Dan Joling

Group files notice it will sue over walrus protection

A national environmental organization filed notice Thursday that it will sue the Trump administration over its rejection of Pacific walrus as a threatened or endangered species.

The Center for Biological Diversity called the action last week by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service "an unlawful, politically motivated decision" that deprives walruses of needed protections in the face of climate change and melting sea ice.

Federal government: No threatened species listing for walrus

The Trump administration announced Oct. 4 it will not list the Pacific walrus as a threatened species based on diminished Arctic Ocean sea ice, concluding that the marine mammals have adapted to the loss.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials said they cannot determine with certainty that walruses are likely to become endangered “in the foreseeable future,” which the agency defines as the year 2060.

Walker proposes head tax to boost state revenue

Gov. Bill Walker's latest proposal for closing the gap between state revenue and spending is a limited tax on payroll wages and self-employment income.

Walker, an independent, is calling the proposal a modified "head tax." The matter will be addressed at an Oct. 23 special session, the fourth this year, that Walker announced Friday. A crime bill is also on the agenda.

The Republican-led Senate earlier this year rejected a House-passed income tax. The state is grappling with a multibillion-dollar deficit amid continued low oil prices.

Repair halts Cook Inlet gas leak

Divers have placed a clamp over a hole in an underwater Alaska pipeline, stopping the flow of millions of cubic feet of natural gas into Cook Inlet, home to endangered beluga whales.

Hilcorp Alaska LLC, a subsidiary of Houston-based Hilcorp, announced Friday that divers Thursday night covered a gash at the bottom of the 8-inch (20-centimeter) diameter line in 80 feet (24 meters) of water. They measured the hole at less than 0.5 square inches (32 sq. centimeters).

Hilcorp estimates leak at 3 gallons of crude; unified command stands down

An underwater pipeline that sprung a leak in Alaska's Cook Inlet, an area known for diverse marine life, probably dumped less than three gallons of crude oil into the ocean, the pipeline's owner said Monday.

The spill between two production platforms owned by Hilcorp Alaska LLC was spotted Saturday. Cook Inlet stretches 180 miles from the Gulf of Alaska to Anchorage and is home to an endangered population of beluga whales.

Hilcorp by Sunday had removed all oil from the 8-inch diameter pipeline.

Agency wants review of second Hilcorp pipeline

A federal agency investigating an underwater pipeline leaking natural gas in Alaska’s Cook Inlet is expanding its review to a nearby oil pipeline.

In a proposed safety order issued March 17, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said the 8-inch oil pipeline owned by Hilcorp Alaska LLC is subject to the same stresses as Hilcorp’s 8-inch natural gas pipeline and must be quickly inspected.

Natural gas leaks from Cook Inlet pipeline

(Editor’s note: This story has been updated since it was first published Feb. 16 to include further detail as it is a developing story.)

Natural gas has leaked since at least Feb. 7 from an underwater natural gas pipeline in Cook Inlet and floating ice has prevented divers from reaching the site.

The gas is bubbling from an 8-inch pipeline in 80 feet of water about four miles off shore. The pipeline belonging to Hilcorp Alaska LLC, moves processed natural gas from shore to four drilling platforms in the inlet.

Critics say polar bear recovery plan lacks teeth

ANCHORAGE(AP) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released its plan Monday for the recovery of threatened polar bears, acknowledging it will take no direct action for addressing the primary threat — greenhouse gases that contribute to the decline of sea ice habitat.

Polar bears, the first species to be declared threatened or endangered because of climate change, rely on sea ice for hunting seals and raising their young. Climate models project that rising temperatures will continue to diminish sea ice throughout the century.

King Cove residents to get another shot at road to Cold Bay

A remote Alaska village that has been rebuffed in efforts to build a road through a national wildlife refuge will try again when President-elect Donald Trump takes office.

The community of King Cove, near the tip of the Alaska Peninsula, for decades has sought a road through Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, an internationally recognized haven for migratory waterfowl.

Alaska Railroad prepares for first U.S. shipments of natural gas

ANCHORAGE — The Alaska Railroad is making final preparations for the first U.S. rail shipments of liquefied natural gas, a fuel that could be used to alleviate air pollution problems in the state’s second-largest city.

The railroad Tuesday will send two loaded 40-foot LNG containers from Anchorage to Fairbanks as part of a demonstration. Seven more round-trips over four weeks will follow, said Tim Sullivan, manager of external affairs.

Senators file lawsuit over Walker's PFD veto

Gov. Bill Walker illegally vetoed Alaska Permanent Fund earnings that were required to be transferred to dividends, a lawsuit filed Friday by a state senator and two former state senators claims.

BOEM seeks comment ahead of possible Cook Inlet oil and gas lease sale

The federal agency that oversees offshore petroleum development took a step Friday toward a possible 2017 lease sale in Alaska’s Cook Inlet with the release of a draft environmental review.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will consider a handful of alternatives, including no sale or various conditions to protect wildlife, ahead of a possible lease sale in the inlet southwest of Anchorage in June.

Unmanned vessels deployed for Arctic research

ANCHORAGE (AP) — Researchers in the Bering Sea off Alaska’s west coast will get help this summer from drones, but not the kind that fly.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and private researchers are gathering data on marine mammals, fish and ocean conditions from two “autonomous sailing vessels” built by Saildrone, an Alameda, California, company.

“Think of a 20-foot outrigger canoe with an airplane wing sticking up from the middle,” said Chris Sabine, director of NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Lab, at a press teleconference June 3.

Shell relinquishes nearly all offshore leases in Chukchi Sea

The only company to drill an exploratory oil well in Alaska's Chukchi Sea following a 2008 federal lease sale confirmed May 10 it has relinquished nearly all of its leases.

Royal Dutch Shell PLC formally relinquished all but one of its leases in the waters off Alaska's northwest coast, spokesman Curtis Smith said.

The news was not a complete surprise. An exploratory well drilled in 2015 did not find commercial quantities of oil. Shell announced in September it was suspending exploration in Alaska waters.

Lynch rejects state prosecution of Bill Allen

The Justice Department has again refused to allow the state of Alaska to file child exploitation charges against a businessman who testified in the corruption trial of the late U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch rejected the state's request Tuesday to prosecute Bill Allen under federal law.

Lynch says the decision not to prosecute Allen was not made because of a deal for his testimony.

In a letter to Alaska's attorney general, Lynch says such a prosecution can only be brought when evidence is likely to secure a conviction.

Supreme Court overturns appeals court in Sturgeon case

The U.S. Supreme Court on March 22 overturned a National Park Service ban on the use of hovercraft by a moose hunter within a national preserve in Alaska, but in a narrowly focused ruling, sent the case back to a lower court for additional consideration.

Appeals court upholds designation of polar bear habitat

(AP) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service followed the law when it designated more than 187,000 square miles — an area larger than California — as critical habitat for threatened polar bears in Alaska marine waters and its northern coast, an appeals court ruled Monday.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeal reversed a 2013 lower court decision that the designation was too extensive and not specific.

A spokesman for the Center for Biological Diversity, which petitioned to designate polar bears as a threatened species, called it a victory for the marine mammal.

Testing finds no nuke-disaster radiation in Alaska seafood

Alaska seafood has not been tainted by the Fukushima nuclear disaster four years ago, according to test results announced Nov. 30 by a state agency.

Alaska health authorities working with the federal Food and Drug Administration pronounced Alaska salmon, cod, halibut and other species free from radioactive contamination connected to the power plant damaged in Japan more than four years ago.

A 9.0 earthquake on March 11, 2011, generated a 130-foot wave that devastated 217 square miles in Japan. About 16,000 people were confirmed dead and nearly 2,600 were never found.

More, smaller icebergs may show up in Alaska tanker lanes

Icebergs that threaten tankers carrying oil from the trans-Alaska pipeline are likely to be smaller but more numerous over the next two decades, according to a study by a citizens oversight group.

Ice that calves off the Columbia Glacier near Valdez has to travel farther to reach shipping lanes because the glacier has receded more than 10 miles since 1980, according to the report prepared for the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council. The longer distance to Prince William Sound means icebergs have more opportunity to shrink from melting and fracturing.

Shell abandons Arctic oil drilling

Royal Dutch Shell is giving up on its expensive and controversial push to produce oil in Alaska's Arctic waters, a decision that darkens the long-term oil prospects of the U.S. and brings relief to environmental groups that had tried desperately to block the project.

Shell is abandoning the region "for the foreseeable future" because it failed to find enough oil to make further drilling worthwhile.

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