Elwood Brehmer

BLM seeks input on opening entire NPR-A to leasing

The Bureau of Land Management wants to know if any more of the nearly 23 million-acre National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska should be open to development of its namesake resource.

The Interior Department agency that oversees the NPR-A on the western North Slope is soliciting interest in the roughly 11 million acres former President Barack Obama’s administration made off limits to oil and gas leasing in 2013, according to an Aug. 7 press release from BLM’s Anchorage office.

State gasline corp. gets favorable ruling from IRS

The Alaska Gasline Development Corp. has cleared another of many hurdles in its effort to monetize the state’s North Slope natural gas resources.

The state-owned corporation announced Tuesday morning it qualifies as a federally tax-exempt political subdivision of the State of Alaska, according to a ruling it received from the Internal Revenue Service.

State gives conditions for ConocoPhillips to explore Tofkat leases

ConocoPhillips is on the clock again for North Slope leases it gave up years ago and has spent the better part of the last two trying to get back.

Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Andy Mack issued a decision Aug. 3 giving the oil major another shot at a relatively small piece of sought-after acreage tucked between the company’s large Colville River field and Armstrong Energy’s massive and ever-growing Nanushuk oil discovery.

The catch is ConocoPhillips has until Aug. 14 to agree to Mack’s decision, which comes with a long list of contingencies.

Unpaid credits lead to pause in BlueCrest drilling

BlueCrest Energy Inc. is preparing to pause drilling work at its Cook Inlet oil development because the State of Alaska owes the company about $75 million in refundable tax credits, but CEO Benjamin Johnson said he hopes the hiatus will be short-lived.

Fort Worth, Texas-based BlueCrest is the sole owner and operator of the Cosmopolitan oil project on the edge of the Inlet near Anchor Point on the Kenai Peninsula.

On-time performance dips as Alaska Air integrates Virgin

Alaska Air Group Inc.’s financials are still very strong after turning a $296 million profit in the second quarter, but company executives acknowledge uncharacteristic operational challenges have beset the airline company as it continues to integrate Virgin America into its formerly stellar business.

“To be direct, our operational performance has not met our expectation in the first half of the year, but we’re on the road to recovery now,” said Brad Tilden, CEO of the Seattle-based parent company to Alaska Airlines, regional carrier Horizon Air and of-late Virgin America.

AEDC: Recession extended by inaction

Anchorage Economic Development Corp. CEO Bill Popp believes Alaska’s recession will last another year, due in large part to continued inaction from state lawmakers.

Popp spoke July 26 at AEDC’s annual three-year Anchorage economic forecast presentation.

He said the absence of state fiscal reforms has led to uncertainty from businesses and consumers who don’t know where and at what level taxes or further spending cuts will be levied has artificially slowed economic activity in Anchorage and statewide.

Fireworks fizzle after alleged threat over vote

The political fireworks lit by Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s vote against Senate Republicans’ push to quickly repeal the Affordable Care Act so far appear to have been duds, which could be a good thing for many in Alaska’s resource development industries.

The seemingly odd mix of health care and resource issues was blended July 26 when Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke called Murkowski and Sen. Dan Sullivan separately on behalf of President Donald Trump and expressed displeasure with her vote.

CP earns $199M in Alaska but down $3.4B overall

ConocoPhillips netted $199 million in Alaska in the second quarter, but still lost $3.4 billion overall as the oil major continues to reform its operations to be more competitive at lower market prices.

Despite the face value hit to his company’s balance sheet, ConocoPhillips CEO Ryan Lance said in a July 27 statement that substantial progress was made in the second quarter in the ongoing effort to transform the company.

Zinke call has Sullivan ‘very concerned’ after Tuesday vote

(Editor's note: This story has been updated to include a Thursday morning statement from Sen. Murkowski.)

There may be something more in store for Alaska than a critical tweet from President Donald Trump to the state’s senior senator.

On Wednesday morning the president scolded Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Twitter for her Tuesday vote against opening debate in the Senate to repeal the Affordable Care Act, writing that she “really let Republicans, and our country, down yesterday. Too bad!”

Delegation, Walker want new route around Cooper Landing

Alaska’s congressional delegation and Gov. Bill Walker have once again joined forces to fight a federal agency decision, this time demanding a new route be chosen for diverting the Sterling Highway around Cooper Landing.

Walker, Rep. Don Young and Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan sent a joint letter July 18 to the secretaries of the Agriculture, Interior and Transportation departments urging them to select an alignment that would take the Sterling Highway farther north of Cooper Landing than the path chosen in December 2015.

Judge denies request for more evidence in $37 million LIO claim

A judge’s decision in the case of a $37 million claim against the Legislature for abandoning its former Downtown Anchorage offices means the final ruling will likely be based on the existing public record.

Alaska Superior Court Judge Mark Rindner denied a motion by the owners of the former Anchorage Legislative Information Office building on Fourth Avenue for a hearing de novo, or a hearing to submit supplemental evidence, because there are still unanswered legal questions in the case.

U.S. House approves King Cove road with bipartisan support

The contentious road out of King Cove is, again, halfway to being built.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed standalone legislation Thursday approving a state-federal land swap to needed to facilitate construction of the 11-mile, single-lane gravel road to complete a 30-mile connection between the Alaska Peninsula communities of King Cove and Cold Bay.

The King Cove Land Exchange Act passed the House by a vote of 248-179 with bipartisan support. It now heads to the Senate.

Former DNR commissioner tapped for high Interior post

Another Alaskan has found a spot in President Donald Trump’s administration.

The president nominated former Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Joe Balash to serve as assistant Interior Department secretary for land and minerals management on Wednesday.

A native of North Pole, Balash is currently chief of staff to Sen. Dan Sullivan, who preceded him as Natural Resources commissioner under former Gov. Sean Parnell. Balash was a deputy DNR commissioner from 2010 to 2013 prior to leading the department until late 2014.

Unpacking House Bill 111

Once Gov. Bill Walker signs House Bill 111 into law, cashable tax credits to oil and gas companies working in Alaska will be a thing of the past.

But the bill that became contentious in legislative debates — despite House Democrats, Senate Republicans and Walker agreeing on the major aforementioned policy change — has many other subtle but substantive provisions.

For starters, it does not end all tax credits, or even all of them related to oil and gas projects.

Bristol Bay study stands, but EPA moves to halt its finding

Is Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt just putting the shoe on the other foot?

The EPA announced July 11 that it was starting the process to withdraw the proposed determination reached under President Barack Obama’s administration to prohibit large-scale mining in Bristol Bay — a roundabout way of saying the Pebble mine project.

A 90-day public comment period on the proposed withdrawal is now open through Oct. 17.

S&P joins Moody’s in downgrading state

S&P Global Ratings has made good on its warning, joining Moody’s Ratings Service in downgrading the State of Alaska’s credit ratings once again as legislators struggle to mend the state’s increasingly tattered finances.

S&P knocked the State of Alaska-backed general obligation rating down one notch to AA from AA+ early July 18, citing a “continued lack of agreement on fiscal reforms to return the state to structural balance,” in a statement accompanying the action.

Unfinished business remains for Legislature

Gov. Bill Walker thanked legislators for repealing the state’s remaining oil and gas tax credits, discussed the highlights of a recent governors conference and outlined his view for getting the state to a long-term fiscal plan in a ranging press conference Monday.

While Walker was in Rhode Island over the weekend attending the National Governors Association summer meeting, he said he stayed awake until about 4:30 a.m. Sunday to watch legislators do the clock limbo to pass House Bill 111 before the special session ended Sunday at midnight.

Credit agency downgrades Alaska

As promised, the State of Alaska’s creditworthiness has taken another hit, just not from the latest raters to warn it was coming.

Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the state’s general obligation debt rating from Aa2 to Aa3 late Thursday with a continued negative outlook — equivalent to a downgrade from AA to AA- on the scale commonly used by other agencies.

It is the third time in less than two years that Moody’s has downgraded Alaska, each time citing the state’s continued multibillion-dollar annual budget deficits.

ConocoPhillips putting LNG plant in deep freeze

Unable to find a suitable buyer, ConocoPhillips is preparing to fully shut down its once-renowned Kenai LNG plant.

ConocoPhillips spokeswoman Amy Burnett wrote in a statement Wednesday that the company is preparing to put the plant into long-term shutdown mode this fall.

“The reduced operations will focus on continued preservation of the facilities for future LNG exports,” Burnett wrote.

House maneuver proposes no deductions on oil taxes

Despite being locked in a rhetorical battle over who can compromise more, House Democrats and Senate Republicans still can’t agree on what the state should offer in lieu of refundable oil tax credits.

The sides held an overall rather odd conference committee meeting on House Bill 111 Wednesday afternoon with Democrat members in Anchorage and Republicans teleconferencing from Juneau, where the Senate has reconvened.

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