Morning Headlamp — Legislator Wants Politics to Trump Science on Pebble Project

According to the Juneau Empire, the House Transportation Committee heard the initial presentation for House Bill 60, which proposes to increase Alaska’s state gasoline tax from 8 cents per gallon to 16 cents per gallon on July 1, 2017, then to 24 cents per gallon on July 1, 2018. Taxes on marine fuel, aviation gasoline and jet fuel would also be doubled, then tripled, on the same schedule. The tax hike would raise $40 million in new revenue during Fiscal Year 2018, and $80 million from Fiscal Year 2019 onward, that money would be dedicated to transportation funding instead of being deposited in the state’s general fund.

Transportation commissioner Marc Luiken said Tuesday that the new revenue would go to the Alaska Transportation Maintenance Fund, to the Alaska Marine Highway System and to state airports. According to Luiken’s presentation, the proportion of the transportation budget funded by dedicated fees would rise from 10.92 percent to 21.83 percent, making it less vulnerable to year-by-year fluctuations.

Chess games. Under President Vladimir Putin, Moscow is rushing to re-open abandoned Soviet military, air and radar bases on remote Arctic islands and to build new ones, as it pushes ahead with a claim to almost half a million square miles of the Arctic. Russia is also building nuclear icebreakers, including the world’s largest, to bolster its fleet of around 40 breakers, six of which are nuclear. No other country has a nuclear breaker fleet, used to clear channels for military and civilian ships. The Arctic, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates, holds oil and gas reserves equivalent to 412 billion barrels of oil, about 22 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas.

Rep. Andy Josephson is proposing a new level of scrutiny for the Pebble Mine project: requiring that three state commissioners find beyond a reasonable doubt that the mine would not be a danger to the region’s world-premier fishery. House Bill 14, would require that, before the Legislature weighs in, the commissioners of Natural Resources, Environmental Conservation and Fish and Game each determine that mine backers have proven beyond a reasonable doubt that their operations will not be a danger to the fishery, fish or wildlife in the region.


First Reads

Legislature gets first look at proposal to triple Alaska’s gasoline tax
Juneau Empire, James Brooks, January 31, 2017

Putin’s Russia in biggest Arctic military push since Soviet fall
Alaska Dispatch News, Andrew Osborn, January 31, 2017

Under Anchorage lawmaker’s proposal, the Alaska Legislature would become a Pebble Mine watchdog
Juneau Empire, James Brooks, January 31, 2017

Alaska lawmaker seeks more scrutiny for Pebble Mine project
Associated Press, Becky Bohrer, January 31, 2017

Pebble project deserves fair review, assessment
Alaska Dispatch News, Tom Collier, February 1, 2017