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