Independents offer mixed review of oil tax changes

JUNEAU -- Independent oil companies offered a mixed assessment Monday of Gov. Sean Parnell's proposed oil tax overhaul, saying it is a good start but needs additional work.
Both the House and Senate resources committees took testimony from several of the smaller companies that are either exploring for or producing oil on Alaska's North Slope.

Parnell proposes changes to how lease sales approved

JUNEAU -- Gov. Sean Parnell is proposing changing how the Department of Natural Resources approves oil and gas leases.
Parnell introduced SB59 on Tuesday. In his transmittal letter, he says the measure would help streamline the state's permitting process.
Currently, he says the department grants lease approval for exploration or development in conjunction with individual plans of operation for a lease or project.
He says separate public notice is required for each approval, often resulting in repetitive approvals within the same geographic area.

Tourism on rebound from 2009 low

After a decline in tourist visits in 2009 and 2010, Alaska has seen a general increase in overall visits, especially among cruise ship passengers. However, there has been a steady downturn among ferry and highway visitors.
Those were some of the highlights of an update on tourism by officials at the Industry Outlook Forum held Jan. 31-Feb. 1 at Land's End Resort.
Ron Peck, the president of the Alaska Tourism Industry Association, gave his last talk at the forum. Peck is moving to Walla Walla, Wash.

Recorder’s office closed from Feb. 18-March 4

The Homer Recorder’s Office will be temporarily closed for scheduled leave beginning Feb. 18. The office will reopen at 8:30 a.m. March 4.
During this closure, recordings for the district may be made at the Anchorage Recorder’s Office. Mail all recordings to:
Anchorage Recorder’s Office
Attn: Homer/Seldovia Districts
550 West 7th Ave., Suite 1200
Anchorage, AK 99501-3564
The Anchorage telephone number is (907) 269-8876.

Company explores wave energy power at Yakutat

JUNEAU (AP) -- The community of Yakutat is trying to turn ocean waves into a source of renewable energy.
KENI-radio reports the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved a preliminary permit application for a wave energy project in Yakutat.
Boston-based Resolute Marine Energy, would install wave energy converters underwater within a 25-square mile area under the plan.Yakutat currently powers homes by burning diesel fuel.
Wave energy converters as envisioned could produce 3,000 megawatt-hours annually, enough to power 250 homes, or half the households in Yakutat.

Alaska USA members raise nearly $50,000 in food drive

Alaska USA Federal Credit Union members contributed nearly $50,000 to support community food banks during the annual Cash for Cans food drive. The credit union and the Alaska USA Foundation teamed up for the fundraiser, collecting cash donations at Alaska USA branches in three states.
The credit union's 64 branches collected the funds, which were donated to 16 food banks in Alaska, Washington and the High Desert region of California.

Shell to move its Arctic drill rigs to Asia for repairs

Shell broke its weeks-long silence on the status of its two Arctic drill rigs Feb. 11. The Kulluk and Noble Discoverer, two drill vessels used by Shell for its 2012, Arctic drilling, will be moved from Alaska to Asia for repairs, the company said in a statement late Monday.
The Kulluk, a conical drill vessel, was damaged in a grounding near Kodiak Island Dec. 31. Noble Drilling's drillship Noble Discoverer, under a long-time contract to Shell, is now in port in Seward due to an engine malfunction.

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.

Democrats make oil tax pitch for increasing production

JUNEAU — Minority Democrats in the Alaska House and Senate on Monday introduced their own plan for increasing oil production in the state, calling it their alternative to Gov. Sean Parnell’s oil tax “giveaway.”
Both the governor’s and Democrats’ plans are aimed at new production but take decidedly different approaches.

Alyeska looks at new ways to keep TAPS oil flowing

Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. is looking at ways to keep oil flowing through the trans-Alaska pipeline system as the amount of oil continues to drop.
Alyeska is now studying a "cold dry flow" procedure to remove water from crude oil shipped through TAPS to help manage a decline in throughput, the pipeline company's president told a state legislative committee Feb 5.

Chamber hosts 'Tech Talk'

There will be a "Tech Talk" with Ryan Ridge of Design-PT at noon Feb. 19 at the Homer Chamber of Commerce conference room. The brown-bag lunch and talk will focus on computer and Internet security. It is open to the public.
Also next week, the chamber mixer will be from 5-7 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Elks Lodge. It will be hosted by Tom and Debbie Stroozas of Americas Cuisine.

State seeks to address rising health care costs

JUNEAU — State officials are looking at ways to lower the growth of Alaska’s health care costs, including an alternate retiree plan and developing an employee wellness program.
The path the state is on isn’t sustainable, Administration Commissioner Becky Hultberg and Health Commissioner Bill Streur told the House Finance Committee on Monday. Streur said he believes something can and must be done to address the issue.

Soldotna helps businesses spruce up their storefronts

The city of Soldotna approached local business owner Gary Hinkle with a proposal. It requested Hinkle improve the exterior of his River Terrace RV Park; it would help by reimbursing $5,000 of the project's total cost.
At first, Hinkle had reservations about the Soldotna Storefront Improvement Program. But after completing the project he's more than happy with the results, he said.
"I am very positive about the program, and I think it's a very reasonable program for the city to take on," he said.

State officials: Inlet has gas

JUNEAU — Cook Inlet may have plenty of natural gas for years to come, Alaska officials are telling lawmakers.

“There’s still large volumes of gas and oil, we believe, to be discovered,” said Dan Sullivan, commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources. Sullivan said companies are planning to spend millions of dollars to bring new Cook Inlet gas to market.

New chef at Beluga Bar and Grill trades Arizona desert for Homer flavors

While some winter-weary locals think of warmer climates this time of year — the desert sun in Arizona is a good example — Robert Isaly has done the opposite.

Formerly of Jerome, Ariz., Isaly has recently taken up a Homer address and, as the new chef at Beluga Bar and Grill, he’s brought the taste of the Southwest with him. 

“We’re anxious to be able to do some changing up on the menu,” said Beluga manager Diane Hively. “It’s a godsend to have someone willing to go some different directions.”

Recent decision could set in motion Augustine Island geothermal energy

By Brian Smith

Morris News Service - Alaska

A recently released document has given the thumbs up for companies to take the first step in a potential geothermal energy project on Augustine Island, which hosts the volcano of the same name.

A Jan. 14 document from Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Oil and Gas determined it is in the state’s best interest to investigate the island’s geothermal energy potential signaling the first regulatory step needed to see any future developments to fruition.


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