Friday’s Fast Five

March 25, 2016 | Posted in : News

Headlamp wants our followers to always be up to date with the developments in Alaska’s economy, politics, and industry. Check out this week’s rundown of the stories affecting you.

Top Story of the Week

This week, Gov. Bill Walker’s proposal to increase taxes on oil production and reduce tax credits for the industry as a whole was met with criticism from a House committee. The replacement legislation would equate to roughly $50 million in total savings. The savings and new revenue claimed in the original bill – $400 million in from the elimination of tax credits and $100 million in new taxes – is being questioned by the legislature.  A new fiscal note with more accurate numbers could appear in House Finance next week.

Top Reads of the Week

U.S. top court backs moose hunter in Alaska hovercraft case
Reuters, Lawrence Hurley, March 22, 2016
The Supreme Court on Tuesday sided with an Alaska moose hunter who contended the federal government overstepped its authority in banning hovercraft on National Park Service land in the northernmost U.S. state.

Judge: EPA ‘improperly’ withheld Alaska mining documents
The Hill, Devin Henry, March 22, 2016
A federal judge has ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to give the court documents related to its consideration of a controversial mining project in Alaska, ruling he has “no confidence” in the agency’s ability to decide which documents should become public following an open records request.

Alaska fiscal forum focuses on working together
Fairbanks Daily News Miner, Robin Wood, March 24, 2016
A majority of participants at a Fairbanks economic forum addressing Alaska’s multi-billion dollar budget deficit seem to support both raising revenue through taxes and using part of the Alaska Permanent Fund to pay for state services, potentially putting them at odds with the Alaska Legislature.

Quote of the Week

“It’s a viable project at this point but we’ve got to get to a point where we know whether it’s really economical or not”— Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole

 

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Fact Check: Trust, but verify.

March 25, 2016 | Posted in : News

Over the past week Governor Walker, multiple Alaska media outlets, Tax Division Director Ken Alper, and Democratic legislators have repeated the same false narrative that in FY2017 the State of Alaska will spend more money on oil and gas credits than it will receive in petroleum revenue. They claim the state will pay out $825 million for oil and gas credits, versus bringing in only $690 million from oil and gas revenues. This is wrong, and misleads the Alaskan public into thinking that we should raise taxes on the industry.

Headlamp is here to set the record straight. According to the Department of Revenue Spring Forecast book, the state is projected to bring in $1.0128 billion in TOTAL PETROLEUM REVENUE in FY2017. It must be stated that the $825 million figure for oil and gas being thrown around is a projection; and in fact is $200 million higher for FY2017 due to Gov. Walker’s “kick the can down the road” veto of oil and gas tax credits last year. Given the low price of oil, and cutbacks in industry activity, Headlamp is doubtful of this large figure.

The Walker administration is focused only on unrestricted general fund petroleum revenue ($690 million) instead of the whole picture which shows, once again, the oil and gas industry providing the overwhelming majority of the state’s revenue. Headlamp is severely disappointed in the statements made by members of the Walker administration, and the media. We hope Governor Walker and the media correct their statements and will tell the Alaskan public the truth.

Healthy public dialogue can only occur when people are given the facts. This seems to be a recurring theme, so maybe it’s the administration’s strategy?

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Morning Headlamp — More letters from Gov. Walker

March 25, 2016 | Posted in : News

According to the Associated Press, in a letter to legislators Wednesday, Walker said three things must happen this year for a sustainable balanced budget: reduced spending; restructuring of Alaska Permanent Fund earnings and the dividend program that provides an annual payout to most Alaskans; and new revenues that include some form of a broad-based tax. House Speaker Mike Chenault said Thursday talks are underway with the chamber’s Democratic-led minority in an effort to craft a spending and revenue package that can garner broad support. Chenault said he told Walker early on he doubts each of the bills in Walker’s revenue package will pass. But he said the bills will be vetted in committee and legislators will look at what level of support there might be for them. Gov. Walker’s letters have said that not agreeing on a plan is “wholly unacceptable.”

“I don’t know if that letter did anything except give you guys something to write about,” House Majority Leader Charisse Millett told reporters Thursday. “He doesn’t need to communicate by press.”

Headlamp would encourage the administration to stop blaming others and start contributing to the solution. The budget introduced by the Governor barely touched the operating budget. The public has demanded significant cuts but those demands have fallen on deaf ears in the administration.  There is no courage in taking money from the private sector to feed an already bloated government. 

Governor Bill Walker will be holding a “fiscal crisis” town hall in Fairbanks today to talk about the budget. The deficit just this week grew by more than $500 million, to about $4 billion, with the release of a revised outlook at new revenues. The event comes a day after Plan4Alaska, a Rasmuson Foundation-funded group, hosted a fiscal policy forum at the Carlson Center.

 

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First Reads

Talks have begun between Alaska House majority, minority
Associated Press, Becky Bohrer, March 24, 2016

House Majority Responds to Gov. Walker’s Call for New Revenues While Senate Prepares for Special Session
Alaska Commons, Craig Tuten, March 24, 2016

Walker to lawmakers: Putting off sustainable budget is ‘wholly unacceptable’
Fairbanks Daily News Miner, Andrew Kitchenman, March 24, 2016

Canadian company seeks to ship oil sands crude through trans-Alaska pipeline
Robert Hannon, KTOO, March 24, 2016

 

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Morning Headlamp — Tough crowd for Walker’s ‘solution’ & Australia’s LNG megaproject shelved

March 24, 2016 | Posted in : News

In a letter to legislators yesterday Governor Bill Walker said lawmakers must come up with “a complete solution” to the $4 billion budget deficit and that they could find themselves in a special session unless they pass a budget funded in part by a “broad-based tax. “There’s been some tendency on the part of the administration to start throwing around orders to the Legislature, and we just don’t respond to that,” Fairbanks GOP Sen. Pete Kelly, a committee co-chair, said at the time. He added: “I’m not getting into the tax business while I know government is still too big.” If Walker is looking for a ‘complete solution’ why is he consistently turning his back on an industry that touches every part of Alaska’s economy? Headlamp would like Governor Walker to keep his word about reducing the operating budget and include that as part of the “complete solution”. 

Does anyone beyond Headlamp see the irony in Alaskans supporting an income tax on those who earn more than $100,000 at the same time that the industries that pay those type of salaries are laying off thousands of workers? Hundreds of residents attended the Rasmuson Foundation’s Plan4Alaska town hall meeting on state finances at the Carlson Center on Wednesday. Attendees took polls on the state’s fiscal challenges. About 90 percent of participants said budget shortfalls should be addressed by both cuts and new revenues, about 70 percent supported an income tax on people who earn more than $100,000, and almost 100 percent supported smaller dividends from the Alaska Permanent Fund. Plan4Alaska is a $2 million educational campaign funded by the Rasmuson Foundation. Panelists consistently talked about the need to diversify Alaska’s economy, create and invest revenue without hindering businesses and work together on all available options. Similar town hall meetings are planned in Palmer at 5:30 p.m. today and in Kenai at 11:30 p.m. Friday.

Down under. Woodside Petroleum Ltd. has shelved proposals for its $40 billion liquefied-natural-gas project  off Australia’s west coast due to belt-tightening and the slump in oil prices. Last year, an analyst from the International Energy Agency warned that some $200 billion in Australian LNG projects, even at $60-a-barrel oil prices, wouldn’t break even for investors. With other LNG projects faltering around the world, Alaska has to react before it’s too late. We need smart, long-term policies that can help keep AKLNG on track in a low price environment.

And the winner is…..James Brooks of the Juneau Empire for the most misleading headline and gross misrepresentation of the facts by a major news outlet. Under the headline Committee approves bigger subsidy for oil… the Juneau Empire described the actions taken by the House Resources Committee as if they were giving the industry new credits. Headlamp is happy to help the Empire and Brooks understand – the credits were already in place, the Governor introduced a bill to take them away and raise taxes on the industry, the committee modified some of the cash grab to reduce what the Governor was taking.   In plain English; the committee approved more credits than what the Governor proposed, but still cut the amount of credits available for industry. Instead of going with Walker’s plan (that the Alliance fully opposed), members of the House committee decided to emphasize potential future production instead of immediate cost savings that would jeopardize industry investment and activity. Their revised bill saves $45 million to $60 million per year over the next three years and preserves more of the state’s credits which have led to more production and more jobs.

 

Help us spread the word. AK Headlamp is growing quickly, but we need your help to spread the word.  Tell your friends, colleagues, family and more to sign up today for the latest in AK energy, politics and industry.  Subscribe here: http://bit.ly/1OdpLVY

 

First Reads

Gov. Walker to lawmakers: We need a new tax this year
Alaska Dispatch News, Nathaniel Herz, March 23, 2016

Fiscal forum focuses on working together
Fairbanks Daily News Miner, Robin Wood, March 24, 2016

 Big Oil’s Next Big Energy Problem
Wall Street Journal, Spencer Jakab, March 23, 2016

Committee approves bigger subsidy for oil and gas drillers
Juneau Empire, James Brooks, March 23, 2016

Savings on tax credits for oil and gas not as high as proposed
Alaska Public Radio News, Andrew Kitchenman, March 23, 2016

State projects $2B investment loss
Alaska Journal of Commerce, Elwood Brehmer, March 23, 2016

 

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Headlamp Extra Edition: HB 247 Update

March 24, 2016 | Posted in : News

Should the oil industry remain a vital part of Alaska’s economy or should the government use it as a slush fund to balance their checkbook?

These were the opposing philosophies on display Tuesday night as HB 247, Governor Walker’s oil and gas tax credit legislation was debated. The bill passed out of House Resources late that evening by a vote of 7-2.

Co-chairs Nageak and Talerico were joined by Speaker Chenault and Representatives Olson, Herron and Johnson in their efforts to maintain a tax policy that has led to more investment and more production.  Representatives Tarr, Seaton and Josephson authored the majority of amendments seeking to solve the state’s budget crisis by increasing taxes on the industry. The administration’s claims that the bill would save the state $400 million in FY 2017 and generate $100 million in additional production tax revenue were not convincing and the committee passed the bill with an indeterminate fiscal note, asking the House Finance Committee to work to provide more accurate numbers.

Forty-five amendments were debated by the Committee with 4 passing:

  • Amendment 1 by Co-Chair Nageak was a technical amendment to correct miscellaneous items and clarify aspects of the bill.
  • Amendment 2 by Co-Chair Nageak put the definition of “outstanding liability” back into the bill to define it for both taxpayers and readers of statute. HB 247 as offered by the Governor included this definition, it was removed from the committee substitute and this amendment reinserts it.
  • Amendment 3 by Representative Seaton requires a $250,000 surety bond from exploration and development companies applying for a tax credit to pay unsecured creditors first in the event of bankruptcy. This provision is intended to protect Alaska’s support industry from companies who declare bankruptcy without paying Alaska contractors.
  • Amendment 24 by Representative Tarr requires the newly-created Legislative Working Group, tasked with developing a plan for Cook Inlet, to “include members of the majority and minority caucuses.”

HB 247 will be heard in the House Finance Committee this morning at 9:30am. Headlamp suggests you be aware of two points as this legislation continues through the process:

  • 90,000 Alaskans voted to keep SB 21 in place, and members of the minority are openly stating they are trying change parts of that law. Remember, under SB 21 we are producing 17,500 more barrels per day than previously forecasted. The people’s voice, and the Governor’s promise to leave SB 21 alone, should stand.
  • And most importantly, be very wary of the numbers being used in the HB 247 debate. The fiscal notes were not accepted by the House Resources Committee, and there’s a very good reason for that. The Administration needs to provide accurate numbers that allow people to ponder the real impacts of this Legislation, not throw around inaccurate figures and false promises of savings and new revenue.

Stay tuned to Headlamp…

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Morning Headlamp — Another court win for AK & potential additions to AGDC board

March 23, 2016 | Posted in : News

Sen. Mia Costello and House Speaker Mike Chenault have proposed adding two non-voting lawmakers to the board of the Alaska Gasline Development Corp as AKLNG megaproject discussions intensify. The state-sanctioned gas line corporation would hold portions of Alaska’s interest in the liquefaction facilities. The Senate is expected to consider Costello’s bill on Wednesday. “It’s a viable project at this point but we’ve got to get to a point where we know whether it’s really economical or not,” said North Pole Republican Sen. John Coghill. Adding legislators to the gas line corporation board would give lawmakers better insight into issues facing the board, said Chenault in a statement. Headlamp hopes that adding lawmakers to the board can keep the megaproject aligned and on track. We also hope that if the bill passes, the expanded board will still be efficient. Stick with Headlamp as we follow.

Another court win for Alaska. According to The Hill, a federal judge has ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to give the court documents related to its consideration of a mining project in Alaska, ruling he has “no confidence” in the agency’s ability to decide which documents should become public following an open records request. Pebble filed a Freedom of Information Act request in 2014 to secure the documents, but the EPA withheld 10 of the 130 requested. EPA’s inspector general ruled in January that it found “no evidence of bias” in its assessment of the gold and copper mine.

Alaskan lawmakers are still waiting on an update from Governor Bill Walker on his plan for AKLNG. His office said more details would be available in early March, though Walker has since adjusted that date to next month. “We have to be very cautious that he just doesn’t go off and do his own thing — or if he does, it’s with the consent and consultation of the Legislature,” Sen. Pete Kelly co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said in an interview. “Clearly, the project is in flux right now. But there remains a surprising amount of confidence by some pretty big players in this project, given the price environment right now. You’d think it would just be coming apart at the seams, and it’s not,” said Kelly. Headlamp strongly encourages the Governor to update lawmakers on his plans for the megaproject as soon as possible. Much of Alaska’s economic future hinges on a major LNG project. The state can’t afford to risk losing more private investment because of bad political decisions.

 

Help us spread the word. AK Headlamp is growing quickly, but we need your help to spread the word.  Tell your friends, colleagues, family and more to sign up today for the latest in AK energy, politics and industry.  Subscribe here: http://bit.ly/1OdpLVY

 

First Reads

Bills propose adding legislators to gas line board
Alaska Dispatch News, Rashah McChesney, March 22, 2016

Judge: EPA ‘improperly’ withheld Alaska mining documents
The Hill, Devin Henry, March 22, 2016

Gas line project in flux as lawmakers wait for update from Gov. Walker
Alaska Dispatch News, Nathaniel Herz, March 22, 2016

Alaska fiscal policy forum set for Wednesday in Fairbanks
Fairbanks Daily News Miner, Robin Wood, March 22, 2016

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Increased Production – An Inconvenient Truth

March 22, 2016 | Posted in : News

The release of the 2016 Spring Revenue preliminary forecast yesterday was used by the Walker administration in an attempt to convince legislators and Alaskans that an additional $300 million reduction in forecasted revenue must be addressed by adopting his budget plan.  The governor even went so far as to threaten a special session if the legislature didn’t adopt his plan.

What the Governor failed to include in the discussion was the revision of the production estimates – an increase of 17,500 barrels per day based on actual daily production levels from the last eight months.

Headlamp doesn’t feel the need to point out the difference between “forecast” and “actual.”

Headlamp will, however, point out that acknowledging increased production is occurring, doesn’t fit with the Walker Administration’s “Keep it in the Ground” resource development plan nor HB 247 – the administration’s bill to remove the incentives that have led to increased production and would change oil taxes for the sixth time in 11 years.

In the coming weeks, as HB 247 makes its way through the process, the legislature, as well as Alaskans, need to decide if we favor this “keep it in the ground” approach or if we prefer to maintain the policies that have led to increased production.

Stay tuned to Headlamp for the impacts HB 247 will have on Alaskan companies, Alaskan jobs and Alaska’s economy.

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Morning Headlamp — Sturgeon wins & deficit increases

March 22, 2016 | Posted in : News

Sturgeon triumphs over federal government. In a landmark case for Alaska, that many political observers thought was doomed after the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision in favor of Alaskan moose hunter John Sturgeon. The court, in an 8-0 decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts, handed a narrow victory to John Sturgeon in his legal challenge to the U.S. government’s power to prevent him from riding his hovercraft on a river through a federal preserve to reach remote moose-hunting grounds. The Supreme Court threw out a lower court ruling favoring government, but did not decide the bigger question of whether the government can regulate hovercraft use on a waterway within park service property in Alaska. The answer to that question could have had implications for other park service regulations, including on oil and gas extraction. The state of Alaska supported Sturgeon, noting that Congress in 1980 specifically limited park service jurisdiction over land within a conservation area that is not federally owned. In his opinion reversing that decision, Roberts said federal law governing park service authority contains several Alaska-specific provisions, reflecting “the simple truth that Alaska is often the exception, not the rule.”  The Alliance is proud to have participated, with other Alaskan trade associations, in an amicus brief in support of Sturgeon. 

Headlamp, like thousands of Alaskans this morning, is celebrating this monumental victory for our state. John Sturgeon took on the U.S. Park Service and won. Today marks a victory for Alaskan sovereignty, and for those who hunt, fish, and enjoy our great outdoors.

What’s the real story in the spring revenue forecast? According to a new preliminary forecast by the revenue department released Monday morning, the current budget deficit has jumped another $300 million. Governor Bill Walker’s administration blames low oil prices. The revised forecast means the expected deficit for the state’s $5.4 billion budget is now $4.1 billion, up from a previously projected $3.8 billion. That means current revenue can cover only about 25 percent of the existing state budget. Walker, in a news conference at the Capitol on Monday, said the diminished flow of oil revenue underscores the need for lawmakers to pass his financial plan. It’s no surprise to Headlamp  that the Governor chose to ignore the most important detail of the the new forecast – INCREASED PRODUCTION. The fall forecast was revised from 500,200 barrels per day to 517,500 barrels per day, acknowledging that the change reflects eight months of ACTUAL daily production levels. The tax incentives in SB 21 are working to increase production. Headlamp wonders how raising taxes on the industry, as the Walker administration has proposed, will continue this trend of increased production?

Successful edits. The House has submitted a substitute bill to Gov. Walker’s proposal to increase the oil production tax and reduce tax credits paid to the oil and gas industry. The governor had hoped to increase the minimum production tax from 4 percent to 5 percent, claiming that such an increase would  raise $100 million.  The committee bill would create a legislative working group to propose changes to the Cook Inlet tax regime that will be considered by the Legislature next spring. Headlamp thanks lawmakers who helped remove this blatant money grab from the Governor’s proposal. Raising taxes will only chase away the industry; leading to less production and fewer jobs. Attacking Alaska’s primary industry while its cash flow negative is not the answer to the state’s spending problem. 

According to the Associated Press, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker said he is willing to call the Legislature into a special session if lawmakers don’t pass any revenue proposals to help close a multibillion-dollar budget deficit. “It’s important that we have legislation passed this session or a special session to make sure that we have taken away the uncertainty,” Walker said during a news conference on the forecast. For 2016, the forecast shows the state’s budget deficit is now at $4.1 billion.  Headlamp would suggest that the Governor take a few moments to review the operating budget and try to convince Alaskans that state government has done their fair share in addressing the budget gap before he attempts to take money from them to support big government.

 

Help us spread the word. AK Headlamp is growing quickly, but we need your help to spread the word.  Tell your friends, colleagues, family and more to sign up today for the latest in AK energy, politics and industry.  Subscribe here: http://bit.ly/1OdpLVY

 

First Reads

U.S. top court backs moose hunter in Alaska hovercraft case
Reuters U.S., Lawrence Hurley, March 22, 2016

Alaska budget deficit just jumped $300M because of low oil prices, Walker administration says
Alaska Dispatch News, Nathaniel Herz, March 21, 2016

Alaska’s budget gap officially just got a little bigger
Fairbanks Daily News Miner, Matt Buxton, March 21, 2016

House committee guts governor’s attempt to tax oil industry, end secrecy
Alaska Dispatch News, Alex DeMarban, March 21, 2016

Governor may call special legislative session over budget
The Washington Times, Rashah McChesney, March 21, 2016

 

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Morning Headlamp — Edits to Walker’s tax plan have arrived

March 21, 2016 | Posted in : News

Gov. Walker, please see edits. After much anticipation, the House Resources Committee finally rolled out a new version of Gov. Bill Walker’s oil and gas tax credit.  Substantial changes were made to the most critical components.  Most of the reforms in the committee substitute (CS) do not take effect until January 1, meaning they will have little to no impact on the FY 2017 deficit because January is in the middle of the fiscal year. “These are difficult times for Alaska and for the oil and gas industry,” said Gary Zepp, an aide to House Resources Co-chair Ben Nageak. “The oil and gas industry is operating at losses in Alaska. It costs more to get barrels of oil out of the ground than they’re getting for the oil. The co-chairs recognize Alaska’s budget problems and want to support a balanced resource policy that protects investment, maintains production, and provides State revenues over the short term and into the future.” The CS increases the limit on repurchased credits to $200 million per company per year.

A fiscal note was not available on Saturday, but is expected today when the administration presents their response to the bill. Headlamp will provide details as they emerge.

Income tax not looking likely. According to the Fairbanks Daily News Miner, it appears the plan for new revenue almost entirely relies on a change to the earnings from the permanent fund. The specific account is called the Permanent Fund Earnings Reserve Account and it’s filled with earnings from permanent fund investments. “I don’t think taxes are going to get a lot of support. I think doing something with the earnings reserve will,” said Fairbanks Sen. Pete Kelly, a Republican who co-chairs the committee. “It is not anticipated at this point that we’re going to have any taxes.”

In a statement, Crowley Marine is no longer in the bidding for the prized contract to deliver oil-spill prevention and response services in Prince William Sound, the maritime company said that Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. decided not to extend its full, multi-year contract. “Despite bidding aggressively for the SERVS contract extension, Crowley was not chosen by Alyeska to retain the entire scope of the current contract,” according to a statement from Crowley. Crowley has provided tanker docking services in Valdez since 1977, when the 800-mile trans-Alaska pipeline began transporting oil to Valdez. It has contracted with Alyeska for marine services since 1990, officials said.

Help us spread the word. AK Headlamp is growing quickly, but we need your help to spread the word.  Tell your friends, colleagues, family and more to sign up today for the latest in AK energy, politics and industry.  Subscribe here: http://bit.ly/1OdpLVY

 

First Reads

House Committee Reveals Scaled Back Oil and Tax Credit Reform Rewrite
Alaska Commons, Craig Tuten, March 20, 2016

Walker administration plans to sell much of state’s royalty oil to Tesoro
Alaska Dispatch News, Alex DeMarban, March 18, 2016

Alyeska Pipeline chose not to renew Crowley contract
Alaska Dispatch News, Alex DeMarban, March 18, 2016

Report: State saves $7.5M if lawmakers leave new Anchorage offices
Alaska Dispatch News, Nathaniel Herz, March 18, 2016

Despite Challenges, Efforts to Develop U.S. Arctic Offshore Energy Exploration Continue
The Energy Voice, Consumer Energy Alliance, August 10, 2015

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Friday’s Fast Five

March 18, 2016 | Posted in : News

Headlamp wants our followers to always be up to date with the developments in Alaska’s economy, politics, and industry. Check out this week’s rundown of the stories effecting you.

Top Story of the Week

On Monday, BP said it will reduce a larger portion of its Alaska workforce than it had announced in January as a result of new plans by the Prudhoe Bay owners to idle three of five drilling rigs. The planned reduction has increased to approximately 17 percent, roughly 355 jobs, as a result of the recently announced decision to reduce operating rigs at Prudhoe Bay, said Dawn Patience, a spokesperson with BP Alaska. That decision was made by ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and BP.

Top Reads of the Week

Revenue boss doubts income tax this year
Juneau Empire, James Brooks, March 17, 2016

On Thursday, Alaska Revenue Commissioner Randall Hoffbeck delivered to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce the same address he’s given more than 90 times to community groups and business groups across Alaska: The state is in fiscal trouble, and a spread of taxes and spending cuts is the best way to fix the problem.

New Obama offshore plan eyes further Arctic protections
Alaska Dispatch News, Erica Martinson, March 15, 2016
The Obama administration released its proposed five-year offshore drilling plan for federal waters Tuesday, leaning toward allowing three lease sales in Alaska, but leaving the option to close some Arctic waters to oil and gas activity.

Ahtna cites tax credits as it prepares to spud gas well
Alaska Journal of Commerce, Elwood Brehmer, March 16, 2016
Ahtna Inc. is preparing a drill site near Glennallen to further its hunt for natural gas in the Copper River basin.

Quote of the Week

“I’m not getting into the tax business”— Sen. Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks

 

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