Rising Production, Falling Emissions, BLM Blind Spots

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Today’s Key Takeaways: U.S. carbon emissions decrease during record production. USGS labels Arctic oil resources “puny.”  More Cook Inlet royalty concerns. BLM “deaf, dumb and blind” to Alaska’ critical mineral potential. Alaska candidates list is set.


The US oil and gas industry is emitting less carbon than it used to
Julian Spector, Canary Media, June 3, 2024

American oil and gas companies have cut back on methane emissions even as production reached record heights, a new analysis shows.

The U.S. energy industry continues to extract record amounts of fossil fuels, despite climate activists’ calls to ​“keep it in the ground.” But while oil and gas extraction has increased in recent years, the carbon emissions from that industrial activity have actually fallen, a new analysis has found.

Even as fossil gas production rose by 40 percent from 2015 to 2022, methane emissions from gas extraction fell by 37 percent, according to a study of Environmental Protection Agency data published today by climate nonprofits Ceres and the Clean Air Task Force. That finding suggests that when energy companies want to, they can effectively reduce emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas with 82 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide over 20 years, and 30 times the warming potential over 100 years. Overall greenhouse gas emissions, which count the industry’s considerable carbon dioxide releases, also fell, but by a more modest 14 percent.



Northern Arctic oil resources look ‘puny,’ feds say
Heather Richards, E & E News, May 31, 2024

Drillers could tap an estimated 1.8 billion barrels of crude oil from an area deep in the Arctic Ocean, but that’s not likely, according to a U.S. Geological Survey assessment released Wednesday.

The Northern Chukchi Basin lies 150 miles north of Alaska’s coastline, straddling the exclusive economic zones of the U.S. and Russia, as well as waters in the Arctic Circle beyond either country’s domain. In addition to its undiscovered oil resources, the basin could hold roughly 120 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to USGS.

Relative to the size of the area, the basin’s oil and gas resources are likely not enough to stoke industry interest or turn policymakers’ heads in Washington, said David Houseknecht, a senior research geologist at USGS and one of the authors of the assessment.

“There are estimates of undiscovered resources, both onshore and offshore, closer to Alaska that makes this look puny,” he said.


Cook Inlet gas producer assails royalty rates as another seeks state financing
Sean Maguire, Anchorage Daily News, June 2, 2024

John Hendrix was stressed on Thursday. He temporarily shut down a well that produces 50% of his company’s gas from Cook Inlet for a mandatory state test. The well produces large quantities of water and Hendrix didn’t know if gas would flow again.

“We were biting our nails there on that one,” he said.

The safety-valve test was performed satisfactorily, said Brett Huber, chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Pressure had returned to the well by Friday and Hendrix said he could keep producing gas. Another safety test has been scheduled in October, which could see another round of nail biting.

The well test was the latest challenge facing Hendrix, the owner and operator of HEX Cook Inlet LLC, a privately owned Alaska independent that leases the massive Kitchen Lights Unit near Nikiski. In April, the unit produced just over 5% of the gas that came from Cook Inlet to heat and power the Railbelt.

Hendrix has sought to drill new wells to double production from the unit, which has a substantial proven gas supply for Southcentral Alaska. But he was recently dealt a blow by an Anchorage judge when he lost a long-running property tax dispute with the state.

For decades, the state has assessed oil and gas properties at their replacement value: what it would cost to rebuild all of their producing assets if they were suddenly lost. Hendrix wanted that changed to the market value, or what the assets would currently sell for.

The state assessed the value of the Kitchen Lights Unit at just over $81 million in 2021 and 2022. Hendrix argued that the true value of the property was $18 million after buying Furie Operating out of bankruptcy in 2020 with help from a state loan.



Antipathy toward Alaska mining is myopic
J.P. Tangen, North of 60 Mining News, May 31, 2024

The Bureau of Land Management has struck again, this time in the form of a land management plan for the Central Yukon Resource Management Area or the “CYRMP” (pronounced crimp).

The CYRMP and the associated Final Environmental Impact Statement, dated April 2024, will have significant adverse effects on the future of mining in Alaska because of the intent to adopt hybrid Alternative E that will effectively foreclose vast acreage in the state to mineral exploration and development.

Bureau of Land Management

Needless to say, if implemented as proposed, Alternative E is contrary to the intent and language of the Alaska Statehood Act, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA).

That, of course, is not persuasive to the BLM.

Likewise, it is contrary to reason because, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the BLM seems to be deaf, dumb, and blind to the potential of Alaska to produce a vast array of critical minerals in support of current and future national needs.

The BLM’s bias is two-fold: first, it ignores the international implications of recovering minerals of virtually all types off-shore, whether we are talking about rare earths from China or cobalt from Congo; and second, it ignores the obvious fact that land management is a three-dimensional obligation that includes management of the minerals in the ground, not just surface assets.

The BLM takes the position that blocking mineral development, rather than facilitating it, is somehow a part of their mandate.

Here are nine good reasons why the recommended alternative, Alternative E, should not be adopted:

1. The recommended alternative fails to revoke outdated ANCSA 17(d)(1) withdrawals.

2. The recommended alternative fails to revoke the outdated PLO 5150 (relating to the pipeline corridor) and to allow for state top-filings to facilitate the overdue priority transfer to state management.

3. The recommended alternative fails to offer a meaningful assessment of the mineral potential, socioeconomic impact, and development likelihood in the planning area.

4. The recommended alternative retains unlawfully large areas of critical environmental concern designations and designates new ones without meaningful consideration of the impacts on economic development and access.

5. The recommended alternative creates ROW Exclusion Areas that preemptively and unjustifiably curtail public access to certain areas within the planning area.

6. The recommended alternative administratively precludes multiple use throughout the planning area.

7. The recommended alternative violates the critical ANILCA “no more” clauses intended to preserve a balance of available land uses in the public interest.

8. The recommended alternative uses the “BEACONS” (Boreal Ecosystems Analysis for Conservation Networks) approach and other subjective, poorly defined categories as a management priority without acknowledging that fish, wildlife, and plants will adapt to a realistic development environment.

9. The recommended alternative includes repetitive, vague, and overly specific procedures that cumulatively make it difficult for small mining operations to occur on CRYMP lands.

Each of these issues, of course, has voluminous elaboration, which has been expounded on to the BLM over the past ten years, beginning with the initial CRYMP scoping exercise in 2014.



Alaska’s candidate lists for legislative and congressional races are set after Saturday’s deadline
Iris Samuels, Anchorage Daily News, June 2, 2024

The field of candidates for Alaska’s U.S House and state legislative elections later this year is finalized, with several open races that could prove consequential for the future of state policy.

Twelve candidates have filed for Alaska’s lone U.S. House seat, headlined by incumbent Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola, and Republican challengers Nick Begich and Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom.

All 40 of Alaska’s House seats and half of Alaska’s 20 Senate seats are up for election in November. Last-minute shuffling paved the way for several open races, including one Senate seat and six House seats where the incumbents are not seeking reelection.

The deadline for candidates to file was 5 p.m. Saturday.

Candidates have until the end of the month to drop out of the races before ballots are finalized and printed. Alaska’s Aug. 20 primary election will be held under a voting method adopted in 2020 and first used in 2022. The candidates will face each other in open, nonpartisan primary elections, and the top four vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, will advance to the November general election.

Until 2022, closed primary races often determined the outcomes of legislative races. But the new system has allowed for many races in which multiple candidates from the same party are likely to face off in the general election.

It also means that very few candidates will be eliminated in the August election, since only two Senate races and one House race have more than four candidates. Still, the primary races could prove pivotal — signaling both to voters and to the candidates themselves which contenders have the lead heading into the November election.