Elwood Brehmer

No repeat of Prudhoe standoff as state approves 2017 plan

State Department of Natural Resources officials have approved BP’s work plan for the Prudhoe Bay oil and gas field without issue, a year after state demands for new information led to a summer-long standoff over the annual report.

Division of Oil and Gas Director Chantal Walsh approved the 2017 Prudhoe Bay Plan of Development May 25 in a letter to BP Alaska management.

Judge in LIO case denies owners’ request to enter new evidence

A request for new evidentiary hearings in the $37 million lawsuit brought by the owners of the now-vacant Downtown Anchorage legislative information office against the Alaska Legislature was shot down in a Wednesday state Superior Court ruling.

Judge Mark Rindner’s order means the case will likely be decided on the facts already presented — and was a win for legislators.

Zinke orders new looks at Arctic oil development

It’s safe to say the Alaska Oil and Gas Association won the day Wednesday.

Not only did new Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke deliver the keynote address at the association’s annual conference, he signed a secretarial order directing Interior agencies to review management and leasing of the North Slope National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and conduct a new oil and gas resource assessment of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain.

According to Zinke, it is believed to be the first secretarial order signed in Alaska.

Matson completes sulfur-scrubbing exhaust upgrades

Much of what Alaskans buy locally is now getting here on cleaner ships.

Pacific shipper Matson Inc. announced in May that its containership, the Matson Anchorage, is now outfitted with a “wet scrubber” system aimed at eliminating sulfur emissions from the ship’s exhaust.

The Matson Anchorage was the last of the company’s three Alaska-dedicated vessels to get the exhaust scrubbers. The Matson Kodiak and Tacoma were outfitted with the system last year.

Zinke: Role for Alaska in US ‘energy dominance’

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke hasn’t been in Alaska long, but he’s got one of the state’s unofficial mottos down.

“Fill the pipeline,” he said during a May 30 press conference in Anchorage.

“The president has said ‘energy dominance,’ and the only way that energy dominance is possible is through the great state of Alaska,” Zinke continued.

State regulators hit Ahtna with $380K fine for gas well violations

(Editor's note: This story has been updated to inlcude new information in a June 1 statement from Ahtna Inc.)

 

An Ahtna Inc. subsidiary has racked up $380,000 in fines from the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission for allegedly ignoring mandates to monitor and report the conditions of a natural gas exploration well it drilled last year.

Hilcorp looks ahead after Inlet incidents

Hilcorp Alaska leaders are ready to look ahead after a rocky start to 2017.

The company currently has two drilling rigs working in Cook Inlet, on the Steelhead and King Salmon platforms, and recently announced a $75 million plan to ultimately reduce oil tanker traffic in the Inlet.

Hilcorp found itself making unwanted headlines starting in early February when it reported a natural gas leak from one of its subsea pipelines in the central Inlet Middle Ground Shoal oil field offshore from Nikiski.

Delays continue to beset Interior gas project

Long challenged by unavoidably thin economics, the Interior Energy Project is now facing other pressures that are starting to force the hands of its developers.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently changed its classification of winter air quality problems in the Fairbanks North Star Borough from “moderate” to “serious.”

$37 million claim against Legislature gets day in court

The owners of the former Downtown Anchorage Legislative Information Office building contended in a May 19 state Superior Court hearing that legislators did not afford them appropriate recourse on a $37-million contract claim after the Legislature decided to leave the six-story building last year.

Senate passes its version of oil tax credit reform

Now the oil tax debate in the Legislature can really start.

The Republican-led Senate passed House Bill 111, this year’s oil tax credit legislation, on May 15 by a 14-5 vote along caucus lines.

On May 16, a concurrance vote in the House failed 17-22, setting up a conference committee process for the bill.

House Finance co-chair: Committee will restore AK LNG funds

A last-minute move by the state Senate to pull $50 million dedicated to the Alaska LNG Project and spend it on other state services will be reversed in the House Finance Committee, according to committee co-chair Rep. Paul Seaton.

The Homer Republican, who is a member of the Democrat-led House Majority, said in an interview Friday that he and fellow Finance leader Rep. Neal Foster, D-Nome, have no interest in de-funding the Alaska Gasline Development Corp., which is leading the project, at this point.

New life for North Slope 100 million years in the making

All of a sudden, Alaska has more than 400,000 barrels per day of new oil potential.

The North Slope, dismissed by many in recent years as a has-been conventional oil basin unable to keep up with the hip-now-with-it-and-wow shale mania of the Lower 48, is on the verge of reinvention.

In just the past year, Caelus Energy, ConocoPhillips and the Armstrong Energy-Repsol partnership have all announced oil discoveries capable of producing up to, or well in excess of, 100,000 barrels per day.

And they’re all related.

Senate Finance OK’s capital budget including tax credit funds

With the oil tax credit bill on the backburner, the Senate Finance Committee approved a capital budget bill May 9 that includes $288 million to pay down the state’s growing tax credit obligation.

Finance Co-chair Sen. Anna MacKinnon, R-Eagle River, said the appropriation, if agreed to by the House and Gov. Bill Walker, would cover roughly one-third of the about $900 million in refundable tax credits the Department of Revenue is projecting the state will owe by June 30 at the end of fiscal year 2017.

Alaska Air Group posts $99M profit in first quarter

Alaska Air Group Inc.’s impressive run of record earnings came to an end to start 2017, but the company still turned a $99 million profit in its first full quarter after acquiring Virgin America.

The Seattle-based parent to Alaska Airlines, regional carrier Horizon Air and now Virgin America reported quarterly net income of $130 million excluding merger and fuel hedging costs, according to an earnings report released April 26.

Murkowski: Health care concerns heard ‘wherever I go’

With an opportunity to discuss nearly anything on their minds, a gathering of Anchorage realtors consistently steered an April 20 conversation with Sen. Lisa Murkowski back to health care.

Murkowski said the chief issue of concern raised at the Anchorage Board of Realtors lunch continued a trend among the many Alaskans she talks to.

Referendum effort looms over plan to use Fund earnings

JUNEAU — Getting a bill passed to use Permanent Fund income to pay down Alaska’s multibillion-dollar budget deficits might be only half the battle.

Both houses of the Legislature have now passed a version of Gov. Bill Walker’s plan to restructure the Permanent Fund and reduce the amount available for dividends.

If Walker signs such a bill, one of Alaska’s political icons is prepping to repeal it.

“The greedy eyes are out,” former Republican Senate President Clem Tillion said in an interview. “If they change the law, we will change it back.”

Senate rewrites House oil tax bill

JUNEAU — Senate Republicans have a new way to get the State of Alaska out from under its $700 million oil and gas tax credit obligation and it’s based on oil companies paying each other.

Chugach kills Snow River hydropower study

Public pushback persuaded Chugach Electric Association to punt on its proposal to build a $500 million-plus hydropower project at the headwaters of the Kenai River less than four months into a decade-long process.

The Anchorage electric cooperative announced late Thursday that it is canceling further study of a concept to dam the Snow River near Seward, which is the feeder system to Kenai Lake and the upper reaches of the Kenai watershed.

Senate on offense to start overtime

The Senate is starting overtime with all the balls.

It took all session, but the Democrat-led House Majority got the final pillar of its four-part fiscal plan — an income tax — passed on the 90th day of the regular legislative session.

With that, the majority Republicans in the Senate now have the House’s version of a broad-based tax, the 2018 fiscal year operating budget, a government draw on the Permanent Fund and an oil tax and credit bill to consider, none of which they like at all.

State files largest LNG permit application ever

The Alaska Gasline Development Corp. was ahead of schedule April 17 in checking a big “to-do” off its long list of steps to get natural gas off the North Slope.

AGDC filed its formal license application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission more than two months before the end of June goal set by corporation President Keith Meyer.

The AGDC board of directors unanimously passed a resolution at its April 13 meeting authorizing management to submit the Natural Gas Act Section 3 permit application.

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