Movers and Shakers for Sept. 30

Elliott Bay Design Group has added Sarah Nichols as a full-time marine engineer to its Ketchikan office. Nichols will provide onsite technical engineering support to some of the firm’s major clients. Her background includes six years of project engineer and project management experience within a shipyard environment. Dick Stallone, owner of Stallones in Anchorage was recently elected to a one-year term as vice president of the NW Buyers board of directors. Founded in 1920, with a membership of more than 300 independent men’s clothing stores, NW Buyers is the oldest and largest menswear buying group in the United States. The organization is owned by its member stores and operated solely for their benefit. NW Buyers corporate offices are located in Plymouth, Minn. The 2018 YWCA Alaska/BP Women of Achievement awardees have been selected. An independent selection committee chose to recognize the following ten women who have demonstrated qualities of leadership and excellence in their professional and personal endeavors, as well as their contributions to the larger community. Now in its 29th year, this award has been presented to more than 300 women who devoted their lives to positively impacting the community, many of whom continue to work toward eliminating racism and empowering women throughout Alaska. The 2018 Awardees are: Amy Coffman, special assistant at Municipality of Anchorage-Office of the Mayor; Col. Patricia Csànk, Commander, 673d Air Base Wing, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson; Ella Goss, CEO of Providence Alaska Medical Center; Mary Katzke, producer and executive director of Affinityfilms; Heather Kendall-Miller, senior staff attorney at Native American Rights Fund; Lourdes “Lo” Linato-Crawford, board president at Bridge Builders of Anchorage; Beth Rose, vice president of Alaska Community Foundation; Doreen Schenkenberger, executive director of Partners for Progress; Krista Scully, Pro Bono director of Alaska Bar Association; Aliy Zirkle, Iditarod musher and owner of SP Kennels. These women will be honored at the Annual YWCA Alaska/BP Women of Achievement &Youth Awards on Nov. 7 at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts Discovery Theatre. Chip Arnold has been appointed chief operating officer of the Alaska SeaLife Center. Arnold joined ASLC 17 years ago in the IT department, but has served the Center in many ways from facilities to oiled wildlife response. Arnold was promoted to COO from his most recent position as Operations director. In this new position, Arnold will be in charge of daily ASLC operations and oversee Human Resources, Husbandry, and Operations (Life Support, Security, and Custodial). He will also continue to serve as the Dive Safety officer and manage Oiled Wildlife Response Programs.

OPINION: Walker-Mallott drags Kavanaugh into Alaska’s problems

The fact that Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott need to pull votes from Mark Begich, the other Democrat in the race for governor, is no secret and it was therefore no surprise to see a press release out of Walker’s office on Sept. 20 announcing their opposition to Brett Kavanaugh to join the U.S. Supreme Court. After declaring Kavanaugh “does not demonstrate a commitment to legal precedent that protects working families,” whatever that means, and stopping just short of asserting he favors repealing the Alaska Statehood Act, the so-called “independent/Alaska first/unity” ticket went lower than a North Slope drill bit: “Finally, we believe a thorough review of past allegations against Mr. Kavanaugh is needed before a confirmation vote takes place. Violence against women in Alaska is an epidemic. We do not condone placing someone into one of our nation’s highest positions of power while so many key questions remain unanswered.” Opposition to Kavanaugh — even on nothing more than the pure partisan basis we saw before his name was released or uncorroborated allegations from his high school years were dropped on him like slime at a Nickelodeon awards show at the last possible moment — is one thing. It is quite another to conflate the unsubstantiated charges against Kavanaugh with the documented, ongoing and as-yet unchecked problem of violence against women in Alaska that Walker and Mallott describe as an epidemic. Walker and Mallott refer to this epidemic as if they are mere bystanders to the problem and not the most powerful person in Alaska and one of the most respected Native leaders in the state, respectively. What, exactly, have Walker and Mallott done to address or even reduce violence against Alaska women and children? And what, exactly, does Kavanaugh have to do with any of it? Mallott, for his part, appears more interested in climate change than actually changing the climate for women and girls in rural Alaska. After nearly four years of their administration, virtually nothing has improved, they’re offering no hope that it will, and yet they are using an unsolved issue they have the ability to do something about as the basis to attack Kavanaugh. Oh, but they just want the questions answered, as if that matters after they’d already come up with a series of bizarre allegations about his legal views that aren’t backed up by either Sen. Lisa Murkowski or Sen. Dan Sullivan, whose wife is an Alaska Native. How difficult would it be for anyone who went to high school with Walker or Mallott to make up a similar charge against them as has been leveled against Kavanaugh? How would they, their wives and their children feel if suddenly they had to defend themselves against a horrific allegation with no date, place or even a year for which to present a defense? How would they react to calls to drop out of the race for governor, or to suspend their campaign until a thorough investigation of a charge with no possible defense other than a denial was available? We are going down a dangerous road here where a person in the public eye for decades can be destroyed over such an unprovable accusation after being the subject of not one, not two, but six FBI background checks over the years that, yes, include interviews with high school and college acquaintances. If the GOP falls for this scam they can kiss the Senate goodbye, or if they manage to hold it thanks to the difficult battleground facing Democrats in 10 states won by President Donald Trump, they can expect nothing short of a repeat of this character assassination against Kavanaugh on any other nominee. Just imagine what’s going to happen if Trump has an opportunity to replace Ruth Bader Ginsberg. This will look like the good ol’ days. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

Council to review state of rules for unguided halibut anglers

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council may consider more registration requirements for motorized rental boats for halibut fishing, though a staff report concluded it will put more burden on either the federal or state government to do so. At its upcoming meeting from Oct. 1-9 in Anchorage, the council is set to review a discussion paper on further registration requirements for boats available for rental to unguided halibut anglers in Southcentral and Southeast Alaska, known by the International Pacific Halibut Commission as regulation areas 3A and 2C, respectively. In recent years, some have raised concerns that as guided fishermen are restricted to one halibut per day, some turn to self-guided rentals for fishing, where fishermen are allowed to keep two halibut of any size per day. In December 2017, the council members requested further analysis of possible registration for motorized rental halibut fishing boats. That paper, scheduled for the upcoming meeting, notes that there are already multiple registration programs in place for vessels. “The Council’s request included a purpose and need statement that proposed that differences in harvest regulations between guided and unguided anglers, and the presumed growth of the rental boat segment of the unguided sector, may negatively impact other halibut fishing sectors,” the paper states. The state requires vessel registration through the Division of Motor Vehicles for all motorized boats used in state waters, and the U.S. Coast Guard requires it for vessels greater than five net tons. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has an additional registration requirement for sportfish guiding vessels, denoted by an oval sticker on the vessels each year. Specifically for halibut, the National Marine Fisheries Service requires all halibut charter vessels fishing in areas 3A and 2C to have a valid Charter Halibut Permit, or CHP, the paper states. Despite the concerns from the charter sector about unguided harvest increasing, records show that sport halibut harvest has remained flat or declined in both areas in the past decade. Harvest in all sectors began falling in 2006 until about 2014, when it began to rise slightly, according to the International Pacific Halibut Commission. Total harvest in 2017 was slightly up from 2016, with about 42.8 million pounds total landed, 7.9 million of which were harvested by recreational fishermen. However, the portion of those fish being harvested by guided anglers dropped, with more of the harvest going to unguided anglers, according to the discussion paper. “In area 2C, the guided harvest declined while the unguided harvest, although variable, remained near 1 million pounds from 2003-2016,” the paper states. “In 2011, the proportion of halibut caught by unguided anglers in area 2C exceeded the proportion caught by guided anglers for the first time. This may explain the perception that unguided catch is increasing despite the overall stability shown in catch data.” Catches by both guided and unguided anglers fell in area 3A from 2003-2016, with the majority of the fish — about 60 percent — still going to guided anglers, according to the paper. The state DMV has 249 rental vessels registered by 47 businesses in Southcentral and Southeast, which council staff feels is fairly accurate, according to the paper. Any further registration requirement would likely create more work for the state and National Marine Fisheries Service as well as require state cooperation, the paper states. The recent decline in halibut stocks has led to additional restrictions on both the commercial and charter fleets, with charter fishermen losing additional fishing days and experiencing more size restrictions over the years. The looser limits on unguided fishermen have led to strain among user groups. In a comment submitted to the council, Kent Huff —a member of the council’s Halibut Management Committee and owner of Gustavus-based Glacier Bay Eagle’s Nest Lodge — noted that a single limit for unguided and guided halibut fishermen would equalize harvest pressure. “The future of halibut fishing in Alaska is moving to the self-guided sector as more and more fishermen choose the option to catch two fish of any size verses one fish in a reverse slot limit,” he noted in his comment. “This will only continue to increase the number of self-guided operations and the overall number of halibut harvested each year. I believe that the only way to reduce the increasing pressure on the resource is to have the same limit for all halibut fishermen (charter and boat rental) in Alaska.” The council will meet at the Hilton Hotel in Anchorage from Oct. 1-9. Comments are open until Sept. 28 at noon. ^ Elizabeth Earl can be reached at [email protected]

FISH FACTOR: NOAA ramps up aquaculture effort; crab surveys disappoint

Offshore fish farms could soon dot the seascape along with those oil and gas platforms being proposed for U.S. waters by the Trump Administration. The fish farms, which would be installed from three to 200 miles out, are being touted as a way to boost seafood production, provide jobs and reduce the nation’s $16 billion trade deficit due to America’s importing nearly 90 percent of its seafood favorites. The U.S. Commerce Department is holding meetings around the country through November to talk about its strategic plan for getting aquaculture off the ground. At a recent session in Juneau, National Marine Fisheries Service Administrator Chris Oliver said that wild harvests simply can’t keep up with global demand. “Aquaculture is going to be where the major increases in seafood production occur whether it happens in foreign countries or in U.S. waters,” Oliver said. “Aquaculture would seem like an ideal industry for the country, since it has the second-largest exclusive enterprise zone in the world — meaning it has proprietary marine resource rights over an area totaling roughly 4.4 million square miles in three oceans, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico,” wrote Seafood Source. However, the U.S. is a bit player in the burgeoning global industry. In 2015, the U.S. produced just 0.4 percent, or 426,000 metric tons, of global aquaculture harvests, putting it in 18th place and trailing such countries as Ecuador, Malaysia, and North Korea. In contrast, the U.S. ranks No. 1 in the world in poultry and beef production. The potential is not lost on America’s big food producers. A new trade group called Stronger America Through Seafood has emerged to promote the push to farm the seas. Its backers include Cargill, Pacific Seafood, Red Lobster, High Liner Foods, Sysco and Seattle Fish Company. “There is no clear framework for allowing offshore aquaculture development, so while the rest of the world is growing and evolving and exploring the open ocean as an opportunity to farm our own fish, the U.S. continues with business as usual,” said spokesperson Margaret Henderson. “And as our population and our appetites increase, we become increasingly dependent on foreign production.” The group has come out in support of a bill pending in the U.S. Senate called Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture, or AQUAA, Act that would streamline the permitting process for offshore aquaculture projects. The act would create an Office of Marine Aquaculture within NOAA and provide a “one-stop shop” for federal approval of fish farm permits and “to the extent practicable,” avoid, minimize, or mitigate adverse impacts to the marine environment and wild fisheries. During the Juneau session, Under Secretary of Commerce Timothy Gallaudet cited climate change in his pitch for the fish farms. “Some of the changes in the environment are affecting fish stocks,” he said, “They are either moving or they’re not thriving and so aquaculture, done the right way and scientifically based, provides a means for employment of fishermen who are losing some of their gain through these changing conditions.” Sam Rabung, director of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s aquaculture division, respectfully disagreed. “I think it’s safe to say that we’re going to fight pretty hard to maintain the state’s opt-out option,” Rabung said, “and maintain the ability to prohibit finfish farming off of Alaska.” Crab news It’s a mix of good but mostly bad news for Bering Sea crabbers. The results from the summer trawl surveys showed “substantial” drops in numbers of king crab and bairdi Tanners. Conversely, the snow crab stock appears to be on a big rebound. The news was presented last week in the annual Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation Report for the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. For red king crab, at the eastern portion of the Bering Sea more commonly called Bristol Bay, numbers of mature males dropped more than 40 percent from last year; mature females were down 54 percent. Even worse, the survey continued to show no sign of younger red king crab coming into the fishery. “We haven’t seen recruitment in years,” said Bob Foy, director of the NOAA Fisheries lab at Kodiak and leader of the Council’s crab plan team. In the report the team noted “it feels that the rather unusual environmental conditions in the eastern Bering Sea this year (e.g., elevated bottom temperatures, lack of a cold pool) and the model’s poor fit to the 2018 survey data increase the uncertainty associated with this stock and warrant additional precaution.” The red king crab catch last year at Bristol Bay was 6.6 million pounds, a 20 percent drop from 2017. For Tanner crab, the number of mature females dictates the fate of a fishery and those numbers declined 70 percent in the eastern fishing district, continuing a trend over several years. The news was better for the west, where male Tanners held steady while females declined 14 percent. Foy also said there was a “substantial amount” of young crab poised to enter that region’s Tanner fishery. “Substantial” also sums up the good news for Bering Sea snow crab. The summer survey showed a 60 percent boost in market-sized males and nearly the same for females. The SAFE report said the 2018 survey showed the largest mature male biomass since 1998. Foy added that the survey “documented one of the largest snow crab recruitment events biologists have ever seen.” The snow crab fishery last season produced a 19 million-pound catch, the lowest since 2005. The reaction from fishermen was mostly over “disbelief” in the king crab data, said a veteran Bering Sea crabber and industry advocate who asked not to be named. “The survey results seem contradictory to what many saw while fishing last year,” he added. “Many believe a pre-season pot survey would yield a more accurate assessment of biomass. We respect the process and understand the reasons, but the dynamics of the Bering Sea are changing, and stock assessment methods may be less relevant than they once were.” Bristol Bay booms It’s a record-breaking payday for Bristol Bay salmon fishermen. The preliminary value of the sockeyes and other salmon they hauled in this summer topped $280 million, a first in the history of the fishery, and 242 percent above the 20-year average. The 2018 Bristol Bay sockeye salmon run of 62.3 million fish was the biggest since 1893 and nearly 70 percent above the 20-year average, according to a summary by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. It also was the fourth consecutive year that sockeye runs topped 50 million fish. In terms of catch, a harvest of 41.3 million red salmon was the second largest on record, after the 45.4 million fish taken in 1995. Symphony seafood surprises The call is out for new Alaska products to compete at the 26th annual Symphony of Seafood in Seattle and Juneau. “Looking back over the years it is striking how new product development techniques and possibilities have increased seafood investments. It’s really heartening because that drives value and prices and continues to keep Alaska seafood relevant to consumers,” said Julie Decker, director of the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, host of the event. The Symphony provides a level playing field where new products from small “mom and pops” can compete on a level playing field with majors like Trident and Ocean Beauty. Products are judged by an expert panel in four categories: Retail, Food Service, Beyond the Egg (roe products) and Beyond the Plate. “There are so many things being produced around the state, from kelp beer to pet treats, to things that are not edible …cosmetics, fish skins, things from crab shells — if it has Alaska seafood in it, it’s eligible for Beyond the Plate,” Decker said. Symphony goers can see and taste the new products and vote for their favorites during Pacific Marine Expo (Nov.18-20), where the top winners will be announced. All others will be kept under wraps until the Symphony again moves to Juneau in February for another bash. That’s where second and third place and the grand prize winner will be revealed. The winning products get more exposure with a free trip and booth space at the big Seafood Expo North America event in Boston in March. “It’s a fun side of the industry where we all come together and celebrate the work that goes into developing these products, and the entire supply chain from when the fish is caught to selling it to customers at grocery stores,” Decker said. Last year’s top winner was Alaskan Leader Seafoods for its Wild Caught Cod with Lemon Herb Butter and its Cod Crunchies Pet Treats. Product entries and sponsors can sign up through October 19 at the Alaska Symphony of Seafood website. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

Karl seeks federal OK to pave way for Chinese charters

Bernie Karl just needs one signature to add tens of millions of dollars to Alaska’s tourism industry. The irrepressible Fairbanks entrepreneur and former owner — it’s now employee-owned — of the popular Chena Hot Springs Resort is waiting on Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to sign off on a travel visa waiver before he puts a plan into action that will bring a Boeing 787 with about 300 Chinese tourists directly to Fairbanks every week of the year, Karl said. “This is a pilot project only good for the state of Alaska, not good for the United States; it’s only good for Alaska. That’s what we’re asking for,” he said. The special visa would be good for 30 days and require Chinese travelers to have a nontransferable, nonrefundable round-trip ticket. It would also require the tour company consortium to post a $1 million bond with DHS, which, according to Karl, has been taken care of. “We give them a bond so that there’s no doubt these people will be back on the airplane,” he said. “The big deal with Homeland Security is they want to make sure people get back on the plane and we have no problem with that.” The reason it hasn’t been done is it can take up to six months for prospective Chinese tourists just to get an interview through the U.S. embassy for a travel visa. Conversely, Karl noted that it took him a little more than a day to get a visa good for three years for a trip to Russia. Explore Fairbanks CEO Deb Hickok, who, along with Karl, participated in Gov. Bill Walker’s trade mission to China in late May, described the challenges a successful Chinese tour operator she talked to had in getting a visa to the U.S. “He had to provide his marriage license, his diploma; things we’re never asked when we apply to go to China. There is this very real concern with the Department of State for anybody that may defect, so they’re very cautious,” Hickok said. Karl quipped, “They name streets after what we do — one way.” Travelers would be able to obtain the special Alaska visa in five days, he said. Karl is confident the flights would be full and estimates they would have an economic impact of between $35 million and $50 million per year on the state. Alaska visitors from Asia spend an average of $1,442 once in the state, according to the Commerce Department’s 2016 Visitor Statistics report. “They have our money; I want it back. You want to talk about helping our (trade) debt, well this is how you do it,” he said. “You bring their money here and they want to travel and they want to come to Alaska.” Karl and Adriel Butler, owner of Borealis Basecamp, met with Feng Bin, the primary owner of Beijing UTours and leasing agents for Hainan Airlines while on Walker’s trade mission and established a relationship that grew into the charter plans. Beijing UTours averages 1.2 million customers per year, according to Karl. He promptly went to Washington, D.C. after returning from China and asked the Alaska congressional delegation for help navigating DHS. Karl lauded each member of the delegation for their help. While the waiver has not been approved yet, he said Nielsen has had to cancel meetings with Sens. Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski, which included a trip to the Chena Energy Fair with Murkowski in August. Another DHS representative who came in her stead said the waiver shouldn’t be an issue, according to Karl. Spokespersons for Sullivan and Murkowski didn’t respond to questions for this story. Confident he and his partners will get the visa waiver, Karl said more Chinese visitors could be in Alaska in about a month. “All the legwork’s been done,” he said. He highlighted the opportunity the Chinese market presents Alaska’s tourism industry, with its 300 million-strong middle class, which Hickok said is expected to hit 600 million by 2020. Explore Fairbanks signed a business partnership with East West Marketing Crop. while Hickok was on the trade trip. She said aurora viewing is the primary attraction for Chinese visitors to Fairbanks, as is the case with Korean and Japanese tourists, but noted those that come to Alaska during the summer months are obviously here for other reasons. Karl said he pitched the state as “the world’s largest oxygen bar” while in China. “You come to Alaska to get healthy. You come to Alaska to breathe our oxygen. It’s the world’s largest oxygen bar and let me tell you China has problems with breathable oxygen,” he said. Regardless of the outcome of the visa waiver, Hickok noted that Alaska, and Fairbanks in particular, has greatly increased connectivity to East Asia. Alaska Airlines has a new partnership with Hainan Airlines and Delta Airlines, with its international routes, now flies daily to the Interior. She said airport space is hard to come by in Beijing, but the charters could originate from most any major city in China. Karl sees them as the beginning of much more travel between Alaska and China. “It’s just an unbelievable opportunity for the future of Alaska. Our real future is in selling nature, but you get to keep it,” he said. “It’s the damndest thing.” As if potentially bringing roughly 15,000 new visitors to Alaska isn’t enough, Karl added that he’s confident he can use the extra 30,000 pounds of cargo capacity in a 787 to export Alaska seafood through relationships he has with processors. “There’s no problem getting all the king crab and all the salmon I want to go on the plane. It just makes sense that the plane leaves full,” he said. Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected]

APOC hears complaint against initiative backers

The industry-led group fighting the Yes for Salmon ballot initiative told Alaska campaign regulators in a hearing Sept. 25 that their opponent is benefiting from more “dark money” than it originally thought. Also, the initiative campaign director, Ryan Schryver, said in a hearing that his paychecks come from the Washington, D.C.-based New Venture Fund. But Schryver said he reports to an Alaska organization, SalmonState, that receives financial assistance from New Venture. Stand for Alaska-Vote No on One brought the complaint Sept. 20. The group asserts that Yes for Salmon-Vote Yes on One, as well as Stand for Salmon, and The Alaska Center, have violated multiple disclosure laws. The Alaska Public Offices Commission said it will issue a ruling on Oct. 3. Members of the pro-initiative groups maintained during the hearing they have worked closely with APOC staff to avoid any reporting errors. “We value transparency,” Schryver said. “We’ve worked every step of way to do this above board.” The initiative, set to be decided by voters Nov. 6, seeks to increase salmon and other fish habitat protections in Alaska. A chunk of the Sept. 25 hearing focused on New Venture, a nonprofit charitable group. The organization is not specifically mentioned in the complaint, but is part of the “dark money” the complaint alleges, said attorney Matt Singer, representing Stand for Alaska. Holly Wells, an attorney representing groups on the Yes for Salmon side, said New Venture complies with APOC requirements. “So they are transparent,” she said. New Venture is the second-largest source of the roughly $1 million in contributions to Yes for Salmon, providing more than $200,000, almost entirely in non-monetary contributions such as staff time. Commissioners sought to understand what the group does, and whether its contribution is transparent to voters. Schryver said New Venture is a “fiscal sponsor” to SalmonState, providing financial support and administrative services such as payroll. Schryver said for practical purposes he’s an employee of SalmonState, reporting to SalmonState director Tim Bristol, a Homer resident. New Venture helps launch budding social and environmental efforts, such as SalmonState, said Lee Bodner, its president, in an email to Anchorage Daily News. Projects operate independently, so organizers can determine the best strategy to achieve goals, he said. Tim Dietz, an APOC commissioner, asked at the hearing how the average Alaskan voter can know who is supporting the campaign, if much of the contribution is from New Venture. Schryver replied: “My question would be, ‘How does the average voter know where the money is coming from with BP or ConocoPhillips or any of the groups working to fund the other side?’” “I’m the one asking the questions here,” Dietz said. “It’s obvious they get the money from oil they get out of the ground.” Oil and mining companies have provided the bulk of funding for Stand for Alaska, more than $10 million. Schryver told Dietz he did not know how every penny could be traced back to its origin. Schryver said SalmonState has other employees assisting with the campaign, with others working on other projects to protect fish. New Venture’s payment for employees who assist with the initiative shows up as a contribution to the campaign. SalmonState was involuntarily dissolved as a nonprofit corporation by the state in March. Singer said after the hearing SalmonState is “not a real organization. They call themselves SalmonState, but are just a project of New Venture Fund.” Bristol said in an interview that after forming SalmonState as a nonprofit, he learned it didn’t in fact need to be registered as one. The goal is to become completely independent in the future, he said. “The bottom line is all the ideas and strategies and tactics, everything we work on, all the issues and programs, are born here in Alaska,” Bristol said. He and Schryver said only Alaskans are working on the ballot initiative. The Alaska Center, meanwhile, has reported contributions of about $500,000 to the campaign, largely in non-monetary services, such as for door-knocking or phone calls, according to the complaint. Singer said in the hearing he thought he had identified the source of about half of that contribution. But based on information at the hearing provided by Meghan Cavanaugh, political and field director for The Alaska Center, he said he’s not sure of the “true source” of the entirety of that contribution, either. “It’s a mystery,” Singer said. Cavanaugh said the source of that contribution is The Alaska Center’s general fund. She said she’s fully disclosed what’s required by APOC, but would support efforts for broader disclosure. “My feedback to APOC would be (the required) contribution form could be more comprehensive,” she said. Schryver said his side may have made a misstep in one small area — the “paid-for-by” identifiers at the end of campaign materials. “If there’s not a ‘paid-for-by’ on it, and we didn’t catch it, apologies, we’ll work to correct it,” he said.

Alyeska tests latest spill response gear at Shotgun Cove

WHITTIER — With flat seas, gentle clouds playing hide-and-seek with the mountains and marine life aplenty, it was a perfect scene to reemphasize just how important a place Prince William Sound is to protect. About 20 small commercial fishing vessels were joined in Shotgun Cove near Whittier by large barges and state-of-the-art tugs practicing to do just that with the latest in oil spill response equipment. Smaller craft towed “current buster” oil booms in tandem with larger fishing boats practiced deploying skimmers that would collect the oil out of the boom before it would be transferred to a barge tank. On first glance it appeared to be a kind of carefully orchestrated aquatic slow dance, set to the tune of barking sea lions. While indeed diligently planned, it was one in a continuous series of training exercises by the Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. annual $8 million Fishing Vessel Response Program. “Without these fishing vessels you don’t have a response plan,” said Jeremy Robida, the spill prevention and response manager for the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council, or RCAC. Two RCACs, another in Cook Inlet, were formed by Congress in the wake of the Exxon Valdez spill. In all, the program includes roughly 400 boats with crews totaling 1,600 people from six Southcentral ports, Alyeska Ship Escort/Response Vessel System Manager Mike Day said. The Sept. 25 training was not an emergency-style drill; it was a methodical annual testing of equipment to make sure that if the worst happened, everyone knows their role and how to perform it. Boats towing booms in formation focused on following tide rips and other areas oil would concentrate in the event of a tanker spill. Day said the new booms can be towed several times quicker — up to about four knots — than older versions before they begin losing the oil they’ve trapped. Robida added that new skimmers take a “real minimal cut of water,” meaning less oil-fouled seawater would need to be stored in the barges. Additionally, new internal pumps installed on the barges eliminate the need for lowering the whole pump system to the water level. Now it’s just a hose that goes overboard, Robida said. The water routines were preceded by a day of classroom training in the Whittier school. Robida said some of the Fishing Vessel Response Program participants have been involved in the spill response efforts since the Exxon Valdez grounding nearly 30 years ago. Day joked that the longest-tenured members of the program are sometimes tasked with teaching the classes to keep them from nodding off in class when they’d rather be on the water. The Prince William Sound RCAC contracted with Stan Stephens Wildlife and Glacier Cruises out of Valdez for a tour boat to observe the training. Council staff then invited Whittier school children to join them on the three-hour field trip. After observing the training, the tour vessel cut across the mouth of Passage Canal to Pigot Bay, the head of which has been deemed an area of special ecological importance and as such has its own geographical response strategy, or GSR, Robida said. Salmon spawn in the stream that feeds Pigot Bay and numerous similar areas around the Sound have been identified for additional protections with spot-specific equipment, according to council and Alyeska officials. If an oil spill or cruise ship or fishing vessel accident resulting in a large fuel release were to occur, a sensitive area protection team would be sent out immediately to those nearby places, whether it was already contaminated or not. “The whole concept of the sensitive area protection is to get ahead of the oil slick,” Robida said. “The goal is not so much recovery; it’s keeping the area sectioned off.” The FVRP training is separate, but in addition to ongoing training Alyeska continues to conduct with Edison Chouest Offshore, its new SERVS operator, out of Valdez. While Edison Chouest took over the SERVS operation from Crowley Maritime in early July, Day said, “We’re still doing a lot more training exercises than normal.” About 200 tanker towing, escort, docking and other practice routines have been conducted since Edison Chouest vessels began arriving to Valdez in March, compared to the roughly 35 exercises that would be done over that time in a normal year, Alyeska representatives said. Day added that an Alyeska official is still onboard each tug to monitor each tanker escort out of Valdez. Two of the new tugs towed the spill response barge to the scene of the drill. State House Resources Committee co-chair Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, who joined the tour as the Legislature’s liaison to the council, said he was impressed by what he saw, adding he got the sense from talking to various people that Edison Chouest “is settling in, understanding the culture and the environment.” One of the primary ongoing challenges is helping Edison Chouest employees settle in to Valdez, said Day, who is a lifelong resident of the quiet little Prince William Sound port town. Josephson acknowledged that there is still an open question as to whether Alyeska and Edison Chouest should seek to train in adverse weather conditions at times — the council believes so — while Alyeska contends it would be an unnecessary risk. He commended Alyeska for the advanced spill response program, which gives local fishermen “some ownership and involvement” in protecting where they work. “Apparently the Scotts are interested in what we’re doing” with oil spill cleanup techniques, Josephson said. He later added, “I only wish that we would’ve had all this in March 1989.” Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected]

China accuses US of ‘bullying’ as tariffs escalate

BEIJING (AP) — China and the United States imposed new tariff hikes on each other’s goods Sept. 24 and Beijing accused Washington of bullying, giving no sign of compromise in an intensifying battle over technology that is weighing on global economic growth. U.S. regulators went ahead with a planned 10 percent tax on a $200 billion-list of 5,745 Chinese imports including bicycles and furniture. China’s customs agency said it responded at noon by beginning to collect taxes of 5 or 10 percent on a $60 billion-list of 5,207 American goods, from honey to industrial chemicals. The conflict stems from U.S. President Donald Trump’s complaints Beijing steals or pressures foreign companies to hand over technology. American officials say Chinese plans for state-led development of global competitors in robotics and other technologies violate its market-opening obligations and might erode U.S. industrial leadership. China’s leaders offered to narrow their politically sensitive, multibillion-dollar trade surplus with the United States by purchasing more natural gas and other American exports. But they have rejected pressure to change industry plans the communist leadership sees as a path to prosperity and global influence. The Sept. 24 tariff hike follows a report by The Wall Street Journal that Chinese officials pulled out of a meeting to discuss possible talks proposed by Washington. The Chinese government had given no public indication whether it would accept the invitation. Envoys last met Aug. 22 in Washington but reported no progress. With no settlement in sight, forecasters say the conflict between the two biggest economies could trim global growth through 2020. On Sept. 24, the ratings agency Fitch cut its forecasts for next year’s Chinese and global economic growth by 0.1 percentage points to 6.1 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively. “The trade war is now a reality,” said Fitch’s chief economist, Brian Coulton, in a report. “The downside risks to our global growth forecasts have also increased.” Earlier, the two sides imposed 25 percent penalties on $34 billion of each other’s goods in July and another $16 billion in August. Business groups say American companies also report Chinese regulators are starting to disrupt their operations through slower customs clearance and more environmental and other inspections. The first American tariffs targeted goods Washington said benefit from improper Chinese industrial policies. American regulators tried to limit the public impact by focusing on industrial machinery and components, but the latest $200 billion list includes bicycles, wooden furniture and other consumer goods. Chinese regulators have tried to cushion the blow on their own economy by targeting American goods such as soybeans, natural gas, fruit, whisky and automobiles that are available from Europe, Latin America and other Asian countries. Trump threatened last week to add $267 billion in Chinese imports to the target list if Beijing retaliated for the latest U.S. taxes. That would cover nearly everything China sells to the United States. On Sept. 24, the Chinese government accused the Trump administration in a report of “trade bullyism” and of preaching “economic hegemony.” The toughly worded report said Beijing wants a “reasonable solution” but gave no indication of possible concessions. It affirmed China’s stance that it is a developing country, a claim that rankles Washington, Europe and other trading partners. They point to China’s status as a major manufacturer and a growing competitor in smartphones and other technology. They say Beijing is no longer entitled to concessions it was granted when it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, such as the right to limit access to its finance, energy and other markets. Chinese leaders have tried without success to recruit as allies German, France, South Korea and other trading partners that echo U.S. complaints about Chinese market barriers and industry plans but criticize Trump’s approach. The Trump administration has “has brazenly preached unilateralism, protectionism and economic hegemony, making false accusations against many countries and regions, particularly China, intimidating other countries through economic measures such as imposing tariffs, and attempting to impose its own interests on China through extreme pressure,” the official Xinhua News Agency said. Chinese leaders have announced changes this year including tariff cuts and plans to end ownership limits in their auto industry. But businesspeople who have met senior planners say they express no willingness even to discuss changes to technology development plans. As the fight intensifies, China is running out of U.S. imports for retaliation. Imports of American goods last year totaled $153.9 billion while the United States bought Chinese goods worth $429.8 billion, according to Chinese customs data. The Sept. 24 increase leaves Beijing with about $40 billion of goods for penalties while the Washington has almost $200 billion.

Industry group’s salmon initiative complaint to be heard Tuesday

State campaign regulators on Monday afternoon agreed to hear arguments Tuesday morning over a complaint alleging that the groups pushing the contentious Stand for Salmon voter initiative committed multiple fincancial disclosure violations. Commissioners with the Alaska Public Offices Commission concluded Stand for Alaska-Vote No on 1’s Sept. 20 complaint against Yes for Salmon-Vote Yes on 1, Stand for Salmon and The Alaska Center warranted an expedited hearing with Election Day 43 days away. The hearing will be held at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday at APOC’s Midtown Anchorage offices. The roughly two-hour Monday hearing over whether to expedite the complaint was largely a debate over the merits of the complaint against the groups advocating for Ballot Measure 1, which would establish stringent new permitting requirements for development projects in salmon habitat. Stand for Alaska, funded primarily by oil and mining companies, alleges in its Sept. 20 complaint that the three groups are coordinating their campaign efforts without admitting as much to APOC and Alaska voters. The complaint notes that the same individuals are in leadership positions in both Stand for Salmon and Yes for Salmon and all three share the same Downtown Anchorage office space. Matt Singer, an attorney with Holland and Knight representing Stand for Alaska, claimed further that The Alaska Center has not disclosed the source of nearly $270,000 it has spent supporting the Ballot Measure 1 efforts. Stand for Alaska insists much of the money behind Ballot Measure 1 has come from Outside environmental groups. “Alaskans are entitled to know who’s spending money to influence their votes,” Singer said, adding that the matter needs to be resolved quickly because post-election fines would do little to help voters. Earlier this month APOC levied a $1,925 fine against Stand for Alaska for having a name that did not clearly indicate the group’s position on the issue; that led the group to add “Vote No on 1” to its official name. Stand for Alaska’s complaint against Yes for Salmon also points out that the group didn’t add “Vote Yes on 1” to its name until Aug. 15 despite the fact that Stand for Salmon filed its complaint about Stand for Alaska’s name July 6. Birch Bittner Horton and Cherot attorney Jack McKenna, representing the salmon advocates, said Yes for Salmon didn’t change its name because its position on the Ballot Measure 1, which is also referred to as the Stand for Salmon initiative, is right in its name. The organizations don’t have to file as a single group with APOC because The Alaska Center and Stand for Salmon have missions that go beyond Ballot Measure 1, according to McKenna. To the primary funding sources, McKenna questioned why The Alaska Center should have to disclose where its contributions to the Ballot Measure 1 effort came from if the three largest donors to Stand for Alaska — BP, ConocoPhillips and Donlin Gold — don’t have to explain the sources of their money, whether it’s from investors, or profits made inside or outside of Alaska. He also contended that Stand for Alaska had roughly “$2 million missing from its books” until it fixed its APOC filings Saturday. McKenna insisted the complaint is a political maneuver aimed at derailing the campaign. “There’s a reason the media had this complaint before APOC did,” he said. Singer responded that technical issues prevented Stand for Alaska representatives from filing the complaint with the commission as soon as they originally planned.   Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected]

As more than 3,500 delegates gathered in Barcelona for Gastech, the world’s largest natural gas conference, a continent away in Beijing, capital of the world’s largest energy consumer, the government on Sept. 18 ordered a 10 percent tariff on U.S. liquefied natural gas deliveries to China. It’s not easy to upstage a conference that promoted more than 700 exhibitors, 350 speakers and 250 presentations, but the escalating U.S.-China trade fight made headlines that day. “Ultimately, China has a lot of growth in its LNG demand and the U.S. is a very material source of supply, so having an impediment stopping the two from getting together … that creates an inefficiency in the market, and no one wins from that,” Steve Hill, an executive vice president in Shell’s unit that provides natural gas and LNG, as well as marketing and trading services, told S&P Global Platts an interview on the sidelines of the conference. Few analysts said they expect any impact on global prices in the near term, but longer term many said it will make it harder for proposed U.S. LNG projects to line up customers in China and to secure financing. “The bigger implication will be on the launching of new projects,” Hill said. The longer the trade dispute lasts, the less likely that U.S. projects will find financial backers, said Charlie Riedl, executive director of the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas, a U.S. industry group, speaking with Reuters from Barcelona. China’s decision to impose tariffs, which took effect Sept. 24, means LNG is no longer an “innocent bystander” in the trade fight between the two countries, Riedl told S&P Global Platts. “There is a realistic possibility getting to FID (final investment decision) will be difficult,” he said of the multiple U.S. export projects in various stages of planning, design and permitting. “While we would like to see this resolved quickly, I don’t see that happening right now.” But what may be bad for U.S. gas producers and project developers could be good for other LNG suppliers. “Long-term implication is Chinese money is likely to look to countries they feel they can rely on for gas supply — and that is good news for most of the new non-U.S. LNG projects,” Trevor Sikorski, head of gas research at consultancy Energy Aspects, told the Wall Street Journal. “The tariffs will push Chinese buyers to other sellers in Asia and the Middle East because the U.S. will no longer be considered a low-cost option,” said Ira Joseph, head of gas and power analytics at S&P Global Platts. An October cargo out of Cheniere Energy’s terminal in Sabine Pass, La., fetches $9.04 per million Btu in Guandong Dapeng, China, reported S&P Global Platts Analytics. By comparison, a Qatari cargo to the same port goes for $10.48. A 10 percent tariff would make the U.S. gas less competitive. Speaking at Gastech before China’s announcement, Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi, CEO of Qatar Petroleum, the biggest LNG exporter in the world, said the tariff might help his company but could hurt the industry. “I don’t think that long-term it’s good for the market to have politics and to have taxation on a very important basic requirement for humanity, which is energy,” he said. China ordered the tariff on LNG and a list of more than 5,000 other U.S. products in retaliation for President Donald Trump’s decision a day earlier to impose a 10 percent tariff on $200 billion a year worth of Chinese products imported by the United States, climbing to 25 percent by the end of the year. The 10 percent tariff on U.S. LNG could have been worse — China originally had threatened a 25 percent levy. China is the world’s second-largest LNG buyer and expected to eventually overtake Japan for the No. 1 spot. The nation of almost 1.5 billion people is looking to use more gas and less coal to clean up its notoriously polluted air. The United States, the world’s largest gas producer, has been looking to China as a prime market for export sales. “In the 12 months up until June 2018, China was the second-largest buyer of U.S. LNG, accounting for approximately three million tonnes per year,” Wood Mackenzie research director Giles Farrer said in a note following the tariff order. “There has likely been some longstanding damage done to the perception of reliability of U.S. LNG supply in the eyes of Chinese buyers who will shape the next wave of global LNG projects,” Saul Kavonic, Credit Suisse Group’s director of Asia energy research, was quoted by Bloomberg the day after the news. About 15 U.S. LNG export projects are targeting a final investment decision this year and next. “It is hard to see any of these hopeful projects getting another Chinese buyer signed up for long-term volumes,” Sikorski told Bloomberg. Hours before the tariff news, Laszlo Varro, chief economist at the Paris-based International Energy Agency, told CNBC news at Gastech that a lack of export capacity could force curtailment in the U.S. shale gas boom. “Without additional investments into American liquefied natural gas projects, the American gas industry will have to keep gas in the ground, which would be … economically quite disruptive,” Varro said. A week before Gastech, a senior U.S. Department of Energy official told a Senate committee: “Every molecule of energy that the United States exports is exporting freedom to the world.” Putting that statement in the context of the U.S.-China trade war, a columnist for the London-based Financial Times quoted Nikos Tsafos, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.: “This idea that the U.S. is exporting freedom has been somewhat premised on the notion that U.S. LNG is somewhat better, or less risky, than other gas. I think that has been a very difficult thing to say over the past 18 months.” The world has more than enough LNG, the columnist noted, giving China the freedom to choose where to buy gas. Larry Persily is a former Alaska journalist, state and federal official who has long tracked oil and gas markets and projects worldwide.

COMMENTARY: Alaskans should be skeptical of anti-ANWR economic arguments

The Trump administration and Alaska officials are moving quickly to open up exploration for oil and natural gas on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. New seismic testing on ANWR’s coastal plain is being planned for this coming winter, with an environmental impact statement, or EIS, being completed as soon as the spring of 2019 and federal lease sales planned for 2020. The accelerated review process has revived much of the negative messaging campaigns by national environmental groups. But companies invest to make money and as long as there is interest in ANWR’s vast resources, Alaskans should be wary of inaccurate and negative economic arguments regarding the workings of global oil markets or their influence on drilling the coastal plain. Opponents of opening the small portion of ANWR set aside for its rich oil potential claim there is “much uncertainty” surrounding the size and value of the region’s resources. They also argue that the “shale gale” that is breaking production records in the Lower 48 spells trouble for investment in ANWR. Neither assertion is true. There are two benchmarks that determine the global price for the kind of high-quality light sweet crude oil that Alaska has in abundance. The first is the U.S.-based West Texas Intermediate, or WTI, in Cushing, Okla., which determines the price of the majority of the oil being produced in the western United States. The other is Europe’s benchmark price known as Brent.   All of the crude oil coming out of the Middle East is priced to Brent, which carries with it a “risk-premium” due to the underlying threat of wars and regional conflicts destroying oil fields and export infrastructure. Oil traveling through Alaska’s Trans-Alaska Pipeline System is also priced to the “rest-of-the-world,” meaning Alaska oil carries the Middle East risk premium even though it’s on the opposite side of the world. The price “spread” between Brent and WTI is large, making Alaska oil delivered to California often worth $5 and sometimes nearly $10 more than Lower 48 crude prices. This price dynamic didn’t always exist, but after Congress lifted the domestic oil export ban in late 2015 and started sending cheap barrels through the Gulf of Mexico, the Brent-WTI spread became a semi-permanent fixture in the market. This means that as long as the Middle East is in turmoil, Alaska crude will earn a higher price than Lower 48 crude oil of similar quality benchmarked to WTI. The existence of this price differential is one of the main attractions to drillers currently working on the North Slope. Another criticism that is often made is that the amount of recoverable oil expected to be contained in ANWR – roughly 10 billion barrels, according to the federal government’s estimates – represents only a tiny percentage of America’s daily consumption and wouldn’t come online for a decade or more. But even small amounts of new oil can make a big difference in oil prices when the supply market is tight. In 1995, then-President Bill Clinton vetoed legislation approved by Congress to open ANWR. One of the arguments during that period of low oil prices was that because North Slope oil would take more than a decade to reach the market that it was somehow unneeded. Fast forward a decade to July 2008 and the price of oil spiked to more than $140 a barrel. Famed Oklahoma oilman T. Boone Pickens said that the world was short about 1 million barrels a day of crude oil. That is exactly the amount of oil that would have been produced from ANWR if President Clinton had done what President Trump did 22 years later and signed ANWR language. Alas, record-high oil prices played a major role in initiating the 2008 financial crisis, the effects of which are still lingering today. It’s true that any production from ANWR is probably at least a decade off and perhaps longer, but current under-investment is the chief risk of future price spikes, according to the World Bank and OPEC. Economists see oil markets as roughly 25-year investment cycles that involve price spikes at the beginning of a cycle followed by heavy investment, a price equilibrium in the middle, and then a general price decline until under-investment eliminates spare capacity and a new price spike occurs. If the median estimates made by the U.S. Geological Service are true, ANWR’s 10 billion barrels of producible could create peak output somewhere around 1 million to 1.2 million per day by the mid-2030s. That production estimate is based on today’s oil prices; even more of ANWR’s oil would be economically viable at higher prices. It’s very possible that if the last price spike occurred in 2004-2008 timeframe, the next price spike could occur in the early 2030s, just in time for ANWR. A lot can transpire in a decade. We shouldn’t base our decisions regarding ANWR on the oil price we have today, but on the price and marketplace we can expect tomorrow.  Bill Murray was born and raised in Alaska. He currently works on energy and tax policy at R Street, a Washington, D.C., think-tank. He previously worked as an energy markets reporter for Bloomberg News.

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