Headlamp – More Alaskans in DC; lots of questions for AGDC.

Good news for the United States, great news for Alaska! A longtime Alaska Native corporate leader is being nominated by President Trump to oversee Indian Affairs for the U.S. Department of Interior. Tara Sweeney is executive vice president of external affairs for Arctic Slope Regional Corp. — the largest Alaska-owned business — and is a previous co-chair of the Alaska Federation of Natives, which is holding its annual convention in Anchorage this week. She’s from Utqiaġvik, previously known as Barrow, and is Inupiaq. The Trump administration announced Sweeney’s nomination as assistant Interior secretary for Indian Affairs around 6:30 p.m. Alaska time, way after hours on the East Coast. Within minutes, the Alaska congressional delegation responded with strong praise. AFN leaders and Gov. Bill Walker soon did the same. Headlamp congratulates Tara on her appointment! Like the other Alaskans working in the Trump administration, we look forward to celebrating your accomplishments.

Let’s agree to disagree? A 40-year battle over oil drilling in an arctic wildlife refuge in Alaska could become the latest political irritant in a growing list of disagreements between U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. U.S. plans to lift a decades-old ban on exploring and drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are underway, with both the White House and Congress working on regulations and legislation to make it happen. Trump campaigned on getting the U.S. to produce more oil on its own and his sights now are set on the refuge, a protected area in the northeast corner of Alaska which covers an area bigger than New Brunswick.

House and Senate divided, yet again. Members of the Alaska Senate do not plan to spend all their time in Juneau when the fourth special session this year convenes in the capital city next week. Senate President Pete Kelly told The Associated Press that after starting the session Oct. 23 in Juneau, the Senate plans to hold hearings in Anchorage on budget and tax issues. The Senate will return to Juneau when there’s something to act on, he said. House Speaker Bryce Edgmon said the House plans to conduct its work in Juneau. Edgmon said the Capitol has the infrastructure in place to host the session and that meeting in Juneau will allow for lawmakers’ work to be broadcast on a statewide public affairs channel. Headlamp appreciates efforts to have hearings in Anchorage where government is more accessible to the people.

Details, details, details – that’s what Legislators want. The Alaska gas line agency in charge of the proposed natural gas pipeline megaproject is spending about $3 million a month and is not planning to ask the Legislature for more money in the next fiscal year, project officials said Monday in a tense meeting with skeptical lawmakers. Lawmakers said they weren’t happy with the limited financial information the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. had provided for the joint House and Senate Resources committee meeting, part of a regular update to lawmakers about the $43 billion Alaska LNG project. Legislators and citizens need detailed expenditure breakdowns of the sort lawmakers have received in the past, said Sens. Cathy Giessel and Natasha von Imhof, Republicans from Anchorage.

Santa and deadlines…Coming in December! Corporation Senior Vice President Frank Richards told lawmakers in Anchorage on Monday that the corporation’s board is operating under a December 31, 2017 deadline to find a customer for Alaska’s natural gas. It has been ten months since the state took the lead on the mega-project that would transport natural gas from Prudhoe Bay to Cook Inlet, then ship it to buyers in Asia. Members of finance and resources committee in both the state House and Senate met to hear a quarterly report on the progress of the project. Corporation President Keith Meyer was not at the meeting, Board Chairman Dave Cruz said he is in Asia marketing the state’s gas. So, Cruz started the meeting and began by asking lawmakers to consider the impact that their discussions with members of the media can have on the corporation’s efforts to market the project.

Still trying to build the road. The Interior Department is preparing to set aside a decades-old ban on development in federally protected wilderness areas by pursuing a controversial proposal to build a nearly 12-mile road through a wildlife refuge in Alaska. The project in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge has long been a priority for Alaska officials, who say it is a “lifesaving” link needed to connect a remote Aleutian Islands town of 925 people with the rest of the state. The proposal, which entails turning federal land over to a tribal corporation, fits neatly with the Trump administration’s broader goal of giving more control to local communities like King Cove.

First Reads:

Alaska Native corporate leader tapped by Trump for top Indian Affairs job
Alaska Dispatch News, Lisa Demer, October 16, 2017

Yukon chief seeks Trudeau’s help to stop U.S. oil drilling in caribou habitat
CBC News, The Canadian Press, October 16, 2017

Alaska Senate to split session time in Juneau, Anchorage
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner/AP, Becky Bohrer, October 16, 2017

The Alaska gas line agency spends $3M a month. Lawmakers want more details about its future.
Alaska Dispatch News, Alex DeMarban, October 16, 2017

State corporation sets December deadline to find customers for Alaska’s gas
Alaska Public Media, Rashah McChesney, October 16, 2017

Interior looks at behind-the-scenes land swap to allow road through wildlife refuge
The Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin, October 15, 2017

Headlamp – Watch John Stossel expose CNN’s fake news about the Pebble Project.

We’ll have a shale of a time. A shale gas drilling boom over the last decade has propelled the United States from energy importer to exporter, taking the country a giant leap toward the goal of energy independence declared by presidents for half a century. Now the upheaval of the domestic energy sector is going global. A swell of gas in liquefied form shipped from Texas and Louisiana is descending on global markets, producing a broader glut and lower energy prices. The United States was supposed to be a big L.N.G. importer, not a world class exporter. The frenzy of drilling in shale gas fields across the country changed that over the last decade, creating a glut far larger than domestic demand could possibly consume. Companies that spent billions of dollars to build import platforms suddenly had useless facilities until they spent billions more to convert them for export. You can hear an update on Alaska LNG today at 1pm at the Anchorage LIO as AGDC presents to the Senate and House Resources committees.

Conoco Phillips brings hope to Alaska. The company is planning its most ambitious exploration program in years, and the effort could provide more details about a newly promising North Slope play. The company plans to drill five exploration wells in early 2018. Three wells will help the company further analyze its large Willow prospect in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, said Joe Marushack, president of ConocoPhillips Alaska, on Thursday night. That prospect could produce 100,000 barrels of oil daily, the company has said. Two other wells will be drilled near the Colville River, not far from where Armstrong Oil and Gas has heralded a large discovery it says could produce 120,000 barrels daily. Marushack said the plans, if completed, will represent the most exploration wells drilled per year by the company in 15 years. Marushack unveiled the proposal as keynote speaker at the annual meeting of the Alaska Support Industry Alliance, at a downtown Anchorage hotel. Alaska, mired in a recession brought on by low oil prices, had the nation’s highest unemployment rate in August. The plans generated applause from the large crowd.

Alaska and the sanctity of a contract. There is a strong case to be made for the state to honor the agreements it made to fund the oil exploration companies who were selected to be included in the state’s tax credit incentive program. The state, because of fiscal constraints, has chosen not to appropriate funds to meet the contractual draws as proposed by the various qualified exploration companies. Rather, the state distributed the minimum amount (about $10 million to those companies). While the state had the authority to make a partial payment, it did not absolve the state from its contract terms. So here we are. Oil production is in decline. The state is in a fiscal dilemma with concern on how to fund its deficit. And the recipients of the state’s incentive program are having to curtail or cancel their planned exploration programs for the coming year. The alternative to doing nothing is not in the best interest of the state. It will hold back jobs and delay the likelihood of new oil and gas discoveries and affect the state’s credit rating.

Click here to watch John Stossel expose CNN’s fake news about the Pebble Project.

First Reads:

Boom in American Liquified Natural Gas Is Shaking Up the Energy World
The New York Times, Clifford Krauss, October 16, 2017

ConocoPhillips Alaska plans largest exploration season in 15 years
Alaska Dispatch News, Alex DeMarban, October 15, 2017

Alaska and the sanctity of a contract
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Frank Murkowski, October, 16, 2017

Headlamp – Increased production in spite of low prices.

Making the best of a bad situation. Alaska’s oil workforce has been hit hard by low prices, yet the companies in the state have managed to buck a longstanding trend and increase production for the last two years. So, what gives? For state Labor Department Economist Neal Fried, the curiosity in the numbers goes back further than when oil prices started tumbling from the $100-plus per barrel plateau in August 2014. “The whole trend in oil production and employment has been very interesting just because in 2015 we reached a record number of employees in oil and gas in the state’s history, which is pretty amazing given the fact that we were producing significantly less than our peak in 1988 or for many years before that,” Fried noted. He said that the decade-long run-up in oil and gas sector jobs exceeded the generally accepted notion that oil fields — the three primary North Slope fields are 17 to 40 years old — require more investment as they age.

Any port in a storm. With the federal government’s work toward creating a U.S. Arctic port stalled, existing Alaska ports from the Aleutian Islands to the Bering Strait will have to push forward on their own to support Arctic vessel activity. That was the message delivered last week at an Arctic conference in Anchorage. Representatives from the port cities of Nome, Unalaska/Dutch Harbor and St. Paul, along with an official from the Alaska Native corporation that now controls most of the territory at the previously used site of Port Clarence, said their communities all had some claim for the title of the nation’s Arctic port—while also conceding that each site has some shortcomings.

Open for business? The Trump administration and congressional Republicans in recent weeks have renewed the fight over opening part of an enormous wildlife refuge in northern Alaska to oil and gas exploration. The battle over the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which pits Republicans in Washington and much of the political and business establishment in Alaska against congressional Democrats and environmental and conservation groups, has been going on for decades. With Republicans holding both houses of Congress and the presidency, the prospects for opening the refuge, at least to studies of its oil and gas potential, are better than they have been in years. And a budget resolution introduced late last month, and supported by Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, may help pave the way. “There seems to be a decent opportunity to get this done,” said Thomas J. Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research, which promotes fossil fuels.

Walrus population “appears stable.” The Center for Biological Diversity first petitioned the feds to list the walrus in 2008 — the same year the polar bear was listed, as threatened. The Center argues the same forces that threaten polar bears — including climate change and disappearing sea ice — also put the Pacific walrus at risk of extinction. Retreating Arctic sea ice has caused more female walrus to crowd onto beaches in coastal Alaska and Russia. The crowding can turn deadly when stampedes occur. But the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service said the animal has “demonstrated an ability to adapt to changing conditions.” The agency declined to grant the walrus more protections because it said the population “appears stable.”

From The Washington Examiner’s Daily On Energy:

FERC CHAIRMAN ASSURES HE WON’T ‘BLOW UP’ THE GRID PLAN: The operative phrase thrown around Friday morning at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was “blow up,” as in NOT blowing up the electricity markets that the commission oversees. Chairman Neil Chatterjee told reporters at FERC headquarters that the goal of the commission in implementing Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s grid plan to prop up coal and nuclear power plants is not to “blow up” the electricity markets. Chatterjee said he is looking for a solution “that doesn’t blow up markets,” but that can get at the issue while also holding up in the courts.

First Reads

Slope producers doing more with less
Alaska Journal of Commerce, Elwood Brehmer, October 13, 2017

As federal plans falter, Alaska ports step up their own efforts to serve the Arctic
Arctic Now, Yareth Rosen, October 13, 2017

Drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge: How the G.O.P. Could Finally Break the Impasse
The New York Times, Henry Fountain, October 13, 2017

Environmental group to sue Trump administration over Pacific walrus
Alaska Public Media, Elizabeth Jenkins, October 12, 2017

Headlamp – Revenue sharing for Alaska. Big support for Hilcorp and the Liberty project.

Overwhelming support for Hilcorp and the Liberty project. The oil and gas company Hilcorp wants to build a gravel island in shallow waters in the Beaufort Sea, east of Prudhoe Bay. The Liberty project would be similar to several gravel islands built to produce oil in nearby state waters. The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, or BOEM, held its last hearing in Anchorage, on Tuesday, asking the public to weigh in as it prepares its environmental impact statement. Many of the speakers were from industry or trade groups, who all argued in favor of the project. “The Liberty Project represents a positive step towards perpetuation of the oil and gas industry in Alaska by curtailing oil production decline at this crucial time in Alaska’s history,” Bob Stinson said. He’s with Price Gregory, a company that constructs pipelines. Most of the speakers echoed Stinson, saying the Liberty project would give a much-needed boost to the trans-Alaska pipeline. The pipeline is now running at about 500,000 barrels per day. Hilcorp plans to produce up to 70,000 barrels per day from Liberty. Headlamp thanks Stinson, the other Alliance board members and numerous Alaskans who showed up to support Alaska’s economy and Alaskan jobs.

Big wheels keep on turning. The Dakota Access pipeline can continue operating during a new federal review of the project’s environmental impact, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday. U.S. District Judge James Boasberg said he would not vacate a previous permit while federal regulators conduct a new environmental review into the 1,170-mile pipeline. Boasberg in June ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers’ review of the project was inadequate before it granted the permits necessary to build the pipeline, which transports oil near Native American reservations in North Dakota on its way to Illinois. But in a 28-page ruling issued Wednesday, he said the deficiencies in that review “are not fundamental or incurable flaws” and that the corps has such a “significant possibility of justifying its prior determinations” that the pipeline can continue operating.

ASTRO Act and revenue sharing for Alaska. Today’s hearing was a slam dunk by the House Natural Resources Committee. Not only did the Committee bring in experts and stakeholders with their own unique offshore perspectives to the hearing, the Committee took a bold step in introducing the forward thinking ASTRO Act. By opening up the potential for hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue sharing to Alaska and the mid- and south-Atlantic states and requiring that a significant percentage of those funds go to coastal communities, the ASTRO Act will ensure that states with offshore potential will have a fair share of offshore benefits. In addition, the bill will ensure that the federal government is living up to the spirit and the intention of Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) by preventing unilateral executive withdrawals of offshore areas, giving more flexibility to the Secretary of the Interior in developing lease sales, throwing out the outdated Arctic drilling rule and analyzing the relationship between the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).

ANSEP gets kids excited about STEM. Dozens of middle school students from rural communities are spending time in Anchorage for an academy focusing on science, technology, engineering and math. The idea is to foster students’ interests in those areas early on. Yosty Storms, ANSEP regional director, said they want students to get on a path toward a career while they’re young. “At this age we just wanna expose them to what’s out there, there’s a lot they could choose to do, but we really want to engage them with STEM early on,” Storms said. Students assembled computers on Wednesday and get to keep them if they complete Algebra 1 before high school and maintain “C” grades or better in math and science classes.

AccuWeather in charge of climate research. President Donald Trump has nominated the CEO of AccuWeather to run the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a key agency in conducting climate research and assessing climate change. Barry Myers has served since 2007 as CEO of AccuWeather, a media company in State College, Pennsylvania, that provides worldwide weather predictions. He graduated from Penn State with a degree in business and received a law degree from Boston University, but has no science training. In a news release, the White House called him “one of the world’s leading authorities on the use of weather information.” Trump has nominated him to serve as the Commerce Department’s undersecretary for oceans and atmosphere, which oversees NOAA. At AccuWeather, Myers has led a global expansion of the company. His significant private-sector experience fits with many of the other high-profile Trump administration appointees.

First Reads:

Judge will not shut down Dakota Access pipeline during new review
The Hill, Devin Henry, October 11, 2017

Op/Ed: ASTRO Act Shoots For the Stars
The Marine Link, Randall Luthi, October 11, 2017

Industry, environmental groups speak out as Hilcorp paves the way for drilling in federal Arctic waters
Alaska Public Media, Elizabeth Harball, October 11, 2017

Students build computers at ANSEP middle school academy
KTUU, Samantha Angaiak, October 11, 2017

Trump nominates AccuWeather CEO to lead key climate agency
Politico, Henry C. Jackson, October 11, 2017

Headlamp – Think what could happen if Alaska paid its bills!

All’s well that ends well. Oil producer BlueCrest Alaska Operating intends to drill at least one new well in 2018 from its onshore pad between Anchor Point and Ninilchik, according to a plan of development it submitted Sept. 27 to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Oil and Gas. The Fort Worth, Texas-based BlueCrest previously halted drilling in August 2017 — after drilling two of the five wells it had planned that year — citing the state government’s nonpayment of about $75 million in refundable tax-credits owed under Alaska’s oil and gas tax credit program.

Climate change talk from Trump nominees. When asked about climate change, the nominees for senior posts at the departments of Interior and Energy have very similar answers – the climate is changing, and humans play a role. But how big a role, they can’t say. “Mr. Walker, do you believe that human activity accounts for the majority of climate change since the Industrial Revolution?”  Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., asked Bruce Walker at his confirmation hearing last month. “I think there is a contribution from man. I couldn’t quantify exactly what that is,” Walker, now an assistant secretary of Energy, said.  And here’s Douglas Domenech, a new assistant secretary at Interior: “I do agree that the climate is changing and man has a role in that.”

From the Washington Examiner’s Daily on Energy newsletter:

House Panel takes up Antiquities Act. The House Natural Resources Committee Wednesday afternoon will mark up legislation that would limit the power of presidents to unilaterally designate public land as national monuments. What’s in the bill: The bill, authored by Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the committee, would keep the ability for presidents to name national monuments as the 1906 Antiquities Act allows for. Bigger not better: But it would subject monument designations to increasingly stringent rules based on size. Many Republicans accuse former President Barack Obama for abusing the law and protecting overly large swaths of public land. Information sought: The committee also will consider a resolution requiring Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to reveal more information about his review of 27 previous national monument designations. Trump is considering ZInke’s recommendations to reduce the size of some monuments, but details of the review have not been released.

“A page from the playbook of environmentalists…” Medred on Pebble: Once thought to be on the verge of death, Alaska’s proposed Pebble prospect copper and gold mine seems to be taking on a new life. First came the July announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency of President Donald Trump that it planned to lift a proposed ban on the mine ordered by the EPA of President Barrack Obama. And now MustReadAlaska.com is reporting conservative Anchorage talk-show host Rick Rydell – a hunting, fishing and development advocate – could be in line to become EPA’s man in Alaska for the Trump. Reached by phone on Sunday, Rydell said, only “no comment.” Rydell is not unqualified for the job. He once worked as an environmental manager for Bristol Environmental Services, a subsidiary of the Bristol Bay Native Corporation. The company cleaned up old, U.S. Air Force dumpsites near King Salmon on the east edge of the bay. Friends of Rydell said he is well familiar with federal environment laws.

First Reads:

BlueCrest to drill at least one well in 2018
Peninsula Clarion, Ben Boettger, October 9, 2017

How Trump nominees talks about climate; what it means for Alaska
Alaska Public Media, Liz Ruskin, October 10, 2017

Pebble rising?
Craig Medred Blog, Craig Medred, October 9, 2017

Headlamp –Stand for Salmon = Stand for Job Loss

Stand for Salmon = Stand for job loss. A controversial ballot initiative intended to protect salmon habitat has cleared a major hurdle, setting up what could be an intense political fight. A judge in Anchorage on Monday ruled that Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott was wrong to deny the initiative, organized by the nonprofit Stand for Salmon. Mallott rejected the ballot measure in September, arguing it would tie the state’s hands and prioritize salmon habitat over other potential uses of state land, like mining or oil development. The state said if it’s enacted, the measure could complicate efforts to build projects like roads, pipelines and the proposed Pebble Mine. The initiative is also opposed by a wide range of industry groups. At a hearing last week, Valerie Brown with Trustees for Alaska, who represented Stand for Salmon, argued the ballot initiative isn’t aimed at prohibiting development, though it would add to the permitting process. Superior Court Judge Mark Rindner agreed. In his ruling, he called it “pure speculation” to predict the impact of the initiative. Headlamp has great concern with the ruling and the initiative in general. Our read is that it would in fact impact resource development and development in general throughout the state. Alaska cannot afford to be closed for business by this effort.

Big day for Alaska’s economy. Conservation groups and industry supporters will face off in Anchorage Tuesday night as federal regulators wrap up hearings on a proposal to build the first offshore oil production facility in the Arctic Ocean’s federal waters. Hilcorp Alaska’s Liberty Prospect could produce up to 65,000 barrels of oil daily, boosting the Alaska economy with increased oil production and more jobs, supporters say. Environmental forces fear development will threaten critical subsistence resources, such as bowhead whales hunted by Alaska Native communities.

Gray-Jackson files for state Senate. Former Anchorage Assembly Chair Elvi Gray-Jackson is running for office again — this time in the Alaska state senate. Gray-Jackson is launching a bid for Senator Berta Gardner’s seat after Gardner announced Saturday, she will not be running for re-election next year. After five years in office, Gardner says she’s retiring to spend more time with family. Gray-Jackson was chair of the Assembly in 2016, before hitting her nine-year term limit.

5 million barrels for Iraq? Chevron Corp. and Total SA have expressed readiness to help develop Iraq’s giant Majnoon oil field, which Royal Dutch Shell Plc said it wants to quit, according to Iraqi Oil Minister Jabbar al-Luaibi. Iraq hasn’t started negotiations with Chevron and Total on the 200,000-barrel-a-day field, al-Luaibi told reporters in Baghdad. Shell hasn’t quit Majnoon and the Iraqi oil ministry is still in talks with the producer, he said. A person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg last month that Chevron was considering buying Shell’s stakes in the Majnoon and West Qurna-1 oil fields. “Until now, we are still in talks with Shell, and no decision has been made in relation to exiting the Majnoon field,” al-Luaibi said. He hopes to “reach a satisfactory deal for the two parties.” Total didn’t immediately comment. “It’s not our policy to comment on market rumors or speculation,” a Chevron spokesman said. Shell said in an emailed statement Monday that Iraq’s oil minister “formally endorsed a recent Shell proposal to pursue an amicable and mutually acceptable release of the Shell interest in Majnoon, with the timeline to be agreed in due course.” Iraq, the second-largest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, reluctantly agreed in November to participate in production cuts to help end a global oil glut and has vowed to keep expanding capacity to be ready for the end of the deal next year. It pumped about 4.6 million barrels a day in December, just before the curbs took effect, and development of the West Qurna-1, Halfaya and Zubair oil fields could take the nation toward capacity of 5 million barrels a day, according to consultant Wood Mackenzie.

First Reads:

Hilcorp’s proposed Arctic Ocean oil development gets public review Tuesday
Alaska Dispatch News, Alex DeMarban, October 9, 2017

Judge overrules state, says salmon initiative can go forward
Alaska Public Media, Elizabeth Harball, October 9, 2017

Elvi Gray-Jackson launches bid for state senate
KTVA, Liz Raines, October 9, 2017

Iraq Says Chevron, Total Want to Work at Majnoon Oil Field
Bloomberg, Kadhim Ajrash & Khalid Al Ansary, October 9, 2017

Headlamp – Lieutenant Governor to legislators: No budget? No per diem.

No budget? No per diem. Alaskans who think their legislators are overpaid will get to decide the issue. On Friday, Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott approved a ballot measure that would stop lawmakers’ expense payments if they fail to pass a state budget on time. The measure, officially called “An Act Relating to Government Accountability to the People of the State of Alaska,” would also toughen conflict-of-interest disclosure rules, prohibit most state-paid foreign travel by legislators, further restrict the ability of lobbyists to buy food and drink for lawmakers, and restrict campaign donations from foreign corporations. Mallott’s action allows ballot measure backers — including two legislators — to start gathering signatures. According to state law, backers must have the signatures of at least 32,127 registered voters to put the measure to voters. In order to put the measure on a 2018 ballot, they need to have those signatures before the Legislature convenes in January. If approved by voters, the measure would halt per-diem expense payments for legislators when they fail to approve a state operating budget before the 121-day constitutional limit of the regular session.

“Stupid” and “job killing” climate change rule to be repealed. The Trump administration on Tuesday will formally propose repealing Barack Obama’s landmark climate change rule for power plants, a key part of the U.S. commitment to reduce emissions under the Paris accord. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt told a Kentucky audience on Monday that he will sign paperwork on Tuesday to repeal the rule, which he argued exceeded the previous administration’s authority and treated coal communities unfairly. “The Clean Power Plan, it wasn’t about regulating to make things regular,” Pruitt said Monday at an event with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), to raucous applause. “It was truly about regulating to pick winners and losers.” Pruitt gave his remarks at a Hazard, Ky., mining and construction equipment business, in the heart of Eastern Kentucky’s hard-hit coal country. The Obama rule was expected to significantly hurt the coal industry since coal-fired power plants are the biggest carbon emitters. But Pruitt’s announcement was also a rebuke of what he and Republicans see as Obama’s “war on coal.” He and other Republicans are that numerous regulations that have hurt the coal industry, which was already reeling from competition from cheap natural gas. The EPA’s announcement is the first major step toward fulfilling a key campaign promise Trump made to repeal the climate rule that he’s called “stupid” and “job-killing.”

Will OPEC move to restore market balance? Oil prices stabilized on Monday after one of the most bearish weeks in months, propped up by OPEC comments signaling the possibility of further action to restore market balance in the long term. Oil production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico started returning to service after Hurricane Nate had forced the shutdown of more than 90 percent of crude output in the area. The prospective restarts kept price gains in check. “Oil is having trouble to find direction. Mixed signals keep investors busy changing their minds,” said Hans van Cleef, senior energy economist at ABN Amro. “There is a good chance that we will continue to trade a bit sideways in the coming weeks up to the OPEC meeting.” The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is due to meet in Vienna on Nov. 30, when it will discuss its pact to reduce output in order to prop up the market.

New deadline for Dakota Access decision. Federal lawyers said Friday that the government’s court-ordered environmental review of the Dakota Access pipeline will be complete by next spring, not this year, as previously expected. In a court filing, the Army Corps of Engineers said it was pushing back its review schedule while it waits for new oil spill modeling from the developers of Dakota Access. “The Corps’ original estimate that its review and analysis of the remand issues would conclude between late November and early December 2017 was based in part upon the Corps’ understanding that it would take Dakota Access approximately thirty days to provide the requested information,” lawyers wrote in their filing. “Given the current expected time frame for the receipt of additional information, the Corps now anticipates that its review and analysis of the remand issues will not conclude until approximately April 2, 2018. The Corps is actively working on ways to shorten this timeline,” they wrote.

New Sheriff at DOA to focus on costs. Gov. Bill Walker announced Friday that he appointed Leslie Ridle to be commissioner of the Department of Administration. Ridle said her focus will be on the bottom line. “Our priorities are to create as many efficiencies as we can for the state,” Ridle said. “We’ve been working really hard to provide service to the public and to our internal agencies, to save money and to reduce costs and do as much as we can to help with the state budget.” The Department of Administration serves other state agencies, including overseeing labor relations. It also provides indigent defense and children’s legal advocacy. Ridle has served as the acting commissioner for the past month, after serving as the deputy commissioner for more than two years. The department will negotiate contracts with seven labor bargaining units in the coming year. Ridle didn’t say whether the administration will pursue pay freezes supported by some lawmakers. “We’re just getting started on most of them this fall, so of course pay will be a topic of the negotiations,” she said. “I don’t know for sure what all will come up at this point. I can’t negotiate here on the radio with you, but everything’s on the table in the beginning, of course.”

Not so special session number 4. Crime and taxes are very much on the minds of Kenai Peninsula residents as the Legislature gears up for its fourth special session this year. Gov. Bill Walker has called the Legislature back to Juneau to deal with two bills — one that would establish a statewide employment tax and another that would tweak the state’s criminal justice system, recently overhauled by Senate Bill 91. The central Kenai Peninsula delegation — Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Kenai, Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, and Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna — aren’t thrilled about having to go back to Juneau so soon. After all, they just finished their third special session in July, having been in Juneau since January. Micciche, who served as Senate Majority Leader this year, said the Senate doesn’t plan to stay in Juneau long this time. “Our request to the governor’s office from the Senate Majority was that we spend this fall wisely and that we gather in Anchorage outside of session and have work sessions where the Democrat-led House can talk about why they think we need so much more money and the Senate can talk about why we believe that we can contain costs and have less need for additional revenue,” Micciche said. “Instead, (Walker) dropped another tax. It’s not going to bring people together, it’s … going to keep people apart.”

First Reads:

EPA to repeal landmark Obama climate rule
The Hill, Timothy Cama and Devin Henry, October 9, 2017

Oil prices steady after OPEC signals possible deal extension
Reuters, Devika Krishna Kumar, October 8, 2017

Feds push back deadline for new Dakota Access review
The Hill, Devin Henry, October 6, 2017

Ridle to focus on costs as administration commissioner
KTOO, Andrew Kitchenman, October 6, 2017

Crime, tax bill on docket for Legislative special session
Peninsula Clarion, Elizabeth Earl, October 5, 2017

Lt. Gov. Mallott approves per diem ballot measure
Juneau Empire, James Brooks, October 9, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Headlamp – Pebble plan progresses. Climate change comes to town.

Nobody wins with misleading headlines. To read the title of the Alaska Public Media article on Governor Walker’s position on the Pebble Mine you’d think he was opposed to the project’s new plan they unveiled yesterday. But if you read the content of the article, that’s not at all what the Governor said. He said in part, “I do not have information sufficient for me to be comfortable or supportive of the Pebble Mine. The burden is on them to prove that it can be done without a risk to the fish in that area. It’s a high burden – it’s the highest burden, and to me, they have not met that yet.” He went on to say the EPA “overstepped” and didn’t allow the “process to play out.” Headlamp hopes the Governor and all Alaskans will take the time to educate themselves on the new plan and be supportive of the process in place.

“Quixotic” climate change comes to town. A downtown Anchorage conference room hosted an unusual meeting Wednesday, as Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott gathered a cross-section of Alaskans to brainstorm paths forward on climate change. Representatives from the oil and gas and mining industries joined environmentalists and local community leaders to spitball solutions. The Walker administration plans to use the ideas to inform a state climate policy currently in the works. About 35 people sat around tables on the second floor of Anchorage’s Dena’ina Center. Giant notepads on easels sat ready for participants to jot down thoughts, each with a label: adaptation, mitigation, research and response. “I don’t need to emphasize here that climate change is real,” Mallott told the gathering in his opening remarks, calling it a “generational” challenge. “There is no stopping what is happening,” Mallott added. But as participants gathered in groups to brainstorm, the state’s contradictions were on full display. Alaska is an oil state that sits on the front lines of global warming. The room included people who depend on oil for their livelihood, and those coping with the impacts of climate change on the ground – represented at the same table, sometimes by the same person.

LNG in the bag for CH2M. CH2M bagged a marine engineering support contract for BP’s Tortue development offshore Mauritania and Senegal. The project being developed by BP and Kosmos Energy involves subsea gas production, a floating gas treatment facility, a pipeline with domestic gas connection points and a nearshore natural gas liquefaction and export facility, creating a new African LNG hub. The hub facility provides breakwater-protected berths for a floating LNG production unit and for international export of LNG by ship. CH2M’s preliminary front-end engineering design (Pre-FEED) deliverables support final decision-making on the hub location, layout, and the form and method of construction of the inshore hub and support to marine operations and project execution planning. BP named KBR as an engineering services contractor for the Tortue development, and KBR selected CH2M as the BP-approved civil and marine engineering support provider. Civil and marine engineering support for the Tortue are being delivered in the UK by CH2M’s international terminal, pipeline and infrastructure engineering team.

The votes are in for ANWR. Yesterday, the US House passed a budget bill with support for ANWR. The vote is a major step forward for an effort that has occupied Alaska’s congressional delegation since the passage of the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, or ANILCA. The bill passed 219-206, a largely partisan vote with 18 Republican congressmen crossing the aisle to vote against it, along with all voting Democrats. The $1.1 trillion budget plan for fiscal year 2018 outlines the spending plan and priorities, including $622 billion on defense. A similar bill passed out of the Senate Budget Committee later Thursday. It is expected to head to the Senate floor in the coming weeks, after the Senate returns from a weeklong recess on Oct. 16. What’s next will require some footwork from Alaska’s congressional delegation, and a bit of luck. Allowing drilling in ANWR through budget reconciliation will ultimately require congressional success on a broad array of tax reform legislation. Similar success eluded the Senate on health care earlier this year.

Pebble plan progresses. Pebble Limited Partnership has finally done one of the things it has long been criticized for not doing: releasing an actual mine plan. CEO Tom Collier discussed the major points of the plan Thursday morning at a Resource Development Council for Alaska meeting in Anchorage. Long a topic of ample speculation, Collier said the mine plan the company plans to submit for environmental review to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in December has a footprint that is 60 percent smaller than the concept the Environmental Protection Agency used to determine Pebble’s prospective impacts in the 2014 Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment. He noted that the 1,000-plus page assessment, which Pebble contends was a biased document from its genesis aimed at stopping the project, determined a much smaller mine could pass permitting muster. Pebble’s plan is for a mine pit, waste rock and tailings storage facility to cover 5.4 square miles, which Collier described as “in the ballpark” of the 4.2 square mile project the EPA then deemed acceptable. The EPA used a concept operation covering 13.5 square miles when it concluded in the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment that what was believed to be the company’s plan was unacceptable.

Fewer workers in Alaska to tax. A new study released this week confirms what many assumed, more workers are exiting the Alaskan workforce than entering it. When the Alaskan economy was perking along in 2000, entry and exit rates were both slightly above 23 percent. By 2016, those rates had declined to around 18 percent. Research analyst Mali Abrahamson: “Downturn in 2016 was when we had fewer entrants in the labor market than exiters.  We had a lot of mass layoffs and that reversed the relationship of how many people go in and out of the workforce.” Researchers say this because the bulk of the growth in workers was in lower-turnover industries such as health care, and the aging of our workforce. Older workers are less likely to job hop than their younger counterparts. As the State prepares to start a Special Session to look at a payroll tax, if the measure passes, the burden of the whole may be carried on the shoulders of a shrinking few. Research analyst Mali Abrahamson: “Employers are slowing down hiring, and the data show that there are fewer workers in 2016 and in the previous year, and fewer jobs.”

First Reads:

Climate change roundtable puts Alaska contradictions on full display
Alaska Public Media, Rachel Waldholz, October 5, 2017

CH2M wins West African LNG project job
LNG World News, October 6, 2017

US House passes budget bill that provides option for opening ANWR to drilling
Alaska Dispatch News, Erica Martinson, October 5, 2017

CEO unveils Pebble 2.0
Alaska Journal of Commerce, Elwood Brehmer, October 5, 2017

Job Turnover Flips With Recession
KSRM, Dorene Lorenz, October 5, 2017

Headlamp – Give me an “A” for Armstrong – Give me a “B” for billion.

Billion with a “B.” The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released Armstrong Energy’s plans for its billion-plus-barrel Nanushuk oil project on the North Slope. Alaska Journal of Commerce reported Wednesday that the project in the Pikka Unit is expected to produce about 120,000 barrels per day of conventional light oil at its peak rate. Company CEO Bill Armstrong says an exploratory well and sidetrack drilled last winter about 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of the project area indicated the reservoir could hold more than 2 billion barrels of oil. The company is proposing three gravel drill sites just near the Colville River delta to hold a total of 146 production and injection wells. A central processing facility to improve the oil to sales quality would also be located on the northernmost drill site pad.

I am the Walrus. Blubbery, clam-loving Pacific walruses are surprisingly resilient to the dramatic loss of polar sea ice as the planet warms and won’t be listed as an endangered species, the federal government announced early Wednesday. The decision is controversial. A scientist for a group that works to protect endangered animals called it a Trump administration “death sentence for the walrus.” But Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, the state’s all-Republican congressional delegation, Native hunters, Arctic Slope Regional Corp. and the state Department of Fish and Game all said it was the right call. “This decision will allow for the continued responsible harvest of Pacific walrus for subsistence and traditional uses by Alaska Natives,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski said in a written statement. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2008 began evaluating whether to provide extra protection to walruses under the Endangered Species Act, after the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the government. Years of court review and study culminated in the announcement.

Delay methane rule. The U.S. Interior Department will propose this week delaying parts of an Obama-era rule to limit methane emissions from oil and gas production on federal lands, a rule Congress upheld earlier in the year, a document showed on Wednesday. Under the rule, finalized by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management(BLM) two months before former president Barack Obama left office, oil and gas operators on public lands must prevent the leaking, venting and flaring of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The administration of President Donald Trump has sought to do away with the rule, viewing it as excessive environmental regulation. BLM has proposed delaying the rule’s implementation until Jan. 17, 2019 as it reviews Obama’s regulation, according to the document, scheduled to be published on Thursday in the Federal Register. The document can be seen here: bit.ly/2xZ5BPc

Climate science drama. Joel Clement, a scientist and policy expert, was removed from his job by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and reassigned to an accounting position for which he has no experience. Clement was among dozens of senior executive service personnel who were quickly, and perhaps unlawfully, reassigned in June, but he was the only person who spoke out. Interior’s inspector general is probing the reassignments to determine whether the process was legal. By law, executives are to be given ample notice of a job switch. Many of those reassigned say they were given no notice, according to attorneys who are representing some of the employees. The inspector general said Clement is on the list of employees being contacted, though Clement and his lawyer say that hasn’t happened in the more than two months since the evaluation launched.

First Reads:

Plans Released for Nanushuk Oil Project on North Slope
US News and World Report, October 5, 2017

Walruses adapt to loss of sea ice and are not endangered, feds say
Alaska Dispatch News, Lisa Demer, October 4, 2017

Trump admin plans to delay methane controls from oil, gas
Reuters, Timothy Gardner, October 4, 2017

Interior Department whistleblower resigns, calling Ryan Zinke’s leadership a failure
Washington Post, Darryl Fears, October 4, 2017

Headlamp – Repeal, then replace…the Clean Power Plan. Runoff in Kenai Mayor’s Race.

Repeal, then replace. The EPA will propose repealing the Clean Power Plan this week, then through a separate process look to replace it. Reuters obtained a copy of the yet-to-be issued proposal. There had been some questions over whether EPA would straight out repeal the Obama-era climate rules for power plants, or propose a replacement rule. Now it appears clear that they will do both. The Clean Power Plan was the signature climate rule of the Obama administration. It was challenged in court by 27 states and hundreds of industry groups as a far-reaching rule that violated the Clean Air Act.

Long-awaited Pebble Mine plans bring economic opportunity. This week, Pebble Limited Partnership is expected to publicly unveil the outline for a plan to mine the copper and gold deposit northwest of Iliamna. Those who have been briefed say the company’s plans call for a much smaller mine than discussed before, and appear to address many of the concerns raised by Bristol Bay residents and fishermen, environmentalists and the EPA. As a region, the Bristol Bay watershed has largely opposed Pebble, perhaps in increasing numbers, for the past decade. Much of the effort focused on pushing President Obama’s EPA to finalize preemptive Section 404(c) Clean Water Act restrictions that would have blocked permitting of Pebble Mine’s dredge and fill activities. Pebble filed several lawsuits, alleging in one that EPA and anti-mine activists were colluding to reach a predetermined outcome. That lawsuit found traction in the court of U.S. District Judge H. Russel Holland, who agreed to an injunction against further EPA effort until the case was resolved. President Trump’s EPA agreed to settle the lawsuit with Pebble, allowing the company to enter into a normal permitting process as defined by the National Environmental Policy Act. A caveat was added that the company must file for permits within 30 months. Ahead of CEO Tom Collier’s presentation of Pebble’s plans to the Resource Development Council in Anchorage Thursday morning, the company has been briefing some stakeholders ahead of time. Nathan Hill, the manager of the Lake and Peninsula Borough, has seen the 150-plus slide PowerPoint presentation with the company’s estimates about the size and scope of the project, and what it will mean for nearby communities.

It’s not just about mining… TAPS, dams, roads, Alaska LNG would be impacted. The future of Pebble Mine, the Susitna dam and any trans-Alaska natural gas pipeline may be determined by an obscure clause of the Alaska Constitution. On Tuesday, attorneys representing Stand for Salmon and the State of Alaska delivered oral arguments to Anchorage Superior Court Judge Mark Rindner. For little more than an hour, they explained why (or why not) Rindner should override Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, who last month ruled that a proposed pro-fisheries ballot measure is unconstitutional. “The question that I’m grappling with is, is this a (measure) that so limits the legislative body … that in effect it is an appropriation?” Rindner said. Article XI, Section 7 of the constitution states in part that an “initiative shall not be used to … make or repeal appropriations.” Stand for Salmon’s eight-page initiative is a sweeping measure to overhaul the rules for permitting construction projects that affect salmon-bearing streams. (By default, all bodies of water would be considered salmon-bearing.)

Trump tax plan – leaving renewables out…The prospects for a broad tax reform with lower corporate rates has excited business leaders and boosted the stock market — except for renewable energy. Tax reform “will make renewables more expensive,” Keith Martin, a partner at law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, said in an interview Tuesday at Infocast’s Solar Connect conference in San Diego. The reasons: reducing corporate taxes would threaten a key source of clean-power financing. A broad reform of the tax code may also lead to pricier debt for new power plants and lower savings from depreciation. And some developers are concerned about the future of two critical U.S. tax credits. President Donald Trump campaigned on tax reform, and the S&P 500 Index has gained 18 percent since the election, while the Bloomberg Global Large Solar Energy index of 16 companies has slumped 13 percent. The framework the White House proposed Sept. 27 “would disrupt the economics of clean energy projects as a consequence of making profound changes to the U.S. tax code,” according to a research report Monday from Daniel Shurey, an analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Headed for a runoff in Kenai Mayor’s Race. Charlie Pierce and Linda Hutchings are headed to a runoff election in the race for Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor, according to unofficial results of Tuesday’s election. Not counting absentee ballots, Pierce emerged in the lead after the polls closed Tuesday night, leading Hutchings and Dale Bagley for the seat. The unofficial results show Pierce taking about 39 percent of the vote, Hutchings with about 31 percent and Bagley with about 28 percent. The runoff election will be Oct. 24. Hutchings carried the majority in the city of Homer and the surrounding areas, while Pierce carried most of the central peninsula and the unincorporated communities. Bagley carried Soldotna, Seldovia and Seward and a few other areas. Under borough code, the winner of the mayoral race has to receive at least 50 percent of the popular vote to win outright. Otherwise, the two top candidates will face off in a runoff election.

First Reads:

Bristol Bay braces for long awaited Pebble Mine plans
Alaska Public Media, Dave Bendinger, October 3, 2017

Mines, roads and more may hinge on constitutional clause
Juneau Empire, James Brooks, October 4, 2017

Trump EPA to propose repealing Obama’s climate regulation: document
Reuters, Valerie Volocovici, October 3, 2017

U.S. Tax Reform Would Leave Renewable Energy Out in the Cold
Bloomberg, Brian Eckhouse, October 3, 2017

Pierce, Hutchings headed to runoff
Peninsula Clarion, Elizabeth Earl, October 3, 2017