Elwood Brehmer

Snow River hydropower concept meets immediate skepticism

The Kenai River always draws a crowd.

A standing-room only audience of more than 100 gathered April 17 in Anchorage at an informational public meeting put on by Chugach Electric Association to discuss the utility’s concept to dam the Snow River, which feeds Kenai Lake.

Oil production up for second year in a row

Don’t spend it all in one place.

Better than expected oil production and price figures mean the State of Alaska should have an extra $191 million when the 2017 fiscal year ends June 30, according to Revenue Commissioner Randy Hoffbeck.

In email, BP Alaska president details 2016 losses

BP Alaska President Janet Weiss has offered additional financial information about the company’s 2016 income after a reported $85 million profit became part of the political debate over oil taxes this week.

Big bills finally on the move as Legislature hits crunch time

Now we’re getting somewhere.

The House and Senate majorities still have large philosophical gaps to bridge, but the procedural pieces are being put in place to make that happen.

With less than a week to go in the voter-prescribed 90-day session on April 16, the House brought to the floor its version of Senate Bill 26, Gov. Bill Walker’s legislation to spin off Permanent Fund income to fund government, on April 12. An amended version of the Senate bill was passed out of the House Finance Committee April 11. The House passed the bill 22-18 along caucus lines.

DNR approves Pebble permit, with conditions

Natural Resources Commissioner Andy Mack approved Pebble Limited Partnership’s long-awaited land-use permit April 11 with stipulations that include a $2 million bond to backstop exploration cleanup.

The permit is for 12 months; Pebble had sought a permit through 2018.

Pebble applied for the miscellaneous land-use permit, or MLUP, last Oct. 13. MLUP approval for most activities is often little more than a formality, but next to nothing about Pebble is normal either, from the size of the project to the fervor it generates.

House sends oil tax rewrite to Senate

While many Alaskans were busy taking advantage of a warm spring weekend, House Majority coalition members were making up for lost legislative time by whisking their oil tax proposal onto the House floor.

A Finance Committee rewrite of House Bill 111 was introduced on Friday, moved from committee Saturday and voted on Monday. It passed the House on a 21-19 vote.

Anchorage Independent Jason Grenn was the lone majority caucus member to vote against the bill.

Changes at Anchorage operation won’t hurt rural utilities, AEA says

Rural utility operators are worried changes to how the Alaska Energy Authority handles their powerhouse projects will hurt the reliability of electrical service in communities across the state, but AEA officials say the fears are the result of a simple misunderstanding.

The usually quiet public testimony portion of the authority’s March 30 board of directors meeting was dominated by utility managers and local government administrators from small bush communities pleading with AEA directors to not close the authority’s north Anchorage warehouse.

State take quintupled BP profit in 2016

BP made $115 million worldwide last year and $85 million of those profits came from Alaska, according to the oil major’s 2016 annual report published April 6.

On the flipside, a BP spokesperson noted the company paid $464 million in taxes and royalties to the State of Alaska before realizing the $85 million in-state profit.

BP and its fellow North Slope producers have lobbied against a bill proposed by Alaska House Democrats to increase production taxes on the large Slope operators.

Anchorage utility consolidation pondered

Consolidation is the next natural step for Anchorage’s electric utilities to take in their ongoing efforts to reduce costs, according to a national consultant.

NERA Economic Consulting Director Kurt Strunk spoke March 30 to a small group of Anchorage business leaders about possibilities to mitigate energy price spikes in the city.

The roundtable discussion was the second in a series of meetings hosted by the Anchorage Economic Development Corp. about the state of the city’s electric utilities.

Incidents highlight spill response challenges in Cook Inlet

Thankfully, the Anna platform oil spill was not worse.

Hilcorp Alaska LLC, which owns the west Cook Inlet production platform and reported the spill from a pipeline April 1, estimates less than three gallons of oil made it into the water.

While some experts have said Hilcorp’s guess is a little premature, Cook Inlet Spill Response Inc. General Manager Todd Paxton said his organization’s responders did not find any oil to recover after the oil sheen was first spotted April 1.

Anchorage, railroad clash over split of federal funds

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and the Alaska Railroad Corp. are at odds over a longstanding stream of federal transportation grants that neither side will receive until the dispute is resolved.

The railroad took a $7.4 million loss in 2016 that CEO Bill O’Leary says is directly attributable to Berkowitz’s refusal to sign a joint letter the Anchorage mayor and railroad head must send to the Federal Transit Administration before $15.3 million in 2016 formula grant funds is released.

It is the first annual loss the Alaska Railroad has posted since 1999.

Chugach Electric inks deal with Furie for gas to 2033

A contract with a new producer means Alaska’s largest electric utility has secured a natural gas supply for the next 16 years.

Chugach Electric Association and Furie Operating Alaska signed a gas sale and purchase agreement March 3 for Furie to provide at least 20 percent of the utility’s natural gas needs through March 2033.

The firm supply portion of the contract commences in April 2023 for 1.8 billion cubic feet, or bcf, of gas over a 10-year term. Chugach already has contracts with other producers to mostly meet its gas needs until then.

Uber gets a lift from Senate authorization

Alaska is one step closer to putting a framework in place for transportation network, or ridesharing, companies such as Uber and Lyft, but local government officials across the state aren’t happy about it.

The state Senate passed Senate Bill 14 on March 23 to establish requirements for driver insurance coverage, background checks and a “zero tolerance” drug and alcohol policy, among other provisions.

Commission sticks with 10 days for comment on fracking

Nobody appears happy with the Alaska Oil and Gas Commission’s proposal for notifying the public about plans to hydraulic fracture oil and gas wells in the state.

The commission has suggested providing 10-day periods for public comment on well fracking applications immediately following the publishing of redacted versions of the applications to the commission’s website.

The proposed regulatory change followed a mid-December public hearing on the issue requested by Bob Shavelson, a director of the Homer-based local environmental watchdog group Cook Inletkeeper.

Japanese consortium drops Cook Inlet LNG effort

A global buyer’s market for liquefied natural gas has doomed a Southcentral gas export project.

Resources Energy Inc., a consortium of Japanese companies and municipal governments interested in Alaska’s natural gas, is stopping its work to develop a small Cook Inlet LNG plant and will close its Anchorage office on March 30.

Depressed LNG prices stemming from a global oversupply forced the venture’s hand, according to REI President Eiji Hoshio in a letter provided to the Journal.

Budget bills on the move; oil tax hike heard in House Finance

JUNEAU — The major budget bills are moving in the Legislature and the state House may have the most controversial bill of the legislative session, a bill raising oil taxes, ready for floor action the week of March 27.

Last week the Senate passed its Permanent Fund restructuring bill, Senate Bill 26, which makes a major dent in the projected $2.8 billion deficit in fiscal year 2018, the budget year that begins July 1.

Pebble, EPA pushing to settle lawsuit

With the sides reportedly closing in on a settlement, an Alaska federal judge agreed to hit pause on Pebble Limited Partnership’s lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency one more time.

On March 20 U.S. District Court of Alaska Judge H. Russel Holland signed an order to stay proceedings in the suit until May 4, the deadline by which he expects Pebble and the EPA to have reached a deal to close the case, the order states.

Explorers ready to spud Slope shale well

A small exploration partnership is prepping to drill a second well in the coming weeks into a shale prospect in a little-explored portion of the North Slope.

Australian-based 88 Energy Ltd. announced in a March 21 release that Doyon Drilling Inc.’s Arctic Fox drilling rig had reached the Franklin Bluffs gravel pad, putting the company on schedule to spud the Icewine-2 appraisal well in April.

88 Energy is the majority owner in its partnership with Houston-based Burgundy Xploration; they operate under Accumulate Energy, which is an 88 Energy subsidiary.

North Slope powers take on state over rich oil leases

ConocoPhillips insists demands by top state Natural Resources officials to push the company to drill contested leases near a North Slope village and put up millions in bonds to back the activity are arbitrary and based on a flawed recollection of key events.

The biggest North Slope oil producer made the claims in a March 15 filing requesting DNR Commissioner Andy Mack reverse his mid-February decision to prevent the company from adding the leases to the large Colville River oil unit it operates.

Oil tax bill moves on party vote

Debate on the House Majority’s oil tax and credit bill focused less on its broad monetary implications and more on late changes to that minority Republicans argue were not adequately vetted before the legislation was moved out of the Resources Committee March 14.

The Democrat-led House Bill 111, introduced by Resource Co-Chairs and Anchorage Reps. Geran Tarr and Andy Josephson, was sent to the Finance Committee for further examination after a 5-4, party line vote.

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