Morning Headlamp – Alaskans on the not-so-special sessions.

No laughing matter? Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says suggesting he threatened Alaska’s U.S. senators over a vote by one of them on health care is “laughable.”  Zinke said Sunday in Nevada that he regularly speaks with Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and they get along. The Alaska Dispatch News last week reported that Zinke called the two and said Murkowski’s vote against proceeding on debate about legislation to repeal the federal health care law put Alaska’s future with the administration in jeopardy.

15 ships, 15 days. Loaded with liquefied gas from Norway’s Snøhvit field, the ice-breaking LNG tanker Christophe de Margerie is making an unescorted voyage across the Northern Sea Route to South Korea.

It is the first commercial voyage of the unique vessel, originally built for company Novatek and its grand Yamal LNG project. The Christophe de Margerie loaded LNG at Statoil’s Melkøya gas terminal on the Norwegian Barents Sea coast in late July and set a course east. On Aug. 1 the ship entered the Kara Sea on its way to North Korea, Yamal LNG said. It will make it through the Northern Sea Route without icebreaker assistance, the company says, in a voyage is expected to take 15 days.

Improving industry preparedness. The Arctic Oil Spill Response Technology Joint Industry Programme (JIP) is a five-year research program focused on six key areas of oil spill response. In May, the initiative published its findings and achievements in relation to improving Arctic spill response and the industry’s overall preparedness for such an event. Some of the key outcomes of our work include finding new data on response effectiveness in different conditions which will inform decision-making at all levels, from planning through to response.

Oil forecast boosted 8%. Canadian light oil producers will drill more wells than previously expected this year as the sector benefits from investors transferring capital out of the oil sands, the Petroleum Services Association of Canada said on Monday. In an update to its annual drilling forecast PSAC said 7,200 wells will be drilled this year, 8 percent higher than its prior estimate of 6,680 wells. The industry body said it had underestimated how fast investors looking for a swifter return on capital in a low oil price environment would switch from long-term investments in the high-cost oil sands to short-cycle, liquid rich natural gas and shale oil plays.

Fishermen Fined Fifty. Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation (NSEDC) will pay $51,050 in penalties after reaching an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. According to the EPA, during a 2016 inspection it was found that NSEDC’s Norton Sound Seafood Products (NSSP) plant in Nome violated the company’s seafood processing discharge permit. The EPA said violations included exceeding the dimension requirements for seafood processing waste residues, failing to complete required record keeping and not adequately monitoring the processing plant’s waste conveyance system. Tyler Rhodes, chief operating officer for NSEDC, responded by saying the corporation takes its responsibility to the environment seriously. In an emailed statement, Rhodes said NSEDC has, “fully cooperated with the EPA in this matter which has primarily dealt with record-keeping protocols.”

Who makes the grade? KTVA asked Anchorage residents what they think of the time lawmakers have spent in session, so far. “It’s not going the way it should be, but this is Alaska,” said Jerimy Sapalo. Sapalo and many of those surveyed outside Fred Meyer in Midtown Monday evening said they haven’t been paying close attention to what’s happened in Juneau, but they did notice when the legislature and the governor agreed to cap Permanent Fund dividends at $1,100 this fall. “If they were gonna actually put those funds to good use, I could justify them cutting into the PFD to you know further the state in a positive fashion. But I just don’t see that happening,” said Ryan Morgan.

Healy calls on Seward. Last week, the US Coast Guard Icebreaker Healy spent a few days in Seward, on its way up from Seattle for their first patrol of the season in the Arctic. In Seward, the opportunities to connect with travelers who are passing through town abound. A week ago, I was fortunate to encounter a Coast Guard personnel member named Purcell at the Hertz Car Rental office on Port Avenue. I asked him about the possibility of getting a tour of the Healy. “If they are doing tours, it would be on Wednesday. Just go to the gate and they’ll call up to ask.” The following day, I did just that. Lieutenant Junior Grade Brian Hagerty met two of us at Alaska Railroad’s recently updated security gate, walked us aboard the ship and took us to the ship’s bridge, a cavernous space with three separate locations from which to steer the 420 foot long icebreaker.

First Reads:

Zinke calls it ‘laughable’ to suggest he threatened Alaska senators
KTUU/Associated Press, July 31, 2017

Russia’s new Arctic super-tanker brings Norwegian LNG to Asia
The Independent Barents Observer, Atle Staalesen, August 1, 2017

Joint initiative hones Arctic oil spill response plan, Heidi Vella, July 31, 2017

Canadian industry body boosts oil, gas drilling forecast by 8 percent
Reuters, Nia Williams, July 31, 2017

Anchorage residents give lawmakers mixed grades
KTVA, Liz Raines, July 31, 2017

NSSP plant in Nome violated processing discharge permit, agreement reached with EPA
Alaska Public Media, Davis Hovey, July 28, 2017

USCG Icebreaker Healy: America’s Presence in the Arctic Calls on Seward
Seward City News, Kelley Lane, July 26, 2017