Headlamp – “Knowledge shallower than a contact lens case.” Now you see me, Now you Don’t.

Now you see me, now you don’t…The State of Alaska offered, then abruptly revoked, help to the City and Borough of Juneau in an ongoing lawsuit. On Wednesday afternoon, the State of Alaska withdrew a legal memo it had filed Tuesday that supported the CBJ’s position in a case brought by the cruise ship industry. The withdrawal came as industry officials gathered in Juneau as part of an annual legislative fly-in. The legal memo, formally called an amicus brief, didn’t formally involve the state in the lawsuit, but it did offer a legal interpretation that supported the CBJ’s position. “The amicus brief was filed in error due to internal miscommunications,” Cori Mills, a spokeswoman for the Alaska Department of Law, told the Empire by email Wednesday. “The state will continue to monitor this case, but the state is not a party to the case nor does it directly implicate state statute.”

Alliance member NANA produces newest house member. The newest member of the Alaska Legislature has been sworn in. State Rep. John Lincoln of Kotzebue was sworn in Wednesday, one week after being appointed by Gov. Bill Walker. He was later confirmed by House Democrats. State law requires legislative vacancies be filled by someone from the same party as the predecessor. Election records show Lincoln switched from “undeclared” to Democrat on Jan. 22. Lincoln succeeds former Rep. Dean Westlake, who resigned in December after female aides accused him of unwanted touching and inappropriate comments. Westlake has said he is sorry if he made anyone uncomfortable. Lincoln is a vice president for NANA Regional Corp. He also is a pilot and has worked as an EMT for the Kotzebue Volunteer Fire Department, according to a bio from Walker’s office.

From our friends in the Senate: “ Thank you for taking the time to participate in our recent web survey. Duplicates and out-of-state submissions (424) were purged from the final tally.   See the results on-line here:”   https://www.alaskasenate.org/results

“Knowledge shallower than a contact lens case.” Nobody could blame Rep. Justin Parish for loving the sound of his own voice. The problem is that everything that comes out of the Juneau Democrat’s mouth regarding oil taxes following his baritone “Madam Chair” reveals a depth of knowledge that is shallower than a contact lens case. Parish was on full, cringe-worthy display at a couple recent hearings of the House Resources Committee, where co-chair Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, is forcing oil industry representatives to hump to Juneau yet again for more hearings on another oil tax bill that’s going nowhere. If these hearings are good for anything — other than serving as a constant reminder that the state is on track to see its third straight year of production increases on the North Slope — it is to witness the Democrat-led Majority’s utter cluelessness on policy from definitional basics to more complex financial reporting. First up was Parish questioning Tax Division Director Ken Alper, whom Democrats have relied upon since taking the House majority in 2016 to help craft their seemingly endless series of oil tax increases. At the Jan. 26 hearing, Alper had an innocuous PowerPoint slide that noted Tarr’s proposal to raise the gross minimum tax from 4 percent to 7 percent is a 75 percent increase. Parish, who once wrote that “French is the international language of freedom,” decided to wade into the universal language of math. “We are contemplating increasing the effective rate by 3 percent,” Parish said. “It’s such a curious quirk of language. Because if we were increasing it from 1 percent to 2 percent, you could say we’re increasing the effective tax rate by 100 percent.”

ConocoPhillips acquires stake in North Slope development from Anadarko. ConocoPhillips posted a big $1.58 billion profit for the fourth quarter as the Houston oil giant continues to swing back to a moneymaking venture after the oil bust. But most of those earnings came courtesy of an extra $900 million from the new U.S. tax law and a $337 million settlement with Ecuador. Without those extra dollars, ConocoPhillips still would have earned about $400 million versus a $35 million loss in the final quarter of 2016 for the full year 2017, ConocoPhillips recorded a $900 million loss as it recovers from the oil crash, versus a much larger $3.6 billion loss in 2016. ConocoPhillips said it just paid $400 million to The Woodlands’ Anadarko Petroleum to acquire its 22 percent stake in Alaska’s Western North Slope development. The Houston oil and gas producer also is using its extra profits to give more money back to shareholders, increasing the quarterly dividend from 26.5 cents a share up to 28.5 cents. ConocoPhillips is moving forward with a share buyback program and also announced the pay down of $2.25 billion in debt. “While the outlook for commodity prices has improved, our operating plan remains unchanged and we have already taken clear actions to demonstrate our commitment to maintain discipline and follow our priorities,” said ConocoPhillips Chairman an CEO Ryan Lance. Apart from the $900 million in U.S. tax law benefits and the Ecuadorian settlement from the government’s previous confiscation of assets, Lance attributed most of the profits growth to the rising oil and gas prices worldwide.

Congratulations to Usibelli Coal Mine!


First Reads:

Lincoln sworn in as newest Alaska House member
AP News, Becky Bohrer, February 1, 2018

State offers, then withdraws, help to CBJ on cruise ship lawsuit
Juneau Empire, James Brooks, February 1, 2018

Parish flunks out on oil taxes
Alaska Journal of Commerce, Andrew Jensen, January 31, 2018

ConocoPhillips posts big profit, acquires Alaska stake from Anadarko
Chron, Jordan Blum, February 1, 2018