Would You Rather?

December 29, 2015 | Posted in : News

Yesterday the state Department of Transportation had this to say about pending budget cuts:

“According to DOT spokesperson Jill Reese, the DOT could lose six snowplow and sand-truck drivers in the Turnagain Arm and Kenai Peninsula areas as a result of the maintenance budget reductions proposed in the governor’s fiscal plan for 2017.

The proposed cuts also include a reduction in overtime for remaining winter equipment operators as well 46 pieces of the department’s equipment fleet and purchases of maintenance supplies such as guardrails and equipment grader blades.”

So – would you rather see the state travel budget increase by millions of dollars, as proposed in the Governor’s budget, or preserve funding that allows us to maintain safe roads?


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The Morning Headlamp—Gov. Walker’s self-evaluation

December 29, 2015 | Posted in : News

Gov. Walker, a review. The Associated Press interviewed Governor Bill Walker about his first year in office. The Governor, despite a turbulent start, believes that Alaska is continues to progress, but acknowledges the challenges right around the corner. Walker said one of his goals is to spend more time with legislators, talking with them and getting their input. In addition, the administration also is expected next year to bring contracts to the Legislature for consideration for the AKLNG megaproject the state is pursuing with the North Slope’s major producers. Headlamp is happy to hear that Walker’s goals revolve around communication and cooperation with the Legislature.

Using some portion of the Permanent Fund to fund state government is a key component of several budget “fix” plans – including Governor Walker’s.  What does that really mean for the fund and for the PFD?  Brad Keithley provides some hard numbers in a piece from his blog.


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First Reads

After a year in office, Alaska Gov. Walker reflects, looks ahead
Associated Press, Becky Bohrer, December 28, 2015

How deep are the Governor and GCI proposing to cut the PFD …
Brad Keithley, December 28, 2015

Savings absorb some shock of Alaska oil crash, but Legislature could still sink us
Alaska Dispatch News, Charles Wohlforth, December 28, 2015

As Oil Prices Stay Low, Alaska Mulls Income Tax
Nasdaq, Andy Tully, December 29, 2015


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The Morning Headlamp—Budget talks ahead

December 28, 2015 | Posted in : News

The New York Times covered Alaska’s ongoing fiscal woes as oil prices continue to fall. The piece highlights the fact that although other resource-based economies are also seeing the long-term impact of declining oil prices, Alaska’s situation is unique as Governor Bill Walker must address new taxes and Permanent Fund issues as well. While the piece does cover our state’s ongoing fiscal woes, it fails to mention that Governor Walker’s fiscal plans will call for increased taxation on oil production.  A federal coordinating office handling Alaska’s gas pipeline projects has been defunded by Congress and will no longer serve as a liaison between the public and organizers of the behemoth AKLNG project.  The long-anticipated move was made official when Congress enacted recent spending and funding bills. Federal coordinator Larry Persily plans to close the office, which operates the arcticgas.gov site and contains information about the project and each phase that it has moved through thus far. Persily is hoping to find a repository for all of the information that the office has gathered during its 10 years of operation. Persily noted that the public will notice less coordinated flow of information to the public. While any cuts made to the AKLNG megaproject are bad news, the removal of a bridge between the public and private sectors on a project of this nature is a critical loss and will severely affect the project’s progress.

A long five months. According to coverage in the Homer News, one main issue will dominate discussions in the second regular session of the 29th Alaska Legislature: the budget. That’s the Legislature’s only real job, Sen. Gary Stevens said at his Rotary talk. What budget it passes and how the Legislature deals with Alaska’s fiscal crisis is an open question. “It’s going to be a bad year,” Stevens said. Stevens said he thought the Legislature would go into double-overtime, with at least two special sessions extending its stay in Juneau beyond the 90-day limit for two more months. Despite the seriousness of the issues at hand, ideas like an income tax aren’t likely to pass in the next Legislature, not with newer legislators running for re-election, Stevens said. Asked for his remarks on the challenge ahead, Stevens said, “Bring it on.”

A recent study conducted by University of Alaska Anchorage’s Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER),  claims that cutting $100 million by laying off state workers will cost the economy significantly more jobs and income than would an income tax to raise the same amoun. It is interesting that an agency funded by the state of Alaska focuses on potential damage of a hypothetical lay off of state workers while ignoring the reality of more than 900 oil field workers having already been laid off.  Should employees who could be impacted by state layoffs be performing the economic analysis on the impact? 


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First Reads

Election year may derail fiscal plan, says Stevens
Homer News, Michael Armstrong, December 24, 2015

How balancing the budget could harm Alaska’s economy in the short term
Alaska Dispatch News, Jeannette Lee Falsey, December 24, 2015

As Oil Money Melts, Alaska Mulls First Income Tax in 35 Years
New York Times, Kirk Johnson, December 25, 2015

Public pension fight heating up: State, municipalities spar over liabilities; storm inbound to Delta
Fairbanks Daily News Miner, December 28, 2015

The King’s First Budget – Spending Cuts, Less Oil Revenue, Economic Reform
Oil Pro, Jeff Reed, December 28, 2015


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The Morning Headlamp—AKLNG’s New Year’s resolution

December 23, 2015 | Posted in : News

A critical year indeed. The Alaska Journal of Commerce covered the significance 2016 will have on the AKLNG megaproject. If the project does proceed, the sales of natural gas from the North Slope, as liquefied natural gas, or LNG, will bring new petroleum revenues to the state to replace declining oil income. The most important agreements needed include a gas “balancing” contract among the producers that will govern how gas supplies are to be made available if there is a technical problem with production in one of the two fields supplying gas, Prudhoe Bay and Point Thomson. The second most important agreement — and this one is a “must have” for all three of the producers — is a contract on state fiscal terms on gas production, which would assure the companies, and LNG customers, that state taxes on gas won’t change for a period of several years, mostly likely the 20-year or 25-year term of LNG sales contracts. In the coming year, Headlamp looks forward to the four partners working together on the issues facing the megaproject. We will provide updates on these important milestones. 

While the administration frets over eliminating positions (not necessarily people) in state government, the private sector reacts to low oil prices responsibly.  Unfortunately, that means people are losing jobs –the highest paying jobs in the state – as discussed in this Alaska Dispatch piece about unemployment claims in the oil and gas industry: 


First Reads

A critical year lies ahead for Alaska LNG Project agreements
Alaska Journal of Commerce, Tim Bradner, December 22, 2015

New year will reveal impacts to economy from budget cuts
Alaska Journal of Commerce, Elwood Brehmer, December 22, 2015

Oil and gas industry jobless claims up for seventh straight month
Alaska Dispatch News, Jeannette Lee Falsey, December 22, 2015

North Slope companies to keep up spending
The Peninsula Clarion, Tim Bradner, December 22, 2015


Alaska Politics

Fights shape up over taxes, spending, revenue
Alaska Journal of Commerce, Time Bradner, December 22, 2015

Alaska lawmakers waste money on boondoggles and propose Alaskans cover the bill
Alaska Dispatch News, Sam Combs, December 22, 2015

Native groups, unions put cash behind effort to link PFD, voter registration
Alaska Dispatch News, Nathaniel Herz, December 22, 2015


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Would You Rather?—Time for Alaskans to make the hard decisions

December 22, 2015 | Posted in : News

As 2015 winds down, households across Alaska will be with their families reflecting on what is truly important. As 2016 begins, Alaskan lawmakers must do the same. When the legislature reconvenes in 28 days, legislators will have to rectify the budget Governor Bill Walker’s administration has proposed. This proposal, aimed at plugging the several billion dollar deficit, doesn’t solve the problem.  It does impose a whole host of new taxes, including an income tax, and actually increases spending.  New and higher taxes on Alaskans who are struggling to make ends meet, while sparing the bloated state budget are not responsible solutions to our state’s financial woes.   Taking more money out of the private sector to pay for a bigger state government kicks the can down the road and further hurts Alaska. This holiday season, Alaska needs to focus on what is truly important: its economic future. The state is in economic disarray and lawmakers need to do what is responsible and fix our budget.

No one is suggesting this will be easy, in fact, it will require lawmakers and Alaskans to make hard decisions on some of the state’s most complex issues. However, at the end of the day, what is more important than an economically stable and prosperous future?

As Headlamp continues to follow developments in Alaska’s budget, stay with us as we unveil our “Would you rather?” series; an in-depth look at the hard choices on Alaska’s horizon, their implications, and what your lawmakers can do to reduce the state budget while maintain a strong economy. Stay warm and stay tuned.

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The Morning Headlamp – Gas reserves tax supporter files to run for AKLEG

December 22, 2015 | Posted in : News

Still competitive. Alaska Public Radio News covered reports that despite freefalling oil prices, the AKLNG megaproject still potentially remains a globally competitive venture due to growing Asian markets. Coverage largely focused on the economic and geographic realities associated with the megaproject, specifically that Alaska is closer to Asian markets than the U.S. Gulf Coast, or the Middle East. With proven reserves, AKLNG is best positioned to serve the emerging market. Although the price of coal in Asia remains the cheapest option, an LNG market remains available for whoever has the means to supply it. Marty Rutherford, Deputy Commissioner at the state Department of Natural Resources, says the gas line is essential for Alaska’s economic future despite inherent risks associated with the megaproject. Headlamp agrees that AKLNG has tremendous global potential, but also emphasizes that Alaska still has work to do to keep the project’s cost of supply low. Alaska lawmakers need to put into perspective the opportunity that AKLNG represents and continue to move toward completion.

Time for school. Sit News reported that grants totaling $253,890 were awarded to 12 organizations through the Vocational Fund for Alaska’s Future (VFAF). Aimed at developing skills needed to be competitive in the state’s resource-based economy, the grants were largely awarded to organizations and projects that support rural Alaskan communities. Headlamp applauds the news that more resources are being made available to provide more Alaskans with the tools necessary to thrive in the many growing industries in Alaska.

Harry Crawford, organizer of the failed ballot initiative for a gas reserves tax has filed to run for office.  Again.  Crawford didn’t identify if he would run for the house or the senate – Rep. Lance Pruitt would be his opponent in a house race and Senator Cathy Giessel would be the opponent in a senate race. 


First Reads

Which office is former lawmaker Harry Crawford seeking? He’s not saying, yet
Alaska Dispatch News, Nathaniel Herz, December 21, 2015

Amid plunging gas prices, how competitive is Alaska LNG?
Alaska Public Radio News, Rachel Waldholz, December 21, 2015

$253,000 in Grants Awarded to Support Vocational Projects in Alaska
Sit News, December 22, 2015


Alaska Economy News

Oil collapse spurs budget shortfalls in U.S. oil states: Moody’s
Reuters, Mike Stone, December 21, 2015


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The Morning Headlamp—An AGDC change we can all agree on

December 21, 2015 | Posted in : News

New Leadership at AGDC. Alaska’s state-owned gas pipeline company made a set of leadership changes at a meeting Friday morning, appointing a temporary replacement for former president Dan Fauske and naming a permanent board chair. At the meeting, the board of the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. made its acting chair, Dave Cruz, the permanent chair, with Hugh Short named vice chair and Fritz Krusen named interim AGDC president. Headlamp welcomes the changes and hopes the move will help progress AKLNG forward.

Politico published an in-depth summary of the approval process that eventually allowed oil production in National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska from the Greater Mooses Tooth project by ConocoPhillips. The piece details the players and decisions involved over the past decade, largely focusing on the federal lobbying activity in Washington, DC.


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First Reads

Fiscal crisis requires real solution, not silver bullet fantasies
Alaska Dispatch News, Dermot Cole, December 19, 2015

State gas line corporation picks temporary replacement for former CEO Fauske
Alaska Dispatch News, Nathaniel Herz, December 18, 2015

Alaska lawmakers split on massive federal spending bill
Alaska Dispatch News, Erica Martinson, December 18, 2015

How Obama Let Big Oil Drill in the Pristine Alaska Wilderness
POLITICO, Alec MacGillis, December 18, 2015


Alaska Economy News

In the long run, low oil prices not bad for Alaska


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The Morning Headlamp—More deal bickering

December 18, 2015 | Posted in : News

Communities along the route of the pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to a liquefied natural gas export terminal at Nikiski have spent the fall negotiating with the state and other communities about how to divide up the estimated $15.7 billion in property tax revenues the project will produce over 25 years. The state has proposed a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILT) structure, hoping to avoid the contentious history of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, and its associated lawsuits. What’s at stake is shown by the huge size of the numbers involved at a time when dollars are tight and the state is facing years of deficits. The numbers include an $800 million PILT payment from Alaska LNG to help communities deal with costs such as schools, police and streets during five years of construction. North Slope Borough Mayor Charlotte Brower said each municipality should negotiate its own PILT with the oil companies, without the state. “The allocation of PILT should be done through an agreement directly between the municipalities and the taxpayers, the taxpayers being the oil companies,” she said. At a meeting of the board Wednesday in Anchorage, State Commissioner of Revenue Randy Hoffbeck suggested a 50-50 divide of the property tax revenue between the state and the municipalities. Matanuska-Susitna Borough Mayor Vern Halter didn’t like that split. “You are going to get the profits, and we’re going to be left on the hook, that’s what it looks like to me,” he said.

Headlamp cautions that 50% of 0 doesn’t help any of the municipalities.  Everyone in Alaska needs to work to keep this project on track, avoiding delays that add instability and jeopardize the project. 

Looking for a better solution. In speeches Thursday morning at a breakfast meeting of the Resource Development Council, Senate President Kevin Meyer of Anchorage and House Speaker Mike Chenault of Nikiski, both Republicans, said the Legislature plans to make steeper cuts than the $100 million, or 2.5 percent, that Walker has proposed for the state operating budget. The speeches from Meyer and Chenault marked their first times publicly addressing the budget proposal that Walker, a Republican-turned-independent, released last week. Walker’s plan would still draw about $400 million from savings this year, but the budget would be fully balanced by 2018. Meyer said that approach needed to be “flipped around” — instead, he said, the state should make cuts in the $500 million to $700 million range, and generate $100 million in new revenue. “I commend the governor for taking the first step, but before we implement any taxes on you and your industry, we need time,” Meyer told the audience. “We need time to look at what the impact is going to be.” Ultimately, though, the House will look at “substantially more reductions” than those proposed by Walker, Chenault said, though he didn’t identify specific programs that would be targets.   18 trade associations representing thousands of Alaskan businesses sent a letter to Governor Walker with a similar message:   reduce the size of government before looking at new taxes.  Taking LNG seriously? Alaska Gov. Bill Walker said Thursday his state extended its cooperation agreement with Japan-based consortium Resources Energy to develop natural gas fields in Cook Inlet. In 2012, Japan became the second-largest importer of fossil fuels, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. “The world market will certainly benefit from Alaska’s rich natural gas reserves, but my number one priority is ensuring that we work toward affordable energy for Alaskan families and businesses,” Walker said. “Extending this agreement shows Japanese consumers that Alaska is committed to exporting liquefied natural gas.” Cook Inlet development opens the door for the market to access Alaska’s liquefied natural gas supply while what has long been referred to as the AKLNG project is underway. Walker had made the development of liquefied natural gas a priority long before he was elected to the state’s top office. If the governor eliminates all of the tax credits that support development in the Cook Inlet this MOU may be DOA. 


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First Reads

State, boroughs brawl over Alaska gas line property tax windfall
Alaska Dispatch News, Pat Forgey, December 17, 2015

Leaders look for new cuts, revenue streams beyond oil
EnergyWire, Margaret Kriz Hobson, December 18, 2015

Governor’s budget proposes major changes to oil tax credits
KTOO, Rachel Waldholz, December 17, 2015

Alaska Extends Natural Gas Deal With Japan
Courthouse News Service, Julie St. Louis, December 17, 2015

Legislative leaders unhappy with Walker’s budget, but offer few alternatives
Alaska Dispatch News, Nathaniel Herz, December 17, 2015


Alaska Energy News

Inside the lobbying campaign to end the ban on crude oil exports
Fairbanks Daily News Miner, Catherine Ho, December 16, 2015


Alaska Budget News

Latest Alaska budget cuts impact on Medicaid
State of Reform, JJ Lee, December 17, 2015

Fish, game boards hear public testimony on budget cuts
Alaska Public Radio News, Molly Dischner, December 17, 2015


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The Morning Headlamp—Gov. Walker’s budget misstep

December 17, 2015 | Posted in : News

“You haven’t cut the budget, Governor.” Yesterday on Kenai radio station KSRM’s Tall, Dark and Handsome Show hosted by Duane Bannock, Governor Bill Walker called in to discuss his administration’s recently released budget. In the interview the Governor seemed to admit that spending cuts he has touted as part of the budget do not actually exist. In his discussion with the Governor, Bannock contended the state operating budget has in fact not been cut, but rather has been increased by 9.3%. In the clip posted below the two have a back and forth over the role of oil tax credits in the budget that concludes with Bannock saying: “You haven’t cut the budget, Governor. The budget’s gone up!” To which Governor Walker replies: “Ya…..we have…I understand your point Duane.” Headlamp is happy to know that Alaskans are paying attention to what the real details of the budget are and hopes Alaskan lawmakers will work to achieve a sustainable budget level of $4.5 billion for FY17.

 “Poster child” for Alaska exploration. In early February, a stretch of Arctic coastline will come alive with industrial activity as Caelus Energy LLC begins drilling its first exploration well on Alaska state lands in Smith Bay, a remote inlet located 60 miles southeast of Barrow. The company has owned the Smith Bay lands only since June, when it acquired a 75 percent working interest in the 117,000 acres from NordAq Energy Inc. The company’s top officials formed Caelus in 2011 after successful careers in oil exploration and development around the globe. “Our owner, Jim Musselman, likes to say that we’re the poster child for S.B. 21,” said Casey Sullivan, state public affairs director for Caelus. Sullivan asserted that the company has “invested a great deal of energy and capital in the state, and now the rug is being tugged underneath our feet a little bit.” The governor’s budget plan, he said, “causes a lot of uncertainty for our investor group. When you try to make plans for next year and thereafter and you just don’t know what the state program will look like, it’s a problem.”

Congress’ just-released “omnibus” spending bill and companion tax package have Alaska fingerprints all over themincluding provisions to lift a 40-year ban on crude oil exports, protect the fishing industry and support military spending in the state. The omnibus spending bill essentially rolls up 12 appropriations bills — all passed out of their home committees — into one, a final deal negotiated behind closed doors by a select few. As chair of the Senate appropriations subcommittee that funds agencies of the Interior and Environment departments, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski had a strong hand in that part of the legislation. Murkowski touted the provision as a win for energy and national security, arguing that it will spur new jobs and revenue. And given terrorist threats, “oil exports are needed now more than ever to reduce volatility and provide our allies, and the world, a stable and secure source of energy,” Murkowski said Wednesday.

Oh what a year. The Alaska Journal of Commerce released two “Year in Review” pieces, highlighting a year in oil production and Alaskan politics. The former, focused on the year’s five biggest energy developments: ConocoPhillips’ various projects, Caelus’ Nuna project, Point Thomson, Hilcorp’s plan for Liberty offshore, and Furie’s completion of the first Inlet platform in 30 years. The latter focused on the ongoing freefall of oil prices, the AKLNG project, Walker’s Medicaid expansion, Shell’s departure from the Arctic, AIEDA expansion, and President Obama’s visit to Alaska among other stories.  As we move into 2016, it is important to remember that two of the highlighted energy development projects are being threatened by Governor Walker’s proposed budget and the elimination of tax credits.   Lawmakers return to Juneau next month and Headlamp hopes that they are ready to get back to work.


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First Reads

In Interview Governor Admits His Plan Doesn’t Cut Budget
The Midnight Sun, December 16, 2015

Alaska budget plan shows deficit for next year
Associated Press, Becky Bohrer, December 17, 2015

Gov. Walker’s administration misses financial reporting deadline
Alaska Dispatch News, Nathaniel Herz, December 16, 2015

Gov’s budget plan scrutinized by legislators on both sides
Alaska Journal of Commerce, Elwood Brehmer, December 16, 2015

Another offshore driller gets ready for exploration in Alaska
Energywire, Margaret Kriz Hobson, December 17, 2015

YEAR IN REVIEW: New production by ConocoPhillips highlights ‘15
Alaska Journal of Commerce, Tim Bradner, December 16, 2015

YEAR IN REVIEW: Budget battles, special sessions, plunging prices
Alaska Journal of Commerce, December 16, 2015

Alaska municipalities debate how gas line wealth should be shared
KTVA, Liz Raines, December 16, 2015


Alaska Energy News

Interior Energy Project loses GVEA business to Petro Star
Alaska Public Radio News, Dan Bross, December 16, 2015


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The Morning Headlamp—A more realistic budget and government gas won’t be cheap in Fairbanks

December 16, 2015 | Posted in : News

“We don’t have a choice but to cut.” Republican legislative leaders say they’re looking at deeper cuts than the $100 million in reductions Gov. Bill Walker laid out in his state budget last week, with proposals likely to target health and education spending. The governor is arguing for a new income tax and a restructuring of the Permanent Fund to help cover the state’s $3.5 billion deficit. But GOP legislative leaders, and some of their supporters, say they plan to find more savings, and view the fiscal crisis as an opportunity to scale back the size of state government. GOP Senate leaders say they think that another $500 million or more in savings can be found. They’ve released few specifics so far about how they’d reach that goal, and Sen. Mike Dunleavy and others said they likely wouldn’t be unveiled until legislative staffers finish a detailed analysis of Walker’s proposal. “Some folks will not like that — I understand that,” Dunleavy said. But, he added: “If we’re looking at this purely as a mathematical issue, your largest cost drivers are education and health and social services. It’s an inescapable fact.” Dunleavy, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, wouldn’t identify any specific cuts, but the question, he added, is “where we can find significant savings without destroying certain aspects of the system.”

Merrick Pierce, a Port Authority pal of Governor Walkers points out that the Governor’s campaign promise to bring cheap gas to Fairbanks won’t work as planned “The cost of gas from the AIDEA scheme for most consumers would be more than $20 per MMBtu. Why? AIDEA has ignored all common sense and Gov. Walker’s campaign promise to bring Fairbanks energy parity with Anchorage. AIDEA has promoted the idea of a meter price of natural gas of $15 dollars per MMBtu. The problem is that is not what consumers here would pay. Even if gas was delivered at $15 per MMBtu, home owners would have to spend a considerable amount of money to convert to natural gas. If a boiler replacement cost only $6,000, then that cost, amortized at 2 percent”

During public comment period that largely addressed AKLNG concerns, Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor Mike Navarre highlighted what good AKLNG would bring to his borough “While operations at the LNG plant will affect the area’s traffic, economy, population and demands for public and private services long term, it is the thousands of workers during construction, along with the accompanying traffic and demands for services that are of more concern to the borough and its residents because of the concentrated impact,” borough mayor Mike Navarre wrote in the comments.

Making the best of a bad situation. Royal Dutch Shell is fighting to preserve U.S. drilling rights in Arctic waters three months after halting exploration indefinitely there because it failed to find meaningful oil or natural gas deposits. The Obama administration has backed away from selling new leases and canceled two planned auctions, citing low industry interest. Shell said in October it was considering options “to protect the remaining value of our assets and leases” in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas north of Alaska. Shell argued in its 2014 request that “circumstances beyond its control” prevented exploratory drilling on its leases, citing regulations that restrict operations, the limited availability of Arctic-viable rigs and uncertainty about new federal rules for drilling in the region. Headlamp applauds Shell’s commitment to Alaska’s energy and economic future despite less than favorable economic conditions.

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 now here: http://bit.ly/1OdpLVY


First Reads

FERC comments debate LNG location, impact
Peninsula Clarion, Elizabeth Earl, December 16, 2015

Alaska GOP lawmakers want steeper cuts, eyeing health care and education
Alaska Dispatch News, Nathaniel Herz, December 15, 2015

Shell seeks to preserve U.S. drilling rights in Arctic Ocean
Fairbanks Daily News Miner, Jennifer Dlouhy, December 15, 2015

It’s time for Alaska legislators to grow up and face fiscal reality
Alaska Dispatch News, Elise Patkotak, December 15, 2015

AIDEA not getting job done on gas
Fairbanks Daily News Miner, Merrick Peirce, December 16, 2015


Alaska Legislature News

Alaska GOP lawmakers want steeper cuts, eyeing health care and education
Alaska Dispatch News, Nathaniel Herz, December 14, 2015


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