Elwood Brehmer

BP says it plans to cut its Alaska workforce by 13 percent; layoffs will happen mid-year

BP is cutting 4,000 jobs worldwide and some of those reductions will be in Alaska.

An intra-company email obtained by the Alaska Journal of Commerce sent to BP Alaska employees Jan. 12 states that the company plans to reduce its total in state workforce by 13 percent.

All employees should know their status by early spring and the majority of layoffs will be conducted by mid-year, according to the email.

Governor puts freeze on hiring, travel

Those cushy state jobs are going to be a little harder to come by after Gov. Bill Walker’s administration instituted a state hiring freeze and travel restrictions Jan. 5 for all executive branch departments.

Walker said during a press briefing that measures mostly already in place to restrict hiring and travel for state department employees were made official during a Jan. 4 cabinet meeting in which about half of his cabinet staff teleconferenced between Juneau and Anchorage.

Walker plans for better relations with Legislature

What a long, strange trip it’s been — and that was only year one.

In his first year in office, Gov. Bill Walker faced unprecedented state budget deficits; an obstinate Legislature, which would eventually sue him; an historic presidential visit; and an oh so precarious state economy, all the while trying to put his mark on an immense natural gas pipeline project led by three of the largest companies that has for years been his overwhelming desire for Alaska.

Independent power producers cheer RCA rules revisions

Alaska’s independent power producers are claiming victory over regulatory changes that they say will encourage investment in renewable energy projects.

The Regulatory Commission of Alaska on Nov. 20 finalized revisions to state regulations pertaining to how electric utilities calculate their cost of power and mandating them to purchase power from economically viable third-party sources.

Pebble conflict moves to Capitol Hill

The fight over the proposed Pebble mine at times makes politics look tame.

That impassioned battle resumed on Capitol Hill Nov. 5 when the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology heard from those on the front lines of both sides. The committee also received testimony from former Maine senator and Defense Secretary William Cohen, whose recently published report about the Environmental Protection Agency’s involvement in the matter has once again made Pebble a topic of national debate.

Report lays out buyout costs

Gov. Bill Walker’s proposal to increase the state’s share in the Alaska LNG Project could put Alaska on the hook for more than $14 billion, but also generate about $400 million in additional annual revenue, according to a report from Department of Natural Resources consultants.

The report released Sept. 30 performed by Black and Veatch, a consulting company that has evaluated the Alaska LNG Project in the past, firmed up an earlier estimate that the near-term cost for the state to buy out TransCanada Corp. would be $108 million.

AIDEA loan aids state’s first Krispy Kreme

It looks like Southcentral Alaskans will have a new way to get their sugar fix, thanks in part to the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority.

The state economic development corporation’s board approved participation in a $6.9 million loan Sept. 24 to finance an East Anchorage retail center that is slated to house Alaska’s first Krispy Kreme donut shop.

Port Mac rail almost out of cash amid budget crunch

The Port MacKenzie rail line extension is nearly two-thirds complete, but there is currently no funding for future work.

Matanuska-Susitna Borough Manager John Moosey said the borough has about $500,000 available for the approximately $303 million endeavor.

“Segment 5 is close to being complete, but essentially what we have for this next season is only money to not mothball the project,” Moosey said.

HEA secures lower price on gas deal with Furie

The price of Cook Inlet natural gas continues to trend downward as utilities and producers agree to contracts beyond 2018.

Homer Electric Association has signed a gas purchase agreement with Furie Operating Alaska LLC to purchase natural gas beginning April 1, 2016, for $6.50 per thousand cubic feet, or mcf.

The deal was submitted to the Regulatory Commission of Alaska Sept. 14.

October session on TransCanada buyout coming

It appears a fall special session is back on after Gov. Bill Walker met with a small group of legislators Sept. 21 to discuss issues key to the Alaska LNG Project.

House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, said in an interview that the governor wants a 30-day special session to begin on or about Oct. 20. The docket would probably be limited to Walker’s proposal to buy out TransCanada Corp. from the project and forward funding the state’s role, according to Chenault.

Mat-Su Assembly OKs $1.75-million sale of ferry

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough’s big boat nightmare might finally be over.

Borough Manager John Moosey got approval from the Mat-Su Assembly last week to sell the M/V Susitna ferry for $1.75 million to the Philippine Red Cross.

“I’m elated that this ship will be put to the noble work of saving lives after disasters in the Philippines,” Moosey said in a borough release. “We exhausted our options on disposing of this vessel. It’s time to give it new life and release our taxpayers from the burden of its upkeep.”

Indonesian group trains at AVTEC

Members of the Indonesian Coast Guard and navy began two weeks of training at the Alaska Vocational Technical Center in Seward Aug. 24.

The training for the group of 15 is focusing on the U.S. Coast Guard-approved Global Maritime Distress and Safety System, an international emergency response network that uses land and satellite-based communications, according to an AVTEC release.

Legislators vote to sue Walker

The fight over expanding Medicaid between Gov. Bill Walker and Republican legislators has gone from the Capitol to the Anchorage Legislative Information Office and is now headed for a courtroom.

The Republican-heavy joint Legislative Council voted 10-1 Aug. 18 to sue Walker over his use of executive authority to accept federal funds to expand the state Medicaid program.

Minority Democrat Rep. Sam Kito of Juneau was the only dissenting vote. 

Despite state’s financial uncertainty, Anchorage’s economy performing well

Anchorage’s economy is doing better than expected based on job growth reported by Anchorage Economic Development Corp. CEO Bill Popp.

The city added about 1,000 jobs in June based on a new U.S. Department of Labor calculation. Private sector employers added 2,200 jobs for the month, according to Popp.

The job market was strong through the first half of 2015, despite depressed oil prices.

Alaska utilities, leaders welcome exemption from emissions rule

Alaska utilities will not have to comply with new federal standards requiring cleaner power production.

The state is currently exempted from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, announced in its final form by President Barack Obama Aug. 3.

Proposed in June of last year, the ultimate goal of the 1,500-page Clean Power Plan is to reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

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