Dan Joling

Alaska Railroad prepares for first U.S. shipments of natural gas

ANCHORAGE — The Alaska Railroad is making final preparations for the first U.S. rail shipments of liquefied natural gas, a fuel that could be used to alleviate air pollution problems in the state’s second-largest city.

The railroad Tuesday sent two loaded 40-foot LNG containers from Anchorage to Fairbanks as part of a demonstration. Seven more round-trips over four weeks will follow, said Tim Sullivan, manager of external affairs.

Senators file lawsuit over governor's veto

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) ­— Gov. Bill Walker illegally vetoed Alaska Permanent Fund earnings that were required to be transferred to dividends, a lawsuit filed Friday by a state senator and two former state senators claims.

Facing a multibillion-dollar deficit, Walker in June cut in half the annual checks that give all residents a share of the state’s oil wealth. He kept enough money in place to award qualified Alaskans a $1,000 payout rather than an anticipated $2,100 check.

Group says fracking will harm Cook Inlet beluga whales

ANCHORAGE — A national environmental group is asking federal fisheries officials to block a drilling company’s plans for offshore hydraulic fracturing in Alaska’s Cook Inlet.

The Center for Biological Diversity says fracking by BlueCrest Energy will threaten endangered beluga whales.

The group says no hydraulic fracturing by the Fort Worth, Texas-based company should be allowed unless there’s additional environmental review.

Hydraulic fracturing is the extraction of oil and gas from rock through injection of high-pressure mixtures of water, sand and chemicals.

Stranded skiers from Soldotna safe after rescue

ANCHORAGE— Helicopters trying to rescue two skiers trapped on an Alaska ice field for four days waited out whiteout conditions that one pilot said were like flying inside a pingpong ball.

The winds and blowing snow subsided enough Tuesday to allow an Alaska Air National Guard helicopter to land in Harding Ice Field to pick up the skiers.

But the hard work wasn’t over. The rescue team had to dig down through deep snow to get Jennifer Neyman and Christopher Hanna out of their snow cave, where they took refuge after getting stranded Friday.

Inuit link steady food supply to environment’s health

ANCHORAGE — Alaska Inuit hunter John Goodwin for decades has hunted ugruk, the bearded seal, a marine mammal prized for its meat, oil and hide.

The largest of Alaska’s ice seals uses sea ice to rest and birth pups, and after the long winter, when ice breaks into floes, there’s a window of opportunity for Goodwin to leave his home in Kotzebue and motor his boat between ice panels, shoot seals and butcher them before they migrate north through the Bering Strait.

Shell drill vessels exit Arctic after oil exploration ceases

ANCHORAGE — Two drill vessels employed by Royal Dutch Shell PLC off Alaska’s northwest coast have safely departed Arctic waters for the Pacific Northwest.

The 572-foot Noble Discoverer, owned by Noble Drilling U.S. LLC, reached Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands on Sunday afternoon. After a Coast Guard inspection, the vessel departed Monday for the Port of Everett in Washington state, Shell spokesman Curtis Smith said.

Shell president optimistic about drilling in Arctic

ANCHORAGE — The president of Shell Oil Co. said Tuesday that exploratory drilling off Alaska’s northwest coast is going well despite stormy weather last week that caused the company to halt operations for a few days.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Marvin Odum said he expects further protests against the company’s plans for Arctic drilling like the ones in Seattle and Portland where activists in kayaks tried to block Shell vessels.

Legislators approve budget

ANCHORAGE — After months of negotiations, the Alaska Legislature on Thursday approved a $5 billion budget that reduces spending while tapping the state’s reserves to help with multibillion-dollar deficits brought on by low oil prices.

The plan now goes to Gov. Bill Walker, whose administration had been preparing for a partial government shutdown next month in case a fully funded budget wasn’t reached.

Greenpeace group boards Arctic offshore drill rig

ANCHORAGE — Six Greenpeace activists protesting Arctic offshore drilling on Monday boarded a drill rig as it was transported across the Pacific Ocean toward Seattle, where it will be staged for drilling on Shell leases in Alaska waters.

The 400-foot Polar Pioneer, owned by Transocean Ltd., was on board a heavy-lift vessel about 750 miles northwest of Hawaii when the activists approached in inflatable boats and used climbing gear to get on board, Greenpeace spokesman Travis Nichols said.

President withdraws Bristol Bay from oil-gas exploration, drilling

ANCHORAGE — President Barack Obama announced Tuesday that he’s removing more than 52,000 square miles of waters off Alaska’s coast from consideration for oil and gas exploration or drilling.

The president said in a video announcement that Bristol Bay and nearby waters, covering an area roughly the size of Florida, would be withdrawn from consideration for petroleum leases. He called Bristol Bay one of the country’s great natural resources and a massive economic engine.

Court: Coal discharge into bay is illegal

ANCHORAGE — A permit covering storm-water runoff does not apply to coal falling from a conveyor belt into Resurrection Bay at Seward, a federal appeals court ruled Sept. 3.
A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a decision by U.S. District Court Judge Tim Burgess and ruled that coal dropped into the ocean by the Alaska Railroad at its Seward Coal Loading Facility would violate the federal Clean Water Act.
The ruling was made in a lawsuit brought in December 2009 by Alaska Community Action on Toxics and the Alaska chapter of the Sierra Club.

Volcano’s alert level lowered

ANCHORAGE — Rumblings under Alaska’s Pavlof Volcano have diminished, but scientists are keeping an eye on the state’s most active volcano in case it sends up another ash cloud.

The volcano sent an ash plume to 22,000 feet Monday, and it drifted east about 50 miles, prompting the Alaska Volcano Observatory to raise the aviation warning in the area to red, the highest level.

River turbine to be tested at rural Alaska village

A company that hopes to build underwater river turbines as a clean power alternative to diesel in Alaska villages has unveiled a prototype due to be tested in July.

Ocean Renewable Power Co., based in Portland, Maine, showed off its RivGen Power System last week in Anchorage. The device built with backing from the Alaska Energy Authority and the Denali Commission will be installed in July on the bottom of the Kvichak River to generate power for Igiugig, a community of 50 about 250 miles southwest of Anchorage.

NTSB recommends safety audit of Alaska aviation

ANCHORAGE — Two fatal crashes of Alaska commuter aircraft and five other accidents or incidents have led the National Transportation Safety Board to recommend a comprehensive safety audit of the company that provides most commuter air service within the state.
The NTSB announced May 1 an “urgent safety recommendation” that the Federal Aviation Administration review of the businesses operating under HoTH Inc. to check for regulatory compliance and operational safety.

Alaskans file to repeal Senate Bill 21

BANCHORAGE — A new non-partisan group seeking repeal of an oil tax cut says the measure approved by state legislators was a massive giveaway that will benefit major oil companies and hurt Alaskans.
Members of Vote Yes! Repeal the Giveaway on April 18 announced the referendum’s prime sponsors are former state Sen. Vic Fischer, former Alaska First Lady Bella Hammond, and former Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor and state Rep. Jim Whitaker.
Fischer was part of the Alaska Constitutional Convention. He labeled the tax break “unconstitutional.”

State, feds agree to study unconventional energy

ANCHORAGE  — The U.S. Department of Energy and the state of Alaska will collaborate on future research of unconventional energy resources in the arctic, including abundant reservoirs of methane hydrate.

The DOE’s acting assistant secretary for fossil energy, Christopher Smith, and Alaska Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan announced the agreement Tuesday and spoke to reporters from Houston, Texas, where they are attending LNG 17, a natural gas conference.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Dan Joling