Things might be shaking in ANWR and Juneau.

Could there be seismic in the Arctic Refuge this winter after all?
Elizabeth Harball, KTOO News, Feb 11, 2019

During the final public meeting in Alaska on oil leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a top Interior official said there’s still a possibility that some seismic exploration could be done there this winter. The statement comes after Interior confirmed last week that the early stage oil exploration effort proposed by company SAExploration was off the table this season. Regulators limit seismic exploration to winter, when snow cover helps protect the tundra. Environmental groups and Gwich’in leaders opposed to oil development in the Refuge celebrated the news — they had raised concerns about seismic exploration’s potential impacts. But today, the Anchorage Daily News reported that SAExploration is still pursuing work this winter. During a press conference, Interior’s Joe Balash confirmed that there may still be some wiggle room.

Our take: A huge thank you to the BLM for changing format and taking the time to hear from all interested parties. The Anchorage hearing ran smoothly and many perspectives were voiced. Thank you to everyone who showed up to voice support for opening the 10-02 region in ANWR. Written comments may be submitted here until March 13.

The Trump administration says it’s sticking to plans for an Arctic refuge oil lease sale by year’s end
Yereth Rosen, Arctic Today, Feb 12, 2019

Joe Balash, the Interior Department’s assistant secretary for land and minerals management, said the department plans to complete its environmental review, reach a record of decision and open up the first round of bidding before the end of 2019. “Can all of that happen this year? We think so,” he told reporters during a public meeting in Anchorage on proposed ANWR leasing. The meeting was the seventh of eight scheduled to collect public input on a draft environmental impact statement released in December by the Bureau of Land Management. Balash said Interior officials will “take as long as is necessary to do a robust job and come out with a solid product” that is good for the nation and that minimizes impacts to the region’s Porcupine caribou herd, a point of contention in the drilling debate.

“We think we’ll be done with the EIS sometime in the third quarter this year, but, you know, we thought we would be further along than we are now,” he said.

Our take: Based on yesterday’s hearing, it is clear that the BLM is taking the draft EIS and related concerns very seriously. It is obvious that much hard work and tireless hours that have been spent on the draft EIS. Hopefully by year’s end we see this hard work translate into fruitful studies in ANWR.

            Related:  Climate, economy takes center stage at final Alaska hearing on ANWR oil drilling

Holdout Kenai lawmaker agrees to break leadership deadlock in Alaska House
James Brooks, Anchorage Daily News, Feb 11, 2019

“I’m going to be the 21st vote to support a Republican-led coalition or caucus,” Knopp said. With Knopp’s support, the other 20 members of the House Republican caucus could vote to elect Rep. Dave Talerico, R-Healy, as speaker of the House when the House meets at 10 a.m. Tuesday. The vote could have taken place Monday evening but for the absence of Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski. Monday was the 28th day of the legislative session; the old record for disorganization was 22 days, in 1981. Without a speaker of the House, legislation cannot be introduced, bills cannot advance, and the general activities of the House are limited. Twenty-one votes are needed in the 40-person House to elect a speaker.

Our take: Good to see representative Knopp join his peers to finally have some organization down in Juneau. This is especially critical with the Governor’s budget set to release tomorrow, February 13. Hopefully the election of a speaker happens without incident and the newly formed Republican majority can work together for the remainder of session.

The Biggest Threat To Oil Market Stability
Nick Cunningham, OilPrice.com, Feb 11, 2019

Standard Chartered singled out the U.S. government as a major source of volatility. “If the balances were the sole driver of OPEC output policy, the stage would have been set for a relatively quiet year,” the investment bank wrote. “However, there is a disruptive factor in the market which is likely to complicate policy choices; U.S. policy has become harder to predict.” After a quiet first year from President Trump, 2018 was markedly different. “13 market-moving tweets on oil expressing a strong desire for lower prices, significant developments in policy towards Iran and Venezuela, and a sense that domestic energy policy is in a period of substantial flux,” Standard Chartered wrote. “We think that the oil market, oil producers and oil analysts have yet to adapt fully to the uncertainty and policy risks injected into the oil market by the Trump presidency.”

From the Washington Examiner Daily on Energy:

SENATE SET TO APPROVE PUBLIC LANDS PACKAGE: The Senate is expected to approve a public lands package Tuesday evening that would permanently reauthorize the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund, which Congress let expire last year.

Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, the chairwoman of the Natural Resources Committee, and Maria Cantwell of Washington, the panel’s former top Democrat who stepped down from that position this year, have long pushed for the lands package, which also includes measures increasing sportsmen’s access to federal lands, boosting economic development in dozens of communities through land exchanges, and conserving lands of special importance.

New life for key public lands fund: Environmental groups had criticized the Senate for failing to permanently reauthorizing the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund during the last session of Congress. The LWCF gets its money from offshore oil and gas leases, rather than taxpayer money, and pays for public lands projects. It provides money to federal, state, and local governments for buying land and waters to improve national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and other public areas.

Amendment to limit Antiquities Act fails: During debate of the lands package, the Senate rejected an amendment from Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, that would have blocked presidents from using executive authority to declaring national monuments in his state.

Lee and other conservatives have argued presidents, most recently Barack Obama, have abused the Antiquities Act in protecting larger and large swaths of public land as national monuments, and hindering the activities of ranchers.