Morning Headlamp – Can DC Pruitt “Do It for Our Future?”  ASRC Exploration on the Move. 

Folly of forecasting. Oil production on the North Slope increased during the past 12 months as new wells more than made up for declines at older wells, said Ed King, a special assistant to the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. The increases came from ConocoPhillips Co. operations primarily, and an Exxon Mobil Corp. project to a lesser extent. At the same time, BP Plc has slowed the decline at the super-giant Prudhoe Bay Oil Field. The spring 2017 forecast from the Alaska Department of Revenue projected a decade of decline in North Slope output, without the benefit of enough information to include significant volumes from recent discoveries.

New Lease on Life.   A federal agency has approved a plan to unitize, or combine, former Shell leases in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea that are now held by a subsidiary of an Alaska Native-owned corporation, the first step toward resumed exploration in the area, officials said Monday. Mark Fesmire, Alaska director of the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, said ASRC Exploration Inc., a subsidiary of Arctic Slope Regional Corp., now has an approved unit and has also applied for a Suspension of Operations on the former Shell leases. This is an action that temporarily halts the pending expiration of the lease terms, Fesmire said.  If granted, the suspension would allow ASRC Exploration to conduct exploration, and if a discovery is made, the leases are automatically extended.

DC Pruitt can do it. In the four months since he took office as the Environmental Protection Agency’s administrator, Scott Pruitt has moved to undo, delay or otherwise block more than 30 environmental rules, a regulatory rollback larger in scope than any other over so short a time in the agency’s 47-year history, according to experts in environmental law. “Just the number of environmental rollbacks in this time frame is astounding,” said Richard Lazarus, a professor of environmental law at Harvard. “Pruitt has come in with a real mission. He is much more organized, much more focused than the other Cabinet-level officials, who have not really taken charge of their agencies. It’s very striking how much they’ve done.”

No money for Russia’s Arctic Program.  A revised funding scheme for Russia’s Arctic program, which is to cover the period until year 2020, is far lower than the original sum, reports. The country’s Ministry of Economic Development wanted 209 billion rubles (€3.1 billion) for the new national Arctic Program. It might get only 12 billion (€177 million). That is a serious blow to Russia’s ambitious development plans for the region.

Arctic success for Statoil. Statoil’s new Kayak well in the Barents Sea is believed to hold up to 50 million barrels. Kayak is the first of  a string of Arctic wells to be drilled by Statoil this year. “We are very pleased to have made a good discovery in our first completed well in the Barents Sea this year,” says Jez Averty, senior vice president for exploration, Norway and the UK.

No vetoes this time for Operating Budget. Alaska Gov. Bill Walker signed Alaska’s annual operating budget into law Friday without line item vetoes — a sharp contrast from last year, when he used the veto to slash more than $1 billion for Permanent Fund dividends and other programs.

DC Pruitt Can’t Do It? A federal appeals court in Washington ruled Monday that the head of the Environmental Protection Agency overstepped his authority in trying to delay implementation of an Obama administration rule requiring oil and gas companies to monitor and reduce methane leaks. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced in April that he would delay by 90 days the deadline for oil and gas companies to follow the new rule, so that the agency could reconsider the measure.

American icebreakers on the horizon? The Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday passed the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2018, a bill that sets policy objectives and determines how the U.S. military can spend much of its later-allocated funding. The bill includes a provision for procurement of up to 6 polar icebreakers. But, Congress still has to appropriate the funding and icebreakers cost about $1 billion each. Currently, the U.S. has two polar icebreakers in working order, one heavy-duty ship and one a medium-duty research vessel. Reports indicate Russia has 41 icebreakers and 11 more in development.

First Reads

Alaska Gov. Walker signs budget, leaves dividends at amount set by lawmakers
Alaska Dispatch News, Nathaniel Herz, July 1, 2017

Senate could authorize up to 6 icebreakers – when there’s money for them
Alaska Dispatch News, Erica Martinson, July 1, 2017

Russia makes new big cuts to Arctic spending
The Independent Barents Observer, Atle Staalesen, July 5, 2017

Statoil finds more Arctic oil
The Independent Barents Observer, Atle Staalesen, July 3, 2017

Discoveries Boost Hopes for Alaska Oil Output
Bloomberg BNA, Alan Kovski, June 28, 2017

D.C. appeals court orders EPA to move ahead with methane rule
The Denver Post, Michael Biesecker, June 3, 2017

US BSEE approves plan to combine Beaufort Sea leases; could renew exploration
Platts, Tim Bradner, July 4, 2017

Counseled by industry, not staff, EPA chief is off to a blazing start
The New York Times, Coral Davenport, July 2, 2017