Elwood Brehmer

Private spending to grow in 2014

Investments in North Slope oil and gas projects will be the main driver behind statewide construction spending growth in the coming year, according to a report by the University of Alaska Anchorage Institute of Social and Economic Research.

The annual forecast projects oil and gas spending on construction work in the state to total $4.3 billion in 2014, up 34 percent from $3.2 billion last year. That sector accounts for 46 percent of all construction spending in the state, estimated to be about $9.2 billion.

DNR ordered to rule on Chuitna Coalition’s applications

A state Superior Court judge ruled Oct. 14 that the Department of Natural Resources cannot ignore water reservation applications filed by the Chuitna Citizens Coalition.

The coalition applied for three instream flow reservations on the Western Cook Inlet Chuitna River for fish and wildlife protection in 2009. After more than two years of inactivity on the applications, the Chuitna Citizens Coalition and environmental advocator group Cook Inletkeeper filed a joint lawsuit against DNR in November 2011.

Tax credits essential for latest feature film

Film industry insiders say Alaska’s film production tax credit is essential to continuing production in state, as it offsets some of the unavoidable costs associated with doing business in Alaska.

“The Frozen Ground,” a feature film that depicts the 1983 manhunt for serial killer Robert Hansen, was filmed almost exclusively in Alaska, Director Scott Walker said, and the tax break helped him persuade the film’s financial backers to make it in Alaska.

Cruisers, fare wars drive solid season

As the leaves turn and snowflakes begin to replace rain in some parts of Alaska, tourism industry officials across the state are reporting a strong summer season.

Though the season is not completely over, preliminary numbers indicate the predicted return to 1 million cruise passengers in the state this year seems to have materialized, said John Binkley, executive director of the Cruise Lines International Association Alaska (formerly the Alaska Cruise Association). 

Wind power producers ask regulators for rate certainty

Independent sources of Interior electricity are in the hands of the Regulatory Commission of Alaska.

Alaska Environmental Power LLC, a small wind farm near Delta Junction, filed an informal complaint Aug. 23 with the commission against Golden Valley Electric Association’s proposed power purchase agreement.

Golden Valley filed its template contract with the commission, or RCA, in July as a guide for future agreements with independent power producers.

Cruise company drops Fairbanks rail in new schedule

Cruise tour passengers going to Fairbanks will not be riding a Holland America Princess train to the city next summer.

The parent company of Holland America Line and Princess cruises, known as HAP, recently confirmed it is terminating its rail service from Denali National Park to Fairbanks at the start of the 2014 summer travel season.

AVTEC plans nation’s first ice navigation program

The White House is setting arctic policy. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is investigating locations for an arctic port. Hundreds of ships per year are passing through the Northern Sea Route over the Russian Arctic. And, until the Kulluk grounding, oil exploration in Arctic waters was ramping up. The arctic is becoming a busy place.

Officials at the Alaska Vocational Technical Center, or AVTEC, in Seward hope to do their part in helping the state of Alaska lead arctic activity by starting the nation’s first ice navigation program for marine pilots and captains.

TOTE’s conversion to LNG on track

Almost a year after announcing it would convert two of its vessels to liquefied natural gas, officials with Totem Ocean Trailer Express Inc., or TOTE, said the modifications are on schedule.

The 840-foot M/V Midnight Sun and M/V North Star, TOTE’s Orca Class containerships that operate between Anchorage and Tacoma, Wash., are expected to be running on LNG by the September 2016 deadline.

CEA president: ‘Road to energy security runs through Alaska’

The Consumer Energy Alliance is working with private industry and state officials to raise awareness about the need for increased oil and gas development in Alaska, CEA President David Holt told the Resource Development Council June 26.

Holt said his message to the rest of the country is the same as it was when he spoke to RDC three years ago.

“The road to U.S. energy security runs through Alaska,” he said.

Commerce official encourages Alaska export growth

ANCHORAGE — In a June 7 speech before the Export Council of Alaska, U.S. Department of Commerce Under Secretary for International Trade Francisco Sanchez outlined federal efforts to improve the national export economy.

U.S. exports grew by 4.5 percent in 2012 to a record $2.2 trillion, Sanchez told the council. In 2009, American companies exported $1.58 trillion worth of goods and services, according to the Commerce Department.

“Nationwide, exports support nearly 10 million American jobs,” he said.

Fairbanks gas territory up for grabs

A competition has emerged between Fairbanks Natural Gas Co. and the Interior Alaska Natural Gas Utility over who will serve the Fairbanks North Star Borough with natural gas.

Fairbanks Natural Gas, or FNG, filed an application with the state Regulatory Commission on April 5 to expand its service area to include nearly all of the populated areas of the Fairbanks North Star Borough. The area runs south and east from Fairbanks to North Pole and the area surrounding Eielson Air Force Base.

Manager sought for port project

The Municipality of Anchorage is in the market for a project management team to oversee the stalled Port of Anchorage expansion project.

At a joint meeting between the Anchorage Assembly’s Enterprise Oversight Committee and the Port of Anchorage Commission on May 23, Municipal Manager George Vakalis announced that the municipality is drafting a request for proposal, or RFP, to receive bids for the work.

The four-member Enterprise Committee monitors the actions of the city-owned utilities, Merrill Field and the Port of Anchorage.

State unemployment at pre-recession levels

Alaska’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell two-tenths of a point in April to 6 percent. The adjusted national rate for the month was 7.5 percent.

From March to April the national rate fell 0.1 percent.

The last time the state’s adjusted unemployment was as low as 6 percent was in the summer of 2007, prior to the national recession, according to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Idle ferry proves to be tough sell after lone bid opened

As any boat owner knows, they are expensive. The Matanuska-Susitna Borough’s venture into large boat ownership gets more expensive by the day with no easy way out.
The borough released a statement March 29 that it received a bid of $751,000 from a Dutch company to purchase the M/V Susitna. With it currently sitting idle in Ketchikan, the borough is spending about $75,000 a month to harbor and maintain the 200-foot vessel.

$355-million plan for trucking LNG to Interior moves ahead in Legislature

Whether liquefied natural gas will be trucked from the North Slope to the Interior within the next couple of years should be a lot clearer within the next month.

Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, or AIDEA, is currently reviewing proposals from Fairbanks-area companies competing for state money to build a gas liquefaction plan on the North Slope.

Home sales, prices throughout Alaska show increase in 2012

On the whole, Alaska's housing market remained stable in 2012, but energy costs and government regulations cloud the future, according to Alaska Association of Realtors President Michael Droege.
Statewide, combined single-family and condominium sales averaged $287,000 at the end of the third quarter of 2012, the latest data available from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Year-over-year sale price was up $17,000, or 6.2 percent.
Sales volume grew 8.5 percent over the same period.

State energy audit shows potential savings

An energy audit of Alaska public facilities uncovered some of the most, and least, energy efficient buildings in the state. The study, conducted by Alaska Housing Finance Corp., evaluated 327 investment grade audits performed on public facilities.

The study estimates there are 5,000 public buildings in Alaska, spending more than $641 million on energy every year. If appropriate measures are taken, the study calculates a potential energy cost savings of  $125 million yearly to the state.

Roads to Resources effort emerging from planning stages

The Roads to Resources proposal set forth by Gov. Sean Parnell as a funding mechanism to jump start work on four surface transportation projects in Alaska is slowly gaining steam, according to officials close to the work.

In late 2011, the governor announced a $28.5 million budget proposal aimed at increasing access to resources currently outside the state’s road system.

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