Elwood Brehmer

AEDC: recession fading despite ongoing state financial issues

Anchorage is pegged to lose about another 1,000 jobs this year, but the analysts that track the numbers closely believe it could be the last year of a shrinking economy in the city.

Anchorage Economic Development Corp. CEO Bill Popp said during the group’s annual forecast luncheon Jan. 31 that the job losses this year will continue to be widespread amongst the various sectors of the city’s economy. However, the workforce reductions are expected to be smaller in almost every industry than what has been endured in the past two years of recession.

Mallott, Sullivan meet with top Canadians on transboundary issues

Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott and Sen. Dan Sullivan watched Super Bowl LII together in Ottawa and spent time strategizing on their approach to the next day’s meetings.

They were there to discuss issues as far-reaching as ocean debris, missile defense and the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canadian federal officials as well as provincial and First Nations leaders, according to Sullivan, but the priority topic brought up in every discussion was that of Canadian mines at the headwaters of rivers that terminate in Alaska.

Permanent Fund value hits $64B at fiscal year midpoint

It was a good news-bad news kind of day for Alaska Permanent Fund managers.

While the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. reported strong returns of 8.45 percent and a total Fund value of $64 billion in the first half of the 2018 fiscal year on Monday, domestic markets were also down sharply for the second consecutive trading day.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed Monday at 24,345, down more than 7 percent from the start of Friday trading.

CP rebounds, buys Anadarko Slope interests for $400M

ConocoPhillips reported its largest quarterly earnings in more than three years Feb. 1 when the company announced a profit of nearly $1.6 billion for the fourth quarter of 2017.

In Alaska, ConocoPhillips reported adjusted earnings of $283 million for the quarter and $652 million total for 2017. It also purchased all of Anadarko Petroleum Corp.’s North Slope assets for $400 million.

Alaska Air Group nets $1B in ’17 as Virgin integration continues

Alaska Air Group Inc. reported profits of just more than $1 billion in 2017 after its first full year owning Virgin America, but is still managing challenges associated with its purchase of the former competitor.

The Seattle-based parent company of Alaska Airlines also posted a $367 million profit for the fourth quarter of 2017, which compared to $814 million full-year 2016 and $114 fourth quarter 2016 profits.

Alaska Air Group executives announced the quarterly and year-end results in a Jan. 25 conference call with investors.

Oil tax bill gets chilly reception from industry

State Revenue Department officials say the oil production tax increase being debated in the House would not change bottom lines much at current market prices but company leaders stress it would further cement Alaska’s poor reputation in the oil and financial sectors.

Tax Division Director Ken Alper testified to the House Resources Committee Jan. 26 that the proposal to raise the minimum gross production tax from 4 percent to 7 percent would increase the state’s tax take by 54 cents per barrel at oil prices of $70 per barrel.

EPA’s unexpected decision welcomed by Pebble opponents

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s unexpected Jan. 26 comments expressing his environmental concerns about the Pebble mine were welcomed by mine opponents and reflected in the stock price of Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., which is the sole owner of the prospective copper and gold project.

Slope well review reveals no issues beyond those flagged by BP

An emergency engineering review of all North Slope wells ordered last October by state regulators did not reveal any significant issues but a regulation change is still likely.

The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission issued the emergency directive to North Slope production and exploration companies Oct. 30 after it was determined a BP well at Prudhoe Bay Drill Site 2 that failed and sprayed about 100 gallons of oil last April did so largely due to its outer surface casing being set in the permafrost — and the permafrost thawing and subsiding.

Alyeska, Prince William Sound council clash over tug training

Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. is at odds with the advisory group that monitors oil tanker activities in Prince William Sound over how far Alyeska’s tugboat operators should have to go to demonstrate they can operate safely in poor weather and wave conditions.

The Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council board unanimously passed a resolution Jan. 18 insisting that oil tankers and their tug escorts should not be allowed to operate in the Sound if weather conditions deteriorate beyond what has been deemed safe for training.

Producers celebrate Slope as House takes up another tax hike

Alaska leaders of the largest oil producers in the state are pointing to the recently-reversed production decline curve as proof the state’s oil tax system is working, but House Majority leaders contend Senate Republicans have forced them to again propose an oil tax increase to ease the state’s projected $2.7 billion budget deficit.

ConocoPhillips to drill Putu with unprecedented mitigation steps

ConocoPhillips is finally ready to drill into a small and long-sought piece of the North Slope, but only after agreeing to employ mitigation measures largely thought to be unprecedented, particularly for a single well.

The Putu 2 exploration well is scheduled to be spudded in early February and finished in late April with completion of a well sidetrack, according to ConocoPhillips spokeswoman Amy Burnett.

King Cove road deal checks another item on Alaska to-do list

Alaska’s congressional delegation celebrated another victory enabled by the Trump administration Jan. 22 when the Republicans revealed the details of a land swap allowing construction of a road out of the remote village of King Cove near the tip of the Alaska Peninsula.

The land exchange between the Interior Department and King Cove Corp., the area Native village corporation, will provide a 12-mile right-of-way through a portion of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.

Missile defense gets major boost from latest bill

While the Republican tax overhaul was dominating year-end headlines, a major piece of bipartisan legislation became law that also has significant implications for Alaska.

The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, signed by President Donald Trump in mid-December, allocates $699 billion to Defense agencies in the coming year.

Broad support of the annual Defense funding bill is nothing new, but wrapped in this NDAA is nearly every provision of Sen. Dan Sullivan’s Advancing America’s Missile Defense Act.

Politicians, stakeholders want conditions for Juneau utility sale

Alaskans with addresses from North Pole to Washington, D.C., are objecting to the proposed sale of the Juneau electric utility by its current Washington state-based owners to a large Ontario utility.

The cause for the North American geography mini-lesson is what will happen if the Regulatory Commission of Alaska approves the sale including the 78-megawatt Snettisham hydroelectric facility that provides up to 75 percent of Juneau’s base load power supply.

Initiative sponsors turn in signatures as BBNC shifts to neutral

Advocates of strengthening Alaska’s salmon habitat protection took a big step forward when they dumped roughly 49,500 signatures on the front desk of the Division of Elections Anchorage office Jan. 16.

The signatures from Alaskans statewide were collected by Stand for Salmon, the nonprofit aimed at reforming anadromous fish habitat permitting requirements via the ballot initiative they’ve dubbed “Yes for Salmon.”

DNR issues default to Furie for failure to drill

Department of Natural Resources officials issued a notice of default to Furie Operating Alaska Dec. 26 for failing to make good on its drilling commitments in the Kitchen Lights Unit the company operates.

In a letter to the company’s Alaska leaders, DNR Commissioner Andy Mack recalled the drilling plans the company submitted to the agency since 2015 that went unmet.

“Operation of the KLU previously and up through the present reflects a history of committing to drilling activities, but then delaying or changing those work commitments,” Mack wrote.

Permit application reveals size of scaled-down Pebble project

The official Pebble mine plan released Jan. 5 by federal regulators describes a scaled-back project relative to prior concepts, but opponents contend it is a way for the company to get its foot in the door for future expansion.

Published by the Alaska District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the plan details a project that is much more than a mine. According to Pebble’s plan documents, its reach would stretch 187 miles from the mine site north of Iliamna Lake to the edge of the Sterling Highway on the southern Kenai Peninsula.

Regulators hopeful well test can jumpstart Mustang oil project

Positive results from a well test have helped give a small independent oil company another shot at finally developing its North Slope prospect.

Anchorage-based Brooks Range Petroleum Corp. announced Jan. 8 that a late November flow test of the North Tarn 1-A at its Mustang oil project produced peak flows averaging 1,292 barrels per day with only small amounts of water.

The test confirms the company’s prior assumptions and Brooks Range expects the results will lead to accelerated development of the Mustang project, according to a press release.

Draft lease plan would open most of Alaska OCS

The Interior Department’s latest offshore oil and gas leasing proposal released Thursday juxtaposes the plan put in place late in the Obama administration in almost every way.

For starters, it would put nearly all federal waters off Alaska up for sale.

Published by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the draft 2019-2024 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program calls for 19 lease sales covering 11 of the 12 designated sale areas off the coast of Alaska.

Sullivan: Forces aligning for Alaska

Alaska is still in a tough spot, with high crime rates, the nation’s highest unemployment rate and an unsustainable state budget situation, but Sen. Dan Sullivan continues to preach “the gospel of optimism for the state. Optimism, optimism, optimism,” he said to lead off an hour-long interview with the Journal Dec. 29.

Sullivan’s positivity stems from what he believes has been an underplayed momentum for the state to go from economic struggles to successes.

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