Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- ConocoPhillips reported losing $179 million in the quarter that ended June 30, compared to profits of $2.1 billion in the same quarter last year.

But its Alaska operations, reported separately Thursday, remained profitable even while oil prices plunged over the last year.

The company is closely watched as the largest producer of oil in Alaska, as well as being the major oil company that reports the most detail about its Alaska operations.

Thursday it also commented on its natural gas operations in the state, including its just-announced plans to sell most of its Cook Inlet natural gas production and to later develop a large pipeline from the North Slope to export liquefied natural gas...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided Wednesday to keep roads out of roadless areas of the Tongass National Forest over the objections of the state and timber industry, which had challenged the “roadless rule” and its restrictions on logging.

The Alaskans who had challenged the rule are calling it a major defeat in their attempt to revive the Southeast Alaska timber industry, or maybe just to keep it alive.

Timber harvests in the Tongass, the nation’s largest national forest, once supported two huge pulp mills, along with sawmills and exports. Now the only major timber mill remaining is Viking Lumber on Prince of Wales Island...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- When Gov. Bill Walker talked Medicaid expansion, Republican expansion opponents talked Medicaid reform .

But when those opponents refused to let Walker's expansion proposal come to a vote in the Legislature , they also chose not to advance their own reform efforts, while criticizing the existing Medicaid system as "broken."...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Permanent Fund dividends have done great things for the Alaska residents, but could they also do something for the state?

State officials have long been trying to boost the state’s voter turnout, but before Alaskans can vote, they have to be registered. That's where the dividend comes in...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Alaska Gov. Bill Walker has lifted his moratorium on Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project work, a move that keeps the controversial project alive but doesn't close the book on whether the massive dam will ever be built.

The action has angered those who question the dam and want to see it ended sooner rather than later.

Final decisions on the project will come later -- maybe years later -- Walker's budget director Pat Pitney said in a memo sent to the Alaska Energy Authority lifting the moratorium...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Alaska's stellar credit ratings could be in jeopardy if oil prices remain low and the state fails to act to address its financial situation, a major credit ratings agency said this week.

In a look at how lower oil prices are affecting budgets in the nation's top oil-producing states, Moody's Investors Service praised Alaska's ample cash reserves but said action is needed to diversify revenues and cut spending to keep the rating.

Moody's is one of the nation's big three credit ratings agencies and has given Alaska its top AAA rating since 2010. That enables the state to borrow money at the lowest possible cost, as investors can be assured that money they lend Alaska will be repaid...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Staunch legislative opponents of the Affordable Care Act may have lost their last chance at blocking the expansion of Medicaid to the working poor in Alaska with the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling upholding subsidies in June.

A ruling against the program could have thrown "Obamacare" in disarray, but the court's decision doesn't ensure Medicaid expansion, supporters said.

Gov. Walker has scheduled an announcement for Thursday on his plans for Medicaid expansion. His options could include another special session on the topic, possibly in the fall, or taking unilateral action without legislative support...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- As the Mendenhall Glacier retreats, it is becoming ever more popular as a visitor destination.

It's been 19 years since the U.S. Forest Service, which manages the visitor center and recreation area there, has reviewed its caps on commercial visits to Juneau’s most popular glacier. Since that time, said Forest Service planner Jennifer Berger, annual visits to the glacier have climbed from 200,000 per year to more than 450,000.

That has commercial tour operators, ranging from bus companies to raft, kayak, canoe and guided hiking groups, bumping up against the limits set by the U.S. Forest Service...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Gov. Bill Walker has given the go-ahead for the Knik Arm bridge project to resume work, but that doesn't yet mean final approval for the controversial project.

"We were on hold for any type of discretionary spending, and the administration has decided now that it makes financial sense to move this project forward to the next logical step," said Judy Dougherty, project manager for the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- A new Southeast Alaska ferry service the state had planned to begin this summer will be delayed until next year, and will have a different operator when it does begin.

The service, between the northern Prince of Wales Island city of Coffman Cove and the Petersburg-area South Mitkof Island terminal won't be available as scheduled, but few passengers are likely to be affected state officials say.

That's because the new service wasn't being provided to meet travel demand, but to keep the state from paying back as much as $15 million in federal money it used to build two new terminals which haven't been used in years.

"The feds have become really pushy about this," said Dennis Watson, general manager of the Inter-Island Ferry Authority...

Pat Forgey

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