Morning Headlamp: Another Alaska project shelved.

Alaska State Capitol
Alaska State Capitol

Broken promises. Project paused. For the second time this summer, an oil company is pressing pause on a project in Alaska because the state hasn’t repaid oil tax credits owed to them. BlueCrest Energy Inc. says it’s halting work on a project on the Kenai Peninsula, near Anchor point after the lawmakers and Governor Bill Walker agreed not to pay off cash credits to the company. Speaking from Texas, BlueCrest Energy’s CEO and President, Benjamin Johnson, broke the news in a phone interview with KTVA Tuesday afternoon. “Without the money that the state owes us from the tax credit payments, we frankly just can’t continue spending that money that we don’t have in the short-term,” said Johnson, adding that the decision had been made just minutes prior at a board of directors meeting in Fort Worth. Headlamp reminds readers that when people say tax credits were “fully funded,” they are wrong. Fully funded means that the money owed for work done is paid, in FULL. Paying the statutorily required minimum does not FULLY fund anything. 

THE NEPA nemesis. The story of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System is the stuff of legends. The saga began shortly after Alaska became a state in 1959, when a young geologist convinced Alaska leaders to claim ownership of 1.6 million acres of frozen tundra along the Arctic Ocean. Nine years later, an exploration team drilled a well into the heart of those North Slope lands and discovered the largest oil field in North America. Oil companies with leases in the region were eager to commercialize their crude. But before the first shovel of dirt could be dug, the industry found itself enmeshed in the state of Alaska’s bitter dispute over Native ancestral land claims. Congress ultimately stepped in to pass the largest land claims settlement in U.S. history. The industry also ran headlong into a powerful new environmental law, the National Environmental Policy Act.

Big oil. Big impact. The US oil and gas industry’s total employment impact to the national economy in 2015, combining operational and capital investment impacts, amounted to 10.3 million full-time and part-time jobs and accounted for 5.6% of total US employment, according to a study commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute and conducted by PwC LLP. The jobs total included a 500,000 increase between 2011-15, encompassing both the shale boom and the onset of a downturn in oil and gas prices that began in the summer of 2014. Despite a down year, the industry’s total impact on US GDP in 2015 was $1.3 trillion, accounting for 7.6% of the national total.

10 percent or more? Refiners told the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to cut biofuel quotas for 2018, arguing that a federal court decision against the agency shouldn’t prevent it from setting targets below levels enshrined in law. The administration of President Donald Trump still has the authority to waive congressional biofuel levels to avert economic or environmental harm, refiner Valero Energy Corp. and oil industry trade groups said at an EPA hearing on the issue Tuesday in Washington. Economic harm could result, industry groups said, if refiners are forced to blend more than 10 percent ethanol into the fuel supply, a level the oil industry dubs the blend wall. Headlamp would note the gasoline in Alaska is not blended with ethanol nor does the Nikiski refinery blend biofuels into its crude mix.

Revenue resignation. Alaska Revenue Commissioner Randy Hoffbeck will resign from his position later this month, Hoffbeck’s last day will be August 17, at which point Deputy Commissioner Jerry Burnett will take over until the governor announces a new appointment. “It is with mixed emotions that I have reluctantly accepted Randy’s resignation as revenue commissioner,” Walker wrote in a press release. “For three years, Randy has been an integral member of this administration, spearheading the state’s efforts to create a plan that steers Alaska toward a sustainable future.” In his resignation letter to the governor, Hoffbeck said he plans to continue pursuing religious work after his departure. Hoffbeck completed a master of divinity degree in October 2014, around the time he was asked to join Walker’s administration. Headlamp thanks Commissioner Hoffbeck for setting aside his personal life to serve the state in such a tough time. Best wishes. 

Stevens files for Lite Gov. Longtime Kodiak resident Republican state Sen. Gary Stevens will run for lieutenant governor in 2018.  Stevens has spent almost 18 years in the Alaska legislature. Before that, he was a familiar face in Kodiak’s local government. He’s served as mayor of both the Kodiak Island Borough and the city of Kodiak and was also school board president. Stevens has been in the senate since 2004, and previously served as a member of the Alaska House of Representatives. He said it’s been in the back of his mind to run for the position of lieutenant governor. Now that he’s in the first year of a four-year term, he said he’s in a good position to do it.

Russian Loophole. A gap in U.S. sanctions allows Western companies to help Russia develop some of its most technically challenging oil reserves, and risks undermining the broad aim of the measures, a Reuters investigation has found. When Washington imposed the sanctions on Moscow in 2014 over its annexation of Crimea and role in the Ukraine conflict, the U.S Treasury said it wanted to “impede Russia’s ability to develop so-called frontier or unconventional oil resources.” The restrictions were designed to prevent Russia countering declining output from conventional wells by tapping these hard-to-recover reserves which require newer extraction techniques like fracking, an area where it relies on Western technology.

First Reads:

Study: US oil, gas industry supported 10.3 million jobs in 2015
Oil & Gas Journal, O&G Editors, August 1, 2017

Big finds, bitter clashes and NEPA: The tale of Trans-Alaska
E&E News, Margaret Kriz Hobson, August 2, 2017

Refiners Argue EPA Can Cut Biofuel Quota Despite Defeat in Court
Bloomberg, Jennifer Dlouhy and Ari Natter, August 1, 2017

BlueCrest Energy halts project on the Kenai, says state credits are the cause
KTVA, Liz Raines, August 1, 2017

Alaska Revenue Commissioner to resign
KTUU, Cameron Mackintosh, August 1, 2017

State Sen. Gary Stevens files to run for lieutenant governor
Alaska Public Media, Kayla Desroches, August 1, 2017

Sanctions gap lets Western firms tap Russian frontier oil
Arctic Now/Reuters, Nerijus Adomaitis and Katya Golubkova, August 2, 2017