be one reason why cod have been so slow to recover in the Northwest Atlantic.Earlier this year, researchers at Britain’s Center for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science also found a link between rising surface temperatures in the North Sea and reduced survival rates of young cod. The number of young cod dying in the waters off Nova Scotia has also doubled in the last 10 years, with no definitive explanation.Cod farmingMore fishermen in Newfoundland are turning to cod farming to make up for slashed quotas. The fishermen are catching cod in the summer and holding them in ocean cages for 100 days while feeding them capelin, herring and mackerel. Once the fish have grown to three times their original weight, they are brought to market.According to the Newfoundland and Labrador Development Corp., grow-out operations in Newfoundland in 1999 sold about 105 tons, or about 230,000 pounds, of cod. Last year, the weight approached 200 tons, or 440,000 pounds.Fishermen initially feared the grow-out industry as a threat to the wild fishery. But when a cod moratorium hit in 1992 and the government began grow-out programs, the industry started to gain acceptance. The training program was available only to fishermen affected by declines in the cod stocks.Jerry Ward, assistant deputy minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture in Newfoundland, expects interest in cod farming to escalate as the industry becomes more sophisticated. There were seven operations in 1999, 18 last year, and there are currently 60 grow-out permits in the province.Observers expect that there will be further development in the industry as the Newfoundland and Labrador Development Corp. invests in egg-to-market facilities in the region. Sea lion studiesInformation from recently completed or ongoing research on Steller sea lions has been compiled for the Alaska Steller Sea Lion Restoration Team by state biologist Lorrie Rea.The following entry focuses on predation by killer whales: "Killer whales have been observed to attack sea lions. The stomach of a dead killer whale that washed ashore in Prince William Sound in the summer of 1992 contained flipper tags from 14 Steller sea lions."A study led by Lance Barrett-Lennard (University of British Columbia) sought to determine whether killer whale predation could significantly affect sea lion numbers. The authors conclude that killer whales did not cause the sea lion decline, but may now be a significant contributing factor."The model suggests that as many as 18 percent of the sea lions that die each year in Alaska are taken by killer whales. What is killing the other 82 percent of the missing Steller sea lions remains unanswered."Kodiak-based free-lance writer Laine Welch can be reached by e-mail at ([email protected]).

Bush foresees 'a lot of selling' to open ANWR to oil drilling

WASHINGTON -- To win the centerpiece of his energy plan, President Bush will have to change some minds among seven Republican senators who staunchly oppose oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. That’s in addition to penetrating an almost solid wall of Democratic opposition, plus counteracting intense lobbying from environmentalists who have made protection of the refuge their top priority, people on both sides of the issue agree. "We’ve got a lot of selling to do," the president acknowledged recently. Bush, a former oilman, has made drilling in ANWR the focus of his campaign to boost domestic energy production, arguing that drilling and wildlife preservation can go hand in hand. But some members of the president’s own party have made clear their distaste for exploitation of the refuge. Republican Sen. Bob Smith of New Hampshire is among the lawmakers bracing for a high-powered pitch from the White House. He says he won’t be swayed. "I’m trying to change their minds," he said in an interview. A Republican energy bill, scheduled for introduction this month in the Senate, will include, as its core proposal, development of the refuge’s 1.5 million acre coastal plain. Geologists believe as much as 11 billion barrels of crude oil may be beneath the surface there. Democrats already have indicated they’re prepared to filibuster, if necessary, on any legislation that includes the refuge issue. "It’s kryptonite and will kill the energy bill," predicts Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. Congress set aside ANWR’s coastal plain for protection 41 years ago. Oil companies have been lobbying to gain access to the tundra starting about 60 miles east of the Prudhoe Bay oilfields ever since. Environmentalists view it as a national treasure not to be disturbed, citing the annual migration of caribou and numerous species of birds to the area along the Beaufort Sea. While Bush’s victory in November gave new impetus to lifting the congressional ban, Senate elections the same day made it more difficult. Six Republicans and one Democrat who favored development of the refuge either lost their bids for re-election or retired. Two of them -- Attorney General John Ashcroft and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham -- are now part of the Bush Cabinet. All seven were replaced by Democrats opposed to drilling. On the other hand, all but one of the eight anti-drilling Republicans are back, showing little sign of shifting sides. Along with Smith, they are Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, James Jeffords of Vermont, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Peter Fitzgerald of Illinois and Richard Lugar of Indiana. The lone GOP drilling opponent who lost -- Delaware’s William Roth -- was defeated by a Democrat with the same stance. Only in Nevada and Virginia did the pro-drilling forces make gains with the election of two GOP senators -- John Ensign and George Allen -- who are likely to be in their camp. Three Democratic senators have made clear their support for developing the refuge: Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka, both of Hawaii, and John Breaux of Louisiana. Last year, pro-drilling forces won a narrow 51-49 symbolic vote on drilling in the refuge as part of a budget bill. With the changes produced by last November’s election, that vote now would be 54-46 against drilling. Public attitudes, according to various surveys, indicate voters prefer that the Alaska refuge be protected. A recent poll by The Associated Press showed 53 percent of those responding were against oil drilling there, while 33 favored development. "I don’t think the case has been made," said Collins, the Maine senator, in an interview. "We need to look at other ways to increase production and conserve more energy and develop alternative energy sources." Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, who will guide energy legislation through the Senate and for years has been a staunch advocate for drilling in the refuge, says he thinks he can win some anti-drilling senators to his side.  

O'Malley's remodels its dining room

Alyeska Resort, owner of O’Malley’s on the Green, has completed renovations of the banquet facility at the Anchorage Golf Course.Most of the work called for remodeling the 3,100-square-foot dining room, which will allow more flexibility for meetings, said Alyeska Resort spokeswoman Cella Baker. The remodeling removed multilevel areas and increased diners’ view of Mount McKinley, she said.Other renovations included new carpeting and paint for other banquet rooms.The project cost at least $30,000, and the Municipality of Anchorage is sharing expenses to support the adjacent Anchorage Golf Course, she said.Work, which began in late November, was completed in early January, she said.The upgrades help prepare the facility for the winter banquet season, she said. O’Malley’s on the Green hosts golf tournaments which will also benefit from the remodeling, she said.Alaska Club expandsOperators of The Alaska Club recently completed an expansion of the South Anchorage exercise facility. The $4 million expansion added 22,000 square feet to the existing 17,000-square-foot building, company officials said.The Alaska Club South project featured a five-lane, 25-yard lap pool plus an attached wading pool and waterslide. The expansion also added a climbing wall, a full-size gym, youth lounge, a Nautilus Express circuit, a co-ed whirlpool bath, family locker rooms and expanded adult locker rooms and cardio area.The facility, located at 10931 O’Malley Centre Drive, is one of eight exercise facilities owned by The Alaska Club in Anchorage, Eagle River ad Wasilla.

Calendar February 18, 2001

Confabs The Association of Information Technology Professionals is sponsoring a Basic Java Programming class from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 19-23 at the University of Alaska Anchorage Diplomacy Building, Room 420. The cost is $1,200. Registration is required. For more information, contact Debi Smith at 907-248-3580. The University of Alaska Anchorage Procurement Technical Assistance Center and the Associated General Contractors of Alaska are sponsoring a Build Alaska Series workshop entitled "Bonding" from 8:30 a.m. to noon Feb. 20 at the AGC office, 4041 B St. Insight on obtaining bonding capacity required to perform federal contracts will be given. A Build Alaska series workshop entitled "Cost Estimating" is scheduled from 1:30 to 5 p.m. Feb. 20 at the same location. Each workshop costs $60 for members and $75 for others. For registration, call 907-561-5354. The Mat-Su Borough Small Business Development Center and Carney & Associates are offering a seminar entitled "Payroll 101" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 20 at the SBDC office, 201 N. Lucille St., Suite 2-A, Wasilla. The fee is $30. Registration is required. For more information, call 907-373-7232. The Alaska Hospitality & Food Service Expo is slated for Feb. 20-21 at Egan Civic & Convention Center in Anchorage. The event features exhibits, demonstrations and workshops about new technology and equipment, food and beverage products and industry trends. For additional details, call 907-277-7469. The Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce is holding a new chamber member orientation at 11 a.m. Feb. 20 at the Westmark Fairbanks. The general membership luncheon follows the chamber overview and networking opportunity at noon. Gov. Tony Knowles is the featured speaker. The luncheon cost is $11.25. For more information, call 907-452-1105. The Anchorage Chamber of Commerce human resource brown bag lunch is scheduled for noon Feb. 20 at the chamber office, 441 W. Fifth Ave. Bill Evans, a labor and employment attorney for Dorsey & Whittney LLP, will provide an overview of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s new ergonomics standard. The cost for members is $5 and $10 for others. For additional information, call 907-272-2401 or visit (www.anchoragechamber.org). The Greater Soldotna Chamber of Commerce is holding its weekly meeting at noon Feb. 20 at the Riverside House, 44611 Sterling Highway. Chuck Pierce, vice president of Unocal Alaska Oil & Gas, is the scheduled speaker. For more information, call 907-262-9814. The Greater Wasilla Chamber of Commerce is holding its Must Be Tuesday luncheon program at noon Feb. 20 at the Mat-Su Resort, 1850 Bogard Road. Rob Shoaf, Alaska State Chamber of Commerce chairman, will provide a state chamber update. Program fees are $3 for members and $5 for others. For more information, call 907-376-1299. The Homer Chamber of Commerce is holding its monthly luncheon at noon Feb. 20 at the Homer Elks. Tina Lindgren, president and chief operating officer, and Anne Adasiak, director of member services, both from the Alaska Travel Industry Association, will discuss the benefits and services of the statewide program. For more information, call 907-235-7740. The Kenai Peninsula Small Business Development Center is sponsoring a seminar on developing a business plan from 1-4 p.m. Feb. 20 at the Kenai Peninsula College Kachemak Bay campus in Homer. The fee is $15. For more information, call 907-262-7497. The Alaska Women’s Resource Center board of directors is holding its regular monthly meeting at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 20 at 813 D St. The meeting is open to the public. For more information, call 907-279-6316. The Northwest Arctic Borough and the North Slope Borough are presenting the 2001 Arctic Economic Development Summit entitled "Together: Shaping and Sharing Our Future" from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 21-22 at the Piuraagvik Center in Barrow. The conference combines rural and urban audiences, and addresses future development issues. For registration or more information, call 907-852-0200. The Mat-Su Borough Small Business Development Center is offering free Internal Revenue Service counseling Feb. 21. Counseling is by appointment only. For details or an appointment, call 907-373-7232. The Alaska Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America is holding a luncheon program about planning and managing a successful news conference from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 21 at the 4th Avenue Theater. Virginia McKinney, National Education Association-Alaska communications director, and Heather Seacrist, KTUU Channel 2 News anchor and producer, are scheduled speakers. For reservations, call 907-566-0717. The Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce is scheduling its luncheon forum at noon Feb. 21 at the North Slope Restaurant, 11501 Old Glenn Highway. Jeff Pokorny, Anchorage Economic Development Corp. research director, will present an economic forecast. For reservations, call 907-694-4702. The Crime Prevention and Safety Committee of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce is holding an informal brown bag seminar on "Loss Prevention" at noon Feb. 21 at the chamber office, 441 W. Fifth Ave. Kim Castle of Wal-Mart will give a presentation on making businesses less vulnerable to shoplifting and petty theft. For more information, call 907-272-2401. The Kenai Chamber of Commerce is holding its weekly meeting at noon Feb. 21 at the Old Town Village Restaurant, 1000 Mission Ave. Jennifer Beckmann of Central Area Rural Transit System Inc. is the scheduled speaker. For more information, call 907-283-7989. The Greater Palmer Chamber of Commerce is holding its weekly meeting at noon Feb. 21 at the Palmer Moose Lodge, 1136 S. Cobb St. Mollie Boyer of Valley Community for Recycling Solutions is the scheduled speaker. The cost is $9. For additional information, call 907-745-2880. The University of Alaska Anchorage Procurement Technical Assistance Center is sponsoring a free workshop entitled "Meet the Prime: Kiewit Construction Co." from noon to 1 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Anchorage Small Business Development Center, 430 W. Seventh Ave. Shawn Lannen, area manager of Keiwit Construction, will discuss what types of subcontracting are routinely procured to include published purchasing plans, current and upcoming projects for 2001 and projected purchasing schedules. For registration, call 907-274-7232. The University of Alaska Fairbanks Small Business Development Center is presenting a workshop on self-employment retirement plans from 6-9 p.m. Feb. 22. The fee is $25. For more information, location and registration, call 907-456-7232. The Alaska World Affairs Council is presenting a Great Decisions Topic program at noon Feb. 23 in the Hilton Anchorage Hotel. Ray Cesca, former managing director of world trade for McDonald’s Corp., will discuss the topic "Trade and Globalization." Program lunch fees are $17 for members and $20 for others. For more information, call 907-276-8038. The Anchorage Chamber of Commerce is planning an e-commerce brown bag lunch at noon Feb. 23 at the chamber office, 441 W. Fifth Ave., Suite 300. Kelly Lawrence, manager of business customer relations for the U.S. Postal Service, will discuss drawing people to a business Web site. For more information, call 907-272-2401.  

GCI wins battle to offer local service in 2 cities

JUNEAU -- In another reversal in a see-saw telecommunications battle that has lasted nearly four years, a Superior Court judge has refused to stay an interconnection order calling for local phone competition in Juneau and Fairbanks. Agreeing with General Communication Inc. that a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision doesn’t overrule the order from the Regulatory Commission of Alaska, Anchorage Judge John Reese rejected a plea by Alaska Communications Systems to halt work immediately on the interconnection."Competition goes forward," GCI senior vice president Dana Tindall said after receiving the judge’s two-sentence ruling Feb. 9."This was just a request for an expedited proceeding," said ACS President Wes Carson, playing down the long-term significance of the ruling.The court still must hear arguments about whether ACS’ "rural exemption" under the pro-competition U.S. Telecommunications Act of 1996, terminated by the RCA last year, can be reinstated. That would force GCI to start the state regulatory process all over again.ACS, which does business in Juneau as PTI Communications, moved for the stay after the U.S. Supreme Court decided on Jan. 22 not to review a federal appeals court ruling in an Iowa case. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals last July threw out federal regulations placing the burden of proof on the incumbent local service provider to show that competition would imperil universal, affordable access.Because the Supreme Court declined to review the 8th Circuit ruling, ACS contends that the issue is settled and the burden is now on GCI to show that it wouldn’t cause rate hikes for some "high-cost" consumers who are being subsidized. But Reese, stepping in for District Court Judge Sigurd Murphy, who had been handling the case, said the 8th Circuit decision did not compel the stay and was not "persuasive."GCI had insisted that the Alaska Supreme Court has held that the Alaska courts are not bound by the interpretations of federal law by the federal circuit courts.Tindall of GCI said the remaining legal issues could take six months to a year to sort out. In the meantime, GCI intends to be offering local telephone service in Juneau and Fairbanks, she said, first by buying and reselling ACS services and later by leasing "unbundled network elements" from the incumbent to offer new packages to consumers.

Chefs show Alaskans they have heart

Chefs from two popular Anchorage restaurants are showing their hearts for Alaskans whose health requires careful nutrition habits. Glacier BrewHouse and Ristorante Orso, run by the same operator, plan to host a cooking demonstration this month along with Alaska Regional Hospital dietitians for people with heart conditions.On Feb. 21 Glacier BrewHouse chef Scott Hoskinson will lead a free demonstration from 6-7:30 p.m.Ruth Townsend, director of Alaska Regional’s health management center, asked the restaurant operator to consider leading programs for hospital patients. So far, two programs have been held."Our diabetic patients felt like nice restaurants were off limits because they were watching their diet," she said. "We wanted to show them restaurants do not have to be off limits."Townsend, along with the restaurants’ executive chef Farrokh Larijani and marketing director Marion Hurst, coordinated the sessions. The first cooking demonstration, in November, addressed the nutritional requirements of people with diabetes and featured a seafood stew called cioppino, Townsend said.January’s session covered healthy eating in general for people who resolved to make eating changes in 2001. The chef prepared halibut for the participants to sample, Townsend said.For Larijani, the demonstrations are part of the community service his company encourages. He also works with the University of Alaska Anchorage Cuddy Center and the Anchorage School District King Career Center.The demonstrations also benefit the restaurant since participants could be potential patrons who once considered eating at the restaurant taboo, he said. After the January demonstration, five to six participants made reservations in the dining room, he said.Larijani reports that he and his staff are learning from the Alaska Regional dietitians."No. 1, it opens up your eyes to be more sensitive to guests’ needs," he said.The chefs also are learning more about food chemistry and the amount of carbohydrates people need, he said."For me personally, it’s a lesson for my own diet," Larijani said.Diners with special diet needs have an advantage at restaurants where food is made to order rather than pre-cooked, Townsend said.During the demonstrations, Larijani and the chefs have recommended ways to modify menu items to meet the needs of diners who have health concerns, Townsend said. For example, if vegetables are typically sauteed in butter, the chef can steam them instead."We get special requests all the time," Larijani said.The chef encourages diners to carry a laminated index card listing possible food allergies or restrictions. Diners can give the card to the server who can pass it to the chef so he can recommend menu items appropriate to the person’s health condition.The card can be important for people who are serious about their diet, especially people with diabetes, he said.Alaska Regional’s Townsend hopes to plan additional cooking demonstrations for this spring. The sessions might take a break for summer since Ristorante Orso and Glacier BrewHouse are typically busy at that time, she said.According to Townsend, patients have enjoyed the cooking demonstrations. "It’s been a great hit. Everybody loves it."Sessions are limited to 25 participants. Reservations are required and can be made by calling Townsend at 907-264-1823.

Providence adds dining, activity space to extended care center

Work has been completed on an addition and renovation to Providence Extended Care Center in Anchorage. The seven-month construction project added space for resident dining and resident activities. One new feature is the Forget-Me-Not Village Great Room, which was designed to add a homelike element for residents and to be easily accessible from residents’ rooms.The great room features windows with lower sills to allow improved views for wheelchair-using residents, facility officials said. The area also has six dining tables seating four people each as an alternative to the dining room. An entertainment center also is part of the room. An adjacent nursing support area allows ready care.The 224-bed facility is the largest long-term care facility in Alaska.Valley installs new MRIValley Hospital Medical Center in Wasilla began serving patients in January with a new magnetic resonance imaging system. The Phillips Intera MRI replaces the former system, which was purchased a decade ago, hospital officials said.The Wasilla hospital announced plans to acquire the new system last spring, and the MRI was installed in late 2000.MRI scans use computers and magnetic fields to create pictures of the human anatomy similar to X-rays but without radiation, hospital officials said.The hospital also has purchased other imaging equipment for the Wasilla campus, including a new General Electric nuclear medicine unit and new ultrasound equipment. In February, patients will be served by a new Lunar Bone Densitometer, which aids in the diagnosis of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.State opens new public health facilityAlaska officials have opened the new state public health laboratory and office of the state medical examiner in Anchorage. The Department of Health and Social Services christened the facility in late January.The 37,500-square-foot, $18.4 million facility replaces previous facilities, which were unsuited to tasks performed by the lab workers and the medical examiner. Anchorage-based firms provided design and construction work.Workers at the Alaska Public Health Laboratory will help investigate, control and treat disease outbreaks. The new state-of-the-art facility improves the department’s ability to detect, diagnose and control communicable diseases in Alaska. It also has a biosafety level three suite, which enables infectious disease specialists to safely work with highly contagious diseases like tuberculosis and botulism.The medical examiner’s office supports the justice and public health surveillance by providing forensic pathology services to determine cause of death in suspicious or unattended deaths. The new facility provides a safer and more efficient work environment and will reduce stress on family members of the deceased by providing video-viewing capabilities.New emergency entrance opensValley Hospital in Palmer has completed remodeling and relocated its emergency department. The new area features a larger waiting room and more confidential admitting areas. The new design separates patient services and public corridors so walk-in patients will enter separately from trauma patients arriving via ambulance.The relocated emergency department opened Feb. 13. The new entrance is the same one used to enter the Family Birthing Center and includes a covered drop-off area.

Warm weather, maintenance knock down Slope's January output

Alaska North Slope petroleum production, hampered by warmer-than-average weather and cutbacks for maintenance, fell an average of 17,000 barrels per day in January. Overall output totaled 1.021 million barrels per day for January, down 1.7 percent from 1.038 million b/d in December, according to Alaska Department of Revenue officials. Last month’s ANS petroleum production also reflected a long-term downward spiral, dipping 40,000 b/d below January 2000 production of 1.061 million b/d.Natural gas liquids output in January averaged 52,615 b/d, up slightly from 52,065 b/d a month earlier. However, the NGLs output showed a long-term decline, dropping nearly 22 percent from 67,031 b/d in January 2000.Crude production fell 1.8 percent in January to 968,457 b/d from 986,000 b/d in December. Average crude output in January also lagged year-ago production of 994,000 b/d.Production at the three smallest North Slope gathering centers rose in January, while Prudhoe Bay, Kuparuk and Lisburne reported lower output.Two days of maintenance work at Prudhoe Bay mid-month hurt average production in the North Slope’s largest field in January. Output of crude oil and NGLs fell about 22,000 b/d to 552,840 b/d from 575,204 b/d in December. It also reflected more than a 50,000 b/d drop from 609,066 b/d in January 2000. Prudhoe Bay is operated by BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc.Average crude production at the Phillips Alaska-operated Kuparuk River field fell in January by nearly 12,000 b/d to 224,688 b/d from 236,476 b/d a month earlier. Production at BP-operated Lisburne also fell slightly in January to 87,857 b/d from 88,579 b/d in December.Phillips’ Alpine field posted average output of 67,211 b/d in January, up more than 12,000 b/d, or 22.5 percent, from 54,848 b/d in December. Though production continued to seesaw throughout January at Alpine, the field set a one-day production record Jan. 30 of 86,926 b/d, after rebounding from a low of 31,123 b/d Jan. 8, state Revenue economist Denise Hawes said Feb. 5. "I know they had shipping pump problems earlier in the month," she added.Average output at BP-operated Milne Point rose slightly in January to 50,885 b/d, compared with 50,104 b/d a month earlier.Endicott, another BP-operated gathering center, reported slightly higher average crude output of 37,591 b/d in January, up from 37,303 b/d in December.

Alaska Regional, Providence increasing security for newborns

This year the state’s two largest hospitals, both in Anchorage, are boosting their security systems monitoring newborns. Alaska Regional Hospital will be operating an electronic infant security system called Hugs by summer. The system is manufactured by Instantel Inc. of Ontario, Canada.Providence Alaska Medical Center began operating its system in mid-February.Alaska Regional is installing the system this year in conjunction with renovations to its maternity unit. The security system should be operating by June, said Kjerstin Lastufka, Alaska Regional’s director of marketing and public relations.Lastufka said a dollar figure for the infant security system was unavailable. The project is part of a $26 million hospital renovation started last fall and due to be finished in 2002. Renovations will relocate and update the lobby, add operating rooms, expand the radiology department and expand the labor and delivery unit with new, larger rooms.Currently, entrances at Alaska Regional’s maternity unit have alarms, she said. Also, unit staff have distinctive identification cards and colored scrubs to differentiate them from someone who may try to abduct an infant.The hospital has not had any such incident involving babies, she said.Providence, too, has not recorded an abduction, but more than two years ago a mother took her own baby out a hospital window, said Jo Danner, clinical manager of maternity services. Windows on the unit are now sealed shut, she said.Providence began considering installing a system like Hugs a year ago, Danner said. Cameras were installed nearly two years ago to monitor the maternity unit’s exits, as well as in the Children’s Hospital on the third floor. Providence officials wanted a more efficient security system with tags to track babies, she said.The Hugs system features a two-way transceiver tag that the baby wears on its wrist with a bracelet. Receiver stations on the 30-bed unit monitor the infant’s location and can lock all exit doors if the baby is taken beyond the system perimeters, said Newton Chase, director of facilities. Alarms also sound if a baby’s Hugs bracelet is cut, Danner said.The system cost $90,000 and was installed by Engineered Fire Systems Inc. of Anchorage, he said. The Hugs system was more expensive yet more effective than others Providence reviewed, he said."What’s important is the feeling it brings," Chase said. "Moms and dads feel safe. We’re going to a much greater degree to keep kids safe."Video cameras will still be in place at the unit, along with others monitoring staff parking at night, he said. "This is a 24-hour operation, and it’s like a small city," said Chase, describing the hospital’s need for security.Security systems for maternity units are increasingly common for U.S. hospitals because incidents have occurred at large and small facilities, she said. Some hospitals outside Alaska limit the number of visitors allowed or issue a swipe card to monitor access to the maternity unit, she said.Babies receive two identification bracelets, coordinating with ones worn by the parents, she said. After the baby’s first bath, the Hugs bracelet is secured, she said.Parents, who had not complained about video camera monitors, also have voiced approval for the new system, according to Danner.Providence is Alaska’s level three neonatal intensive care unit, handling premature births or problem pregnancies from around the state, she noted. Danner sees the new security system as another business advantage for the facility."If I am going to choose (a facility for the birth), it’s going to be some place where the baby will be the most secure," Danner said.

529 Plan great education savings tool

Alaskans have a new and extremely flexible estate-planning tool available. The 529 Plan allows parents, grandparents or any other interested custodian the ability to set up an account for education with the advantage of tax-deferred growth. If the beneficiary’s needs or desires change, the gift can be revoked or the beneficiary can be changed. Few understand the full potential of this powerful investment tool that actually gives investors more control over their estate.College benefitsThe 529 Plan is a method of saving for college, tax-deferred. There are no income limits, and investors may choose options that best suit them. If the money is to be used for higher education, the beneficiary is taxed at the beneficiary’s rate and then only on the investment growth. Couples can open an account with as much as $100,000 or as little as $250.Estate planningFor estate planning purposes a five-year lump sum of $50,000 per child or grandchild ($100,000 for couples) is allowed. These contributions are separate from the investor’s estate, and the investor maintains control of investment decisions and distributions.Those concerned about losing control when gifting need not be afraid; if money is needed at a later date for an emergency, it is still available. Should this occur, a 10 percent penalty is assessed on the distributed gains. This provides a great investment vehicle for investors wanting to gift money from their estate, but who are concerned it may be needed for an emergency or health care later.Custodial accountsThere are some problems with custodial accounts that are not found in the 529 Plan. The tax-sheltered 529 Plan is not subject to the annual income and capital gain tax that a custodial account is. Also, custodial accounts have a greater impairment on students receiving scholarships and loans.If a student is the beneficiary of a custodial account he is penalized by 35 percent of the value of his account in determining eligibility for financial need, but if the investor has used a 529 Plan the student only has a 6 percent offset.Investors are not permitted to change the beneficiary of a custodial account once the account is set up, and the most alarming factor is the minor receives total control of the money when he or she comes of age regardless of intention to obtain higher education. Custodial accounts can be transferred to 529 Plans as well, but the rules differ, and you should talk to your financial adviser on this.There are different 529 Plans available, some of which are more limited than others. Please do your research before investing.Robert Sackerson is an investment executive for Wedbush Morgan Securities. He can be reached at 907-273-2312.

Providence chief of staff sees future, hurdles in telemedicine

Alaskans’ work developing telemedicine technology and practices is creating opportunities across borders, but telemedicine faces some hurdles, according to an Alaska expert. Dr. Jerome List, chief of staff for Providence Alaska Medical Center, is involved with telemedicine efforts in Alaska. Providence has worked with health care providers on Sakhalin Island via telemedicine or using telecommunications and the Internet to relay a medical condition or advice."We’ve shown we have the technology. I think the opportunities are endless," he said."Alaska is particularly positioned to work with Far East Russia," List told members of the World Trade Center Alaska on Feb. 7. He spoke during the group’s monthly luncheon at National Bank of Alaska headquarters at C Street and Northern Lights Boulevard.List, who speaks Spanish and Russian fluently, studied at the University of Costa Rica, where he has also practiced medicine, and at the First Medical Institute of Leningrad. Today he also handles otolaryngology/head and neck surgery in private practice at Alaska Ear Nose and Throat Inc. in Anchorage.Maintaining a healthy work force is important to production around the globe, he said. However, healthy workers are less important than a manufactured product, he noted. In 1974 List served as a resident in St. Petersburg working with Russian doctors."They have some talented, bright people," but lack the resources needed for some health care services, he said. Unlike manufacturing in Russia in the 1970s, health care was not given the emphasis it deserved, List said.Telemedicine can operate beyond borders to help solve this problem. Yet some barriers still hinder the service, he noted.One such issue concerns the application of professional health care services from people who are licensed in other states or countries, List said. So far state officials have not ruled on this issue, he said.Expected improvements and competition in telecommunications technology should help telemedicine efforts, List said.Another major barrier for telemedicine is defining payment for physicians, List said. So far models have not been developed, and many doctors have provided their expertise out of enthusiasm for telemedicine, he said."I do a fair number of consultations and triages from the U.S. and abroad, and I haven’t charged a cent," List said.However, it is difficult to persuade some doctors to do telemedicine work without a reimbursement plan in place, he said.Telemedicine procedures also could be affected by the federal Health Information Portability Act, designed to regulate and protect medical records transmitted electronically, he said. The legislation could be implemented in 2002, List said.

Endangered species concerns likely to delay Unalaska project

In addition to jeopardizing Alaska’s big pollock and cod fisheries, lawsuits by environmental groups under the federal Endangered Species Act are also creating problems with public works projects in coastal communities. Former Unalaska Mayor Frank Kelty, now a natural resources analyst on the city’s staff, told state legislators in Juneau on Jan. 30 that his city may have to do a formal environmental impact statement on a much-needed small boat harbor project because of lawsuits by environmental groups over Steller ducks, a threatened species. Doing an EIS rather than a more streamlined environmental assessment will delay the project and add costs. The harbor, badly needed in Unalaska, will provide space for 70 medium- to small-size vessels, Kelty said. Two hundred of the ducks overwinter near Unalaska’s harbor, which is an intensely used marine industrial facility, he said. Unalaska has been the nation’s top fisheries port for more than a decade, Kelty told a luncheon gathering of lawmakers, according to data compiled by the National Marine Fisheries Service. Another city project that could face problems is a planned 500-foot extension to the existing 1,200-foot city dock in Unalaska. The extension is needed to accommodate Coast Guard, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and state ferry vessels. Building the extension will require that the city fill in two acres of wetlands. As mitigation, the city may have to adopt an alternative construction design that will cost three times that of the design now planned and which would lose the access to upland shoreline acreage that would be valuable rental space for the municipality, Kelty said. One positive development is that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency with jurisdiction over spectacled and Steller eider ducks, has backed away from an earlier proposal to designate 25,000 square miles of lands in Western Alaska critical habitat for the ducks, Kelty said. On Jan. 12, the agency announced it would reduce the proposed critical habitat by 93 percent, instead designating 2,800 square miles as protected habitat.  

Pages

Subscribe to Alaska Journal RSS