Headlamp – My heart will go on for $80,000.

My heart will go on…for $80,000. The eco-focused Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation has awarded an $80,000 grant to an Alaska group working to protect waters in the southeastern part of the state from Canadian mining projects. The Juneau Empire reports that the grant to the Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission was announced last week, and it was among the more than $20 million in grants the actor’s foundation has given to more than 100 organizations around the world this year. Commission Chairman Frederick Otilius Olsen Jr. says the grant will help the group’s work in unifying the indigenous voice in protecting the environment from industrialization occurring across the border. The commission is made up of 16 federally-recognized tribes, and it’s seeking to reach an agreement with Canada on protecting salmon habitat on shared waters.

A “Very Good Marriage” with China. The US resources-rich state of Alaska sees natural gas as a new catalyst for closer mutually beneficial ties with China, its largest trading partner, a top local executive said. “We feel the Alaska liquefied natural gas (LNG) project is a perfect opportunity for bilateral trade and cooperation between China and America’s largest state,” Keith Meyer, president of the Alaska Gasline Development Corp (AGDC), told Xinhua in a recent interview, together with Alaska Governor Bill Walker, in Anchorage, Alaska’s biggest city. Meyer was talking about a mega-project that involves an 800-mile (about 1,300 kilometers) gas pipeline from the North Slope to south Alaska, where the gas can be super-chilled into LNG and loaded into oceangoing tankers. If built, the state-run project, which is estimated to cost more than $40 billion and would export up to 20 million metric tons per year of LNG to overseas markets. “So we look at the 1.4 billion people in China and their need for the clean burning natural gas that we have,” Walker said, adding that China, now the world’s second largest economy and biggest energy consumer, is moving fast from coal toward cleaner fuels.

The name is Bond. Aurora Exploration has filed petitions with the Alaska Oil and Gas Commission and with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Alaska, challenging an AOGCC order requiring a $6 million bond if Aurora Exploration purchases the Nicolai Creek gas field from Aurora Gas. And AOGCC has agreed to reconsider its order. As reported in the Sept. 10 issue of Petroleum News, Aurora Exploration had proposed to AOGCC a $200,000 bond for the eventual plugging and abandonment of the six wells in the gas field onshore the west side of the Cook Inlet. However, AOGCC demanded a $6 million bond, on the basis that each well might cost $1 million to plug and abandon. As an alternative, Aurora Exploration can establish a $200,000 bond if the company also undertakes to plug and abandon three wells in Aurora Gas’s Three Mile Creek gas field, AOGCC has said. Aurora Exploration has no plans to acquire the Three Mile Creek field.

More zinc on the way. After getting off to a relatively slow start, the Red Dog zinc mine in Northwest Alaska is finishing 2017 strong. Teck Resources Ltd., the operator at Red Dog, said it now expects the mine to produce up to 550,000 metric tons of zinc this year, which is about 12 percent more than the company was anticipating at mid-year. Adding to the good news for near-term production at Red Dog, Teck reported promising results from a major exploration program at Aktigiruq, a significant high-grade zinc deposit the company is exploring about 7.5 miles north of the Red Dog mill. “We are pleased with the significant improvements in recovery at our Red Dog Operations in the last few months and consequently production will now exceed previous guidance for the year by approximately 50,000 tonnes (metric tons),” Teck President and CEO Don Lindsay said on Sep. 18. “As well, our exploration results at our nearby Aktigiruq deposit show its potential to be one of the best undeveloped zinc deposits in the world.”

Capped hybrid head tax. Say what? Gov. Bill Walker is proposing a new tax to close part of the gap between what the state government spends and what it brings in. The tax would be a flat 1.5 percent of wages and self-employment income. But there would be a limit in how much anyone pays. No one would pay more than twice what they receive in an Alaska Permanent Fund dividend. State Commissioner of Revenue Sheldon Fisher said the administration decided against asking for more new revenue bills. “We feel like we are most successful – and when I say we, I mean the administration and the Legislature working together – are most successful when there’s a single item of focus,” Fisher said. Both state residents and non-Alaskans working in the state would pay the tax. Administration officials have a mouthful of a name for the tax: the “capped hybrid head tax.” It’s not a true head tax, in which every person pays the same amount.

Murkowski frustrated by roadless rule. U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today released the following statement after a judge from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a lawsuit from Alaskans seeking to overturn the 2001 national Inventoried Roadless Rule. “While I am still reviewing this decision, I am deeply disappointed to see it handed down,” Murkowski said. “A judge can dismiss a case, but Alaskans cannot dismiss the negative impacts the roadless rule is having on our communities. The rule has decimated our timber industry and serves mainly to prevent the access needed to construct everything from roads and power lines to energy and mining projects. I recognize the damage this rule is causing, particularly in Southeast, and will pursue every possible legislative and administrative option to exempt us from it.” The roadless rule was imposed by the Clinton administration just days before it left office in January 2001. It prohibits timber harvesting and road construction on 9.5 million acres in the Tongass National Forest, an area nearly twice the size of New Jersey, and impacts every community and industry in that region. The rule also applies to 5.4 million acres of land in the Chugach National Forest in southcentral Alaska.

XTO works to reduce methane emissions. Exxon Mobil is launching a new program focused on reducing methane emissions and leaks from its U.S. oil and gas production and pipelines. The project is focusing on installing environmentally efficient equipment and more leak-detection sensors throughout its onshore shale oil and gas operations in the U.S. Exxon Mobil’s XTO Energy subsidiary is leading the project. The energy sector – including oil and gas production and coal mining – is the largest source of U.S. methane emissions, which are a major contributor to the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.S. Energy Department. Methane is a primary component of natural gas, and the surging gas production from the shale boom has given rise to increasing methane emissions throughout much of the past 15 years. “We need to minimize our impact on the environment,” said XTO President Sara Ortwein. “Focusing on emissions reductions – and here with methane – is one more step.”

Spill response efforts continue. Response efforts are continuing to clean up a crude oil spill at the Valdez Marina Terminal. Officials with the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company say “crews have recovered approximately 221 gallons of emulsified oil and water, which would indicate a spill larger than initially estimated.” Approximately 185 people have been involved in the response and there are more than 120 responders in the field. Efforts are focused on protecting sensitive areas around Port Valdez that include the Solomon Gulch Hatchery and Valdez Duck Flats – both areas were boomed overnight. Wildlife personnel are on the water and are equipped to respond and shoreline cleanup crews are mobilizing for action later this morning, said the spill fact sheet. The Alyeska Pipeline Service Company says “the source of the spill is secure and contained, and the piping has been flushed with salt water.”

First Reads:

Alaska sees natural gas new catalyst for closer ties with China
China Daily, September 25, 2017

Aurora Exploration appeals AOGCC’s $6 million order for Nicolai Creek
Petroleum News, Alan Bailey, September 14, 2017

Mining News: More Red Dog zinc
Petroleum News, Shane Lasley, September 14, 2017

Walker pitches 1.5 percent income tax with a limit
KTOO Public Media, Andrew Kitchenman, September 22, 2017

Exxon Mobil launches new methane emissions reduction program
Houston Chronicle, Jordan Blum, September 25, 2017

UDPATE: Crews recover around 221 gallons of emulsified oil and water from Port Valdez
KTUU, KTUU Staff, September 22, 2017

Leonard DiCaprio Foundation awards grant to Alaska group
KTUU/Associated Press, September 24, 2017