Optimism abounds in advance of annual RDC gathering

  • President Donald Trump, gives the pen he used to sign an executive order reviewing Outer Continetnal Shelf drilling regulations to Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on April 28. Trump and Murkowski have been at odds over health care, but state industry leaders have reason for optimism after several moves aimed at unlocking Alaska resources. (Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

There is plenty for the players of Alaska’s extraction industries to be positive about and that should translate into a cheery Resource Development Council for Alaska conference.

The annual gathering for some of the state’s largest industries will be held Nov. 15-16 as it usually is at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center in Downtown Anchorage.

RDC for Alaska Executive Director Marleanna Hall said some of the good vibes are being sent all the way from Washington, D.C.

Last year’s conference convened shortly after President Donald Trump was elected and while there was anticipation about what a Trump White House would mean for Alaska businesses, no one knew quite what to expect.

“There’s some optimism out there and a lot of it is coming from the changes in the energy outlook for America; it’s coming from opportunities to revise and revamp federal regulatory processes and a lot of it is coming from the top down,” Hall said.

“It’s good to see that because instead of spending a lot of our energy pushing back against new bureaucracy we’re making changes to streamline processes that are in place already.”

Additionally, the Department of Natural Resources revealed a couple weeks ago that it expects North Slope oil production to continue to rise over the coming year; oil prices have jumped back to more than $60 per barrel of late and Congress, led by the Alaska delegation, appears as close as ever to opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration.

The RDC conference will open as it often does with a panel report by key players in the fishing, forestry, mining, oil and tourism industries.

Popular state economist Neal Fried will follow with the first look at his Alaska economic forecast for 2018.

“We thought it would be a good opportunity for (Fried) to hear a little bit about what the panel’s perception is because I think he’ll be able to add some of his own comments during his presentation in response to what these industry representatives say,” Hall added.

The rest of day one will be oil heavy, with an emphasis on what it will take to continue growing production from the North Slope.

DNR Commissioner Andy Mack will join industry leaders in that discussion.

Attendees will also be able to hear from Eni Vice President Whitney Grande. Eni is an Italian-based major oil company that quietly operates the small Nikaitchuq field on the North Slope and has a unique plan to explore its federal offshore leases from the manmade Spy Island in state waters via long reach horizontal drilling.

Day two will be highlighted by the lunch speaker, acting federal Assistant Energy Secretary Daniel Simmons.

“He, of course, is going to continue the message of (American) energy dominance and Alaska’s role in that,” Hall said.

She acknowledged that legislators scheduled to speak during the day — Senate Resources Chair Cathy Giessel and House Resources Co-Chair Geran Tarr — might still be preoccupied with the ongoing special legislative session that could run through Nov. 22.

The conference will close with a message from the leaders of Stand for Alaska, the political action group formed to oppose a ballot initiative aimed at strengthening state permitting requirements for salmon habitat they believe could prohibit projects both large and small in the state.

The Stand for Alaska panel will include Alaska Gasline Development Corp. President Keith Meyer, who will also give a report fresh off an Alaska LNG Project marketing trip to China with Gov. Bill Walker.

“There’s a lot going on right now in China,” Hall said, adding Meyer might just have an agreement or two to announce that could be big news for the future of a gasline.

Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected].

11/09/2017 - 4:35pm