Dermot Cole

The official local phone book, a reminder of the age when telephones came in any color as long as it was black, is fast fading from the scene.

“In a cell-phone age, white pages directories have become increasingly incomplete, obsolete and of extremely limited utility,” Alaska Communications Systems recently told the Regulatory Commission of Alaska, erstwhile regulator of phone books. “Moreover the market has produced a variety of readily available third-party directory options, including both online and paper directories.”...

Dermot Cole

On a Saturday night in late April, early in the legislative budget stalemate, Anchorage Democratic Rep. Les Gara said the state should start to rebalance its finances by facing a “glaring problem” in the oil-tax law.

“Right now this state is paying out $650 million over the next two years, more in tax credits to oil companies than we’re getting back in production tax revenue,” said Gara, an Anchorage Democrat. “That’s the big hole in the state’s budget.”

Fairbanks Republican Sen. Pete Kelly, sitting across the table on the budget conference committee, glared at Gara. “I’ve had it with the tax-credit discussion,” said Kelly, co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “It’s almost always disingenuous. They take a tiny piece of the revenue that we get.”...

Dermot Cole

The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority board expressed support Tuesday for a proposed purchase of a Fairbanks natural gas company but held off on making a final decision until a sales agreement is finished.

The AIDEA board postponed action on the $54 million purchase until a meeting May 27. The plan calls for AIDEA to purchase Pentex and sell a liquefaction plant in Cook Inlet and other assets for $15 million to Hilcorp. In addition, AIDEA would work to consolidate Fairbanks Natural Gas, formerly owned by Pentex, with a public utility that is just starting to take shape...

Dermot Cole

A state plan aimed at speeding the transition to natural gas in Fairbanks reaches a key decision point Tuesday, with the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority scheduled to consider a $54 million investment to move the project forward.

The AIDEA board, set to meet in Anchorage, is to hear a report recommending the agency buy Pentex Natural Gas Company LLC, the parent company of the Fairbanks Natural Gas utility, for $54 million, with a closing expected by the end of July. The sale price would be reduced by about $15 million through the spinoff of the company’s Point MacKenzie liquefaction plant and other assets to Hillcorp later this year...

Dermot Cole

An annual multibillion-dollar debate between oil companies and local municipalities about differences in the taxable value of the trans-Alaska pipeline resumed in Anchorage Monday.

The oil companies argue the 38-year-old pipeline is worth $2.6 billion, while the municipal governments of the North Slope, Valdez and Fairbanks say it is worth about six times that much, in large part because billions of barrels of profitable oil remain to be pumped to Valdez in the decades ahead. The state is arguing for a value three times higher than that favored by the companies...

Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS -- The challenge for his generation of Alaska Natives, Willie Hensley said, was to secure land rights, a fight that took place between 1966 and 1971. The challenge for the next generation, he said, is to simplify what has become a complicated administrative process across rural Alaska.

“If we got into a battle over governance, it was a no-starter,” Hensley said Thursday, recounting the early history of the Native land claims movement. He said there was a focus on getting the state to back the land claims effort and keeping Natives unified through the Alaska Federation of Natives...

Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS -- Alaska wildlife officials closed an area outside Denali National Park to wolf hunting by emergency order late Thursday , ending the season two weeks early following reports of two wolves legally shot near the Stampede Trail.

"The controversy regarding the so-called 'wolf buffer' is centered around the allocation of wolves between harvest through trapping and hunting, and wildlife viewing opportunities for park visitors," Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotten wrote in the emergency order.

The order takes effect at 11:59 p.m. Friday and covers land west of the Savage River along the park boundary...

Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS -- Oil flowing through the trans-Alaska pipeline dropped by nearly 200,000 barrels a day in early May due to a combination of a slowdown in tanker traffic out of Valdez and limited storage at the terminal there, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. said.

Pipeline operators restricted oil flow from the North Slope to keep the tanks in Valdez from becoming too full, an Alyeska spokeswoman said. Oil flow in the pipeline dropped from 550,000 barrels a day on May 1 to 355,000 barrels on May 9, according to state records.

The flow began increasing Sunday and had climbed to 463,000 barrels by Wednesday...

Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS -- A former chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court and a former delegate to the Alaska Constitutional Convention concurred that a legislative proposal to rework the merit-based system of selecting judges in Alaska by giving elected officials more influence in selecting candidates would promote politics over justice.

"We have a good democratic underpinning for the judicial system," said Vic Fischer, one of the 55 delegates to the convention. He said the long-established practice of selecting candidates for judgeships and the rules governing retention elections for judges have served the state well...

Dermot Cole

For the second time since late April, the New York Stock Exchange has warned a major Cook Inlet oil and gas company that it is in danger of being removed from the exchange, this time because its market capitalization and stockholders' equity has fallen below the $50 million minimum threshold.

Miller Energy Resources, which expects to collect about $89 million from the state in cash payments for tax credits this year, released a statement Tuesday saying it "intends to notify the NYSE of its intent to regain compliance with this rule."...

Dermot Cole

Pages