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