Morning Headlamp — AK Lawmakers extend session beyond 90 days, still looking for consensus

“We’re moving.” After failing to come to consensus on many outstanding issues in the 90-day legislative session, Alaskan lawmakers have extended the session ultimately in search of a budget agreement. In addition, lawmakers hope to find common ground—or at least manufactured common ground—on Governor Bill Walker’s legislation to reform Alaska’s oil tax credit subsidy program, to restructure the Permanent Fund to help pay for state government, and to institute a personal income tax. “What you don’t see is the behind-the-scenes negotiations going on,” Rep. Charisse Millett, said in an interview Sunday afternoon. “We’re moving.” The key issue for lawmakers remained Walker’s legislation to reform the state’s oil tax system. Millett, the House majority leader, also said the floor votes and debate weren’t stopping progress on the oil tax bill. She said putting together a deal on the complex legislation takes time because of back-and-forth needed with subject experts. Headlamp hopes that behind-the scenes negotiations on the oil tax bill don’t include raising taxes on an industry that is cash-flow negative. 

According to the Peninsula Clarion AKLNG managers are moving forward on field work planned for this summer, including water tests, offshore work and borehole drilling onshore in Nikiski. “The purpose of this year’s program is really to hone in on the equipment locations,” project advisor Jeff Raun said. “We’re getting those site-specific geotechnical data and information by drilling more holes in the proposed locations of the major equipment for the facility, and we’ll be providing that information to FERC so they can review it and say, ‘Yep, looks good.’” The one new component will be water tests. Residents have raised concerns about the proposed plant’s water use, worrying that such a large plant will reduce the amount of water available for locals. Geotechnical information has shown three aquifers beneath Nikiski, two shallower and unconfined, the third deeper and confined, Raun said. Headlamp is happy to see progress being made somewhere in the state. Amid gridlock in state politics, the private sector continues to chug along through a low-price climate.

Marleanna Hall, executive director of the Resource Development Council penned a commentary in the Alaska Dispatch News disputing claims made by a recent op-ed from Charles Wohlforth purporting the “twilight” of fossil fuels. According to Hall, “Wohlforth’s claim that Alaska’s fossil fuels are “entering their twilight” is just not realistic. With some of the richest deposits of oil, gas, and mineral reserves in the world, our future of developing these natural resources remains bright. According to the 2015 BP Statistical Review of World Energy, Alaska’s oil and gas reserves represent a full one-third of the reserves in the U.S., and according to a 1986 report to the Alaska Division of Geological and Geographical surveys, Alaska is home to about 19 percent of the world’s known coal reserves.”

 

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First Reads

Alaska Legislature extends session with only hints of progress on key issues
Alaska Dispatch News, Nathaniel Herz, April 17, 2016

Alaska’s Permanent Fund Loses Its Sacrosanct Status
Wall Street Journal, Jim Carlton, April 16, 2016

Alaska LNG plans water testing, drilling for summer work
Peninsula Clarion, Elizabeth Earl, April 17, 2016

Fossil fuels have a great future in Alaska, despite the wishes of some
Alaska Dispatch News, Marleanna Hall, April 17, 2016

Alaska income tax delayed until 2019 under new House proposal
Alaska Dispatch News, Nathaniel Herz, April 17, 2016