Premera uses AI to identify customers at risk of high-cost care

Premera Blue Cross is betting that new technology can predict future health problems, thereby giving patients and medical providers the ability to react before potential issues become severe. The large Seattle-based health insurer in February announced a partnership with Cardinal Analytx Solutions to use Cardinal’s Cost Bloom predictive modeling program to identify Premera members with the highest probability of needing high-cost health care over the coming year. It’s generally understood in the health insurance industry that a small portion of any population accounts for the vast majority of health care costs associated with that population. According to a Premera paper on the program, research at Stanford University found that approximately 10 percent of an insured population typically accounts for 70 percent of the costs. The challenge is in predicting who will be in that 10 percent pool in a given year, Premera Data and Analytics Director Colt Courtright said in an interview. That’s because, according to Cardinal Analytx, 60 percent of the high-cost pool changes year-to-year, and most analytics programs focus on identifying and providing managed care to only the 40 percent long-term portion of the high-cost pool. Cardinal Analytx Solutions is a Palo Alto, Cali.-based data analytics firm. “Really, what we’re trying to do is help people avoid those (high health care) costs in the first place. The challenge using classical statistics is that it was impossible to find a large portion of that 10 percent and be able to predict who they might be, so you couldn’t really intervene,” Courtright said. “You couldn’t offer support programs; you couldn’t perform outreach; you couldn’t encourage provider visits.” The key to the program is employing artificial intelligence with the ability to parse out much more subtle indicators of future high-cost health care users. When a potential high-cost individual is flagged, Premera can then notify that person and suggest preventative or early treatment methods. The artificial intelligence can identify patterns in members’ use of medications, or a constellation of health conditions and discern if a social support program, for instance, could improve the condition before a major procedure or other intensive care is required, Courtright said. Cardinal Analytx estimates the Cost Bloom program can result in 15 percent savings across an insured group over two years. The condition forecasting is an addition to Premera’s existing clinical care management and care coordination programs and when a member is identified as someone who is likely to need high-cost care in the next year a case manager can reach out through those programs, according to Courtright. He also said the predictive modeling works using data insurance companies have traditionally gathered; however, the artificial intelligence analysis of that data is driven by the interaction of more than 50,000 data points or variables processed through a predictive algorithm, according to Premera. “It’s less about a specific data point as these are attributes that are often combined across data points,” Courtright said. Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield Alaska is the lone insurer in Alaska’s individual health insurance market. A reinsurance program first started by the State of Alaska in 2016 and then approved by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in 2017 has allowed Premera to reduce its individual market insurance rates by 26 percent in 2018 and 6.5 percent in 2019. The Alaska Reinsurance Program is in the middle of receiving $332 million in CMS grants over five years to support the program. Premera returned $25 million in reinsurance money to the State of Alaska in late 2017 after the company determined there had been a significant reduction in the use of medical services by members in the individual market. Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected]

Movers and Shakers for March 17

The Outdoor Heritage Foundation of Alaska has elected new members to its executive board including a new president. The following changes were made to the executive board on Feb. 13: Jennifer Yuhas was seated as a board member representing hunting interests and elected president, and Julianne Curry was seated as a board member representing commercial fishing interests. Eddie Grasser, previous president, and Ben Mulligan, previous board member, remain involved through seats designated by Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang. Jordan Adams has been named business manager/secretary treasurer of the Public Employees Local 71 Bargaining Unit at the recommendation of Dennis Moen, effective upon his March 1 retirement, by the Local 71 executive board. Adams is a long-time member, taking his first union position with Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities in Healy as a heavy equipment operator in December 2005. He has served as a shop steward and became the Northern Region Business Representative for Local 71 in 2013. His last year-and-a-half was spent working directly under Moen as assistant business manager in Anchorage. Adams is also the new chairperson for the Local 71 Health Trust. Covenant House Alaska CEO Alison Kear was recently selected as one of 15 leaders from across the U.S. for the 2019-21 class of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Children and Family Fellowship. The year’s class is made up of accomplished leaders in the public, nonprofit and for-profit sectors. As a fellow, Kear will utilize Annie E. Casey Foundation resources to work within Covenant House Alaska to make improvements for young people and families in Alaska. The Annie E. Casey Foundation, based in Baltimore, works across the country to develop a brighter future for millions of children who are at risk of poor education, economic, social and health outcomes. The foundation focuses on building stronger families and communities to ensure that children have access to opportunity. The foundation’s Children and Family Fellowship is a 21-month program that develops the leaders of nonprofit, philanthropic and public organizations through professional development opportunities, including executive seminars, peer consultations and individual coaching. In addition to the 21-month fellowship, Kear will have the long-term benefit of being a part of the network of Casey Fellows across the country. The Koniag Inc. board of directors has selected Ron Unger as CEO. Marty Shuravloff has been appointed to fill Unger’s seat on the Koniag board. As Interim CEO and board chairman, Unger was instrumental in helping Koniag through a successful leadership transition resulting in a strong team and sustainable earnings growth. Prior to being hired as the CEO, Unger served on the Koniag board for 14 years, with six years as chairman. Twice during his time on the board, Unger stepped in as acting CEO, in 2013 and then again in 2017. In order to ensure leadership continuity, the board has asked Unger to serve as a non-voting chair until the board votes in a new chair. Linnzi Doerr has been promoted to controller and Courtney Maillet to project accountant in R&M Consultants Inc.’s Accounting Group. Doerr has been with R&M since 2007 in the role of Accounting supervisor and has 17 years of business management and accounting experience. Doerr has a bachelor’s degree in accounting and an MBA, both from the University of Alaska Anchorage. Maillet joined R&M in 2011 as an accounting technician. She has 12 years of financial experience and is knowledgeable in all aspects of business accounting. Maillet has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Alaska Anchorage.

FISH FACTOR: Trade war takes big bite out of Alaska seafood sales

So how’s that trade war with China going? Up until last July, China was Alaska’s biggest trading partner for seven years running. In 2017, China bought 54 percent of Alaska’s fish and shellfish products, valued at $800 million. The initial U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports were followed by a retaliatory 10 percent tariff from China last September that included U.S. seafood exports; U.S. tariffs against $200 billion worth of Chinese imports were to increase to 25 percent on March 2, but that deadline was extended by 60 days late in February as trade negotiations continue. All the tariff tit-for-tat has taken a big bite out of Alaska’s seafood market share and sales continue to sink. The new taxes have tamped down Alaska seafood sales to China by one-fifth through 2018, said Jeremy Woodrow, acting director of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. In a presentation this month to the House Fisheries Committee, Woodrow said “sales so far this year are off by more than 20 percent and we expect to take a big hit from China this year.” Woodrow said a survey of Alaska processors and industry stakeholders revealed that “65 percent reported they had immediately lost sales from the increase of these tariffs, 50 percent reported delays in their sales, and 36 percent reported they lost customers in China. Another 21 percent said they had unanticipated costs because of the trade conflict.” He added that the taxes have caused inventories to pile up in freezers as Alaska seafood sellers seek markets to fill the China shortfall. Sales inroads are being made in other countries like Spain and Brazil, Woodrow said, but the loss of China would leave a lasting hurt. Meanwhile, state general fund dollars have been zeroed out for ASMI’s budget by the Dunleavy Administration and its travel budget slashed by more than half to $158,000. Other trade impacts A new report by economists from Columbia, Princeton, and the New York Federal Reserve explores the impacts of the Trump Administrations trade policy on prices and pocketbooks. In the short term, it says the U.S. has experienced substantial price increases, large changes to supply chain networks, a drop in the availability of imported varieties, and complete passthrough of the tariffs to domestic consumers. While the long-run effects are still to be seen, the economists said, “we also see similar patterns for foreign countries who have retaliated against the U.S., which indicates that the trade war reduces real income for the global economy as well.” Seaweed to the rescue “They are coming to take our cows away!” yelped critics of the proposed Green New Deal that’s cropped up in Congress. The deal calls for major investments in clean-energy jobs and infrastructure to help the U.S. transform to a more earth friendly economy. The GND is making farmers uneasy because fingers are pointing at cows as big polluters from the methane gas they pass. Most of the gas is actually belched from the cow’s mouth and not released from the back end. Cow burps account for 26 percent of the nation’s total methane emissions according to the EPA. Seaweed can help put the brakes on all those burps. Researchers in Australia started investigating after a dairy farmer noticed cows that grazed on washed-up seaweed along the shore were healthier and more productive than those in the field. Another study five years ago confirmed those results and 20 different kinds of seaweed were tested in cow feeds. Overall, they reduced methane production by up to 50 percent but required high doses of seaweed, almost 20 percent by sample weight. Enter Asparagopsis, a red seaweed found throughout the Pacific. The Queensland researchers found that adding less than 2 percent of that particular seaweed to a cow’s diet reduced its methane output by up to 99 percent! The cows have good taste; asparagopsis is one of the most in Hawaiian cuisine and used traditionally in poke. The problem now is producing enough of the methane suppressor. Wild harvesting is not sustainable, the researchers said, and it will take financial and industry backers to cultivate production to an industrial scale. Meanwhile, that dairy farmer has sold his farm and is selling kelp and rockweed infused livestock feed full-time with a Prince Edward Island company called North Atlantic Organics. Fish gals on the job Women at work in the seafood industry is the focus of an international video competition that’s now open for entries. The scope includes all segments of the industry: fishing on boats, fish farming, processing, selling, managing, research, monitoring, teaching and any related services. It’s the second round for the contest that was launched last year by the Paris-based group Women in the Seafood Industry. “Women are very numerous in the industry, but not very visible,” said Marie Christine Monfort, WSI president and co-founder. Studies show that one in two workers in the seafood industry is a woman, but most are over-represented in low skilled, low paying positions. Montfort said women account for less than 10 percent of company directors and just 1 percent of CEOs. A WSI international survey last year revealed that 61 percent of women reported perceptions of gender inequality in the seafood industry compared to 48 percent of men. Raising awareness of gender biases is the first step towards making positive changes, Montfort said. And that is what the film contest is all about. Last year’s winner showcased women who mend nets for a living in Vigo, Spain. Second place went to a film about California women who formed a clam farming cooperative. Tied for third place were films about female fishing mentors in Newfoundland and women in India who started food trucks to sell their husbands’ catches. One entry from Alaska called Copper River featured veteran Cordova fisherman, Thea Thomas. Individuals and groups are invited to contribute videos of up to four minutes showing women at work in the industry. Winners receive 1000 euros along with two 500 euro prizes. Deadline to enter is Aug. 2. Learn more at womeninseafood.com. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

GUEST COMMENTARY: Follow reform recommendations to save ferry system

On Sept. 12, 2018, then-candidate Mike Dunleavy delivered a speech to the Southeast Conference in Ketchikan, in which he committed to protecting the Alaska Marine Highway System’s 2019-20 budget. On Feb. 13, Gov. Dunleavy reversed himself and presented the Legislature with a budget that gutted the ferries. If enacted, it will will shut the system down Oct. 1 of this year and call for another study of the system. From the first meeting of the committee to its final report and the introduction of legislation last session it was apparent to the committee that reforms were needed if the system was going to meet the transportation needs of Alaska in a sustainable manner. Since the first ferries were commissioned in the 1960s, there have been numerous economic reports that document the economic benefit the AMHS brings to Alaska. For more than two years, a group of committed Alaskans has reviewed the management and economics of the AMHS and developed a set of recommendations that would reform the current ferry system. The AMHS Reform Committee engaged Alaska’s leading economic consultants, the McDowell Group, and one of the world’s leading marine engineering and consulting firms, Elliott Bay Design, to lead the effort. From the first meeting of the committee to its final report and the introduction of legislation last session, it was apparent to the committee that reforms were needed if the system was going to meet the transportation needs of Alaska in a sustainable manner. The committee studied other ferry systems. It looked at the finance, management and employee relations of these systems. The committee looked at the ferry system, fleet age, fleet configuration, route structure, management and Coast Guard policies and rules. After two years of study, public hearings and meetings, the committee recommended moving the AMHS out of direct control of the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and setting up a state-owned public corporation to manage it. The committee made its case for this type of structure in order to isolate the AMHS from political wars and turf battles while stabilizing its finances. The public corporation model is similar to other Alaska public corporations, specifically the Alaska Railroad. The mission of the proposed public corporation is threefold: manage the Alaska Marine Highway and its assets in a safe and efficient manner; provide essential marine transportation services, connecting rural communities with economic and service hubs while supporting the overall transportation needs of the state; and provide for continuity of operations and public accountability. Alaskans know that the ferry system needs reform, but the governor’s “beach the boats” budget is not the way to do it. We cannot eliminate the AMHS just because the Office of Management and Budget doesn’t understand that it is a critical part of our transportation network. Shutting down the AMHS would have the same economic impact on coastal communities as shutting down the Glenn Highway at the Palmer interchange would have on communities from Palmer to Tok. It is the responsibility of the administration to support a transportation plan that will keep communities connected and businesses open, not just one that eliminates our transportation infrastructure and devastates our rural and coastal Alaska communities. A plan to do this has been presented to the state. It deserves special consideration before more studies are undertaken. If that means we need to use Permanent Fund earnings for what they were set up to provide, we need to use them. One way or the other, education, health care, senior services and transportation have to be paid for. One way or another, the citizens of Alaska will pay for services cut by the proposed budget. It is time to stop using smokescreens and studies on services that have been studied to death. We do not need another study. The governor should start with the plan presented last fall to reform the AMHS and build from it. For those interested in the AMHS Reform Study, go to www.AMHSreform.com. ^ Greg Wakefield is a member of the Marine Transportation Advisory Board, AMHS Reform Committee and a business owner. He lives in Anchorage. Dave Kensinger is a member of the AMHS Reform Committee, former chairman of the MTAB and a business owner. He lives in Petersburg. Michael Anderson is a member of AMHS Reform Committee and an artist. He lives in Cordova.

Genetically-engineered salmon cleared for US sales by FDA

The Food and Drug Administration last week cleared the way for genetically engineered salmon to be sold in the U.S. The agency on March 8 deactivated a 2016 import alert on such salmon, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement. That ban restricted the sale of genetically engineered salmon in the U.S. until the agency issued labeling guidelines. The change has alarmed some in Alaska about what genetically engineered salmon on the market might mean for Alaska’s salmon industry, which harvests wild fish. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, pushed back in December 2015 against the market introduction of genetically engineered salmon and called for stricter labeling requirements on such products. The import ban was put in place the following month. “I’m extremely disappointed in the FDA’s shortsighted decision,” Murkowski said in a statement Friday. “It is wrong-headed and a bad idea, simple as that. I am not going to back down and will continue my fight to ensure that any salmon product that is genetically engineered be clearly labeled.” At the end of last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture put out rules for genetically engineered foods, Reuters reported, and “consumer groups criticized the USDA for saying companies need to use the term ‘bioengineered’ rather than the more commonly used terms ‘genetically engineered’ or ‘GMO.’” The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute supports Murkowski’s position, said Jeremy Woodrow, the institute’s communications director. The group’s research shows that consumers “want to know where their seafood comes from,” he said. Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan also opposed the change. The FDA’s decision “to allow genetically modified ‘salmon’ for sale to everyday consumers without clear, discernible labeling is wrong and totally unjustified,” he said in a written statement. “American families deserve to know when they’re serving their families wild Alaskan salmon versus some genetically tampered fish.” It’s not yet clear what genetically engineered salmon could mean for Alaska. The way that such products may affect pricing for Alaska salmon has yet to be seen, Woodrow said. “That would be the concern: If you can raise a salmon faster and be able to deliver this product for potentially less overhead, is that going to affect the price of salmon in the marketplace?” Woodrow said. “And that is something we will continue to watch.” In 2015, the FDA approved an application related to genetically engineered salmon from a Massachusetts company called AquaBounty Technologies. But the import alert prevented the company’s products from entering the U.S. Lifting the ban means the company’s AquAdvantage salmon eggs “can now be imported to the company’s contained grow-out facility in Indiana to be raised into salmon for food,” the FDA said. The company has a facility in the province of Prince Edward Island in eastern Canada, where the salmon eggs are produced, according to the FDA. AquaBounty’s technology integrates a chinook salmon growth hormone gene into the genome of Atlantic salmon, resulting in a fish that grows faster than a standard Atlantic salmon, according to the company’s website. The FDA determined in a 2015 review that the fish is safe to eat. With its technology, AquaBounty wants to “spur a radically more responsible and sustainable way of farming Atlantic salmon,” its website says. The product is already sold in Canada. The United Fishermen of Alaska referred to the genetically engineered salmon as “frankenfish” in a statement March 8. The group said the FDA lifting the ban without requiring clear labeling for the product is a “disservice” to consumers and a blow to the state’s fishing communities. It’s not clear when genetically engineered salmon might hit the market, said Woodrow. A phone call and email to AquaBounty were not returned March 11. Instead of mandatory labeling for genetically engineered salmon, Murkowski’s office said, producers will be allowed to use QR codes or 1-800 numbers that would refer customers to more information. “So let’s say you’re in a grocery store and you see a 1-800 number. Are you going to pick up a phone and call that 1-800 number before you check out?” said Karina Borger, a spokeswoman for Murkowski. “The senator has been pushing for clear labeling from the get-go.” Another one of Murkowski’s concerns, Borger said, is about a man-made fish that could outgrow natural stocks. The senator has introduced legislation over the years to mandate the labeling of genetically engineered salmon. “When we talk about GE salmon, it’s separate from the larger GMO debate,” Borger said. “Genetically engineered animals are not crops.” Frances Leach, executive director of United Fishermen of Alaska, is concerned that genetically engineered salmon on the market could potentially mean consumers will buy less Alaska salmon. “The consumer … is going to see wild Alaska salmon and this other salmon that they don’t know what it is. They just know it’s salmon, and likely it’s going to be cheaper because they can create these GMO salmon for cheaper than we go out and fish for salmon,” she said. ASMI won’t be specifically targeting marketing efforts against genetically engineered salmon, Woodrow said. ASMI sees it as another farmed product to which wild-caught Alaska salmon is superior. “In the retail space or food service space, it’s another farmed salmon product, and we’ll be competing against this product like we have with other farmed salmon,” he said.

AGDC scales back as it moves project forward

Alaska’s new gasline leaders offered some insight Wednesday into their plans to continue building on the progress that has been made on the $43 billion Alaska LNG Project while at the same time reevaluating its viability and doing so at a lower cost to the state. Interim AGDC President Joe Dubler told the corporation’s board of directors that a primary emphasis is returning to the “stage gate” process used by the producer companies to advance Alaska LNG before the state took it over in late 2016. BP, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil and the State of Alaska collectively spent roughly $600 million in the 2013-16 timeframe to get the megaproject through the preliminary front-end engineering and design, or pre-FEED, stage. At that point, with depressed oil and LNG markets, the companies offered to either hand the project over to the state or slow it down until global energy markets improved. Narrowing the Alaska LNG Project cost from a $45 billion to $65 billion range down to the current estimated $43 billion was a primary product of the pre-FEED work. Gov. Bill Walker chose for the state to continue the effort and under former AGDC President Keith Meyer — who was hired in June 2016 and fired by the board this January — work was focused on selling to project to LNG customers and investors while also initiating the federal permitting process to get approvals for early construction in 2020. AGDC will now focus on determining whether or not it’s worth advancing to the up to $2 billion FEED stage gate, which would get the Alaska LNG Project to about a 40 percent design level and is necessary to make a subsequent final investment decision, according to Dubler. Given that, he said a 2020 start to construction is not realistic. A desire to reinstitute the stage gate approach and get the producers directly involved in Alaska LNG again were priorities of Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy during his campaign. “What’s needed to make a final investment decision — we don’t have everything in place at this time. We think it will probably be two years or so but we haven’t worked the schedule all the way out,” Dubler said. “If you’re going to fail on a project you want to fail when you only have $500 million or a billion dollars into the project and not $4 to $5 billion into the project, so you stop at each gate and make a decision.” Dubler said during a Feb. 27 legislative hearing on AGDC’s budget that corporation leaders are prepared to shut down operations if the Alaska LNG Project is not determined to be economically viable. Under the previous approach, AGDC planned to hire one or more large firms to develop the project under an engineering, procurement and construction, or EPC, contract and that included the final technical development. The corporation will also go through a new economic analysis of the project, according to Dubler, who noted the last time the project’s economics were assessed was in 2016. That evaluation, done by the international energy economics firm Wood Mackenzie, concluded low global LNG prices challenged the viability of a producer-led Alaska LNG Project and suggested state control could benefit it’s economics but did not draw firm conclusions on the viability of the current project structure. Dubler said he doesn’t believe the changes will deter the potential LNG customers and investors AGDC has preliminary agreements with, adding that the corporation has sent letters to them explaining the changes and corporation officials will meet with several of them at the large LNG2019 conference in Shanghai in early April. However, he did say the nonbinding joint development agreement framework AGDC has with three nationalized Chinese companies to finance up to 75 percent of the project costs in exchange for purchasing up to 75 percent of its LNG production capacity puts too much control in one place. “We’re looking to diversify into more companies — get more people involved. We’re just looking to expand participation by investors and offtakers,” Dubler said. AGDC officials have previously said the corporation has formal letters of interest from 15 potential customers entities; but those documents are confidential. Commercial and Economics Vice President Leiza Wilcox said feedback from prospective customers remains positive because of Alaska’s location in relation to Asian LNG buyers. On the investor side, she said indications are the initial Alaska LNG investors would likely require returns “in the mid-double digits.” “Somewhere between 12 to 15 percent, that would be my feeling,” Wilcox told the board of directors. “For a long-term infrastructure project the expected rate of return can be lower and in the long-term the project can be put into the hands of infrastructure investors that expect a lower rate of return. It’s just a matter of who invests up front and who invests for the long-term; that’s part of the structuring of the financing package.” Securing those infrastructure investors, such as pension funds, with lower return hurdles was a cornerstone of the approach AGDC took to the Alaska LNG Project under Meyer, who often cited the higher return requirements of the major oil producers as an impediment for developing the project based on their investments. As for AGDC’s internal finances, Dubler said the corporation could complete its mission on a smaller budget to do its part to close the state’s $1.6 billion budget deficit. The corporation has already cut $5 million out of its current year budget — mostly by cutting its contractor and legal expenses — and is downsizing its Anchorage offices. The Dunleavy administration’s fiscal year 2019 supplemental budget request includes transferring that $5 million back to the General Fund. “We’re right-sizing for the narrower marketing focus and we’re advancing the FERC (permitting) process,” Dubler said. However, he went on to say that with the $5 million reduction, AGDC expects to have roughly $15 million at the end of the current, 2019 fiscal year, but expects to need about $29 million in 2020 to complete the Alaska LNG environmental statement and keep the reduced scope of commercial work ongoing. Agency officials are working on a resolution to the funding issue, Dubler said. “I’m not sure we can reduce enough to get there but we’re going to see what we can do,” he added. House Resources Committee co-chair Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, said in a statement offered to the Journal that she was pleased to hear AGDC is continuing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission environmental impact statement process started in 2017 under the Walker administration. “This is the right decision. The state has invested hundreds of millions of dollars, and that investment must be maximized by achieving this critical regulatory approval,” said Tarr, who added that she’s looking forward to “closely evaluating any new proposals to change the ownership model to ensure the state’s strong position is maintained.” There is a general consensus among industry experts and Alaska LNG observers that completing the project’s EIS would be beneficial in the long-term even if the project is not sanctioned in the coming years. To date, AGDC has spent more than $260 million on the Alaska LNG Project. AGDC leaders are scheduled to present to legislators March 22 in a joint House and Senate Resources Committee meeting. Outside help AGDC on Friday announced new partnerships with BP and ExxonMobil in which the companies will help the quasi-state corporation “identify ways to improve the project’s competitiveness and progress the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission authorization to construct the project,” according to a statement from the corporation. Last year BP and ExxonMobil signed binding term sheets, which include pricing terms, to sell their respective shares of North Slope natural gas into the Alaska LNG Project. “BP and ExxonMobil possess world-class LNG expertise which may help AGDC responsibly advance this project with maximum efficiency for the benefit of Alaskans, and I welcome their collaboration,” Dubler said in a formal statement. BP previously supplied AGDC with technical assistance under an agreement from late 2016. According to AGDC officials, the latest agreements ostensibly provide free volunteer help from the companies on value engineering and answering federal agency questions for the Alaska LNG environmental impact statement. FERC officials said Feb. 28 that issuance of the draft Alaska LNG EIS would be pushed back about four months to June of this year due, in part, to responses the federal regulators still need to get from AGDC, according to FERC documents. Additionally, Dubler said during the Wednesday board meeting that AGDC would seek third-party help from “quality, experienced LNG project owners and operators to build, own, and operate the project” if it reaches that point. “We realize this is not something the state does. The state’s very good at some things; running integrated LNG projects is not one of them,” he added. Former AGDC head Meyer often noted that AGDC would likely hire a firm to operate the project while it remained under state ownership. That state ownership has been recognized by many, including Dubler, as a crucial economic benefit because it would likely exempt Alaska LNG operations from federal income taxes based on a 2016 ruling from the Internal Revenue Service. Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected]

Pages

Subscribe to Alaska Journal RSS