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Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS -- Companies trying to collect millions from a failed oil and gas exploration company in Cook Inlet claim that the financial affairs of Buccaneer Energy are tied up in an elaborate shell game.

A month before Buccaneer Energy filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy laws May 31, its biggest lender entered a “sham transaction” to circumvent Australian law, according to a court filing in Texas by unsecured creditors of Buccaneer Energy, including oil and gas support firms...

Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS -- ConocoPhillips and Doyon Drilling announced a five-year deal Monday for a new $100 million drill rig that is to operate in the Kuparuk oil field starting in 2016.

Officials of both companies linked the investment to the oil tax cut approved by the Legislature a year ago, though they said the timing of the announcement was not based on the repeal election in August but on the signing of a contract in July.

“This is the third rig we’ve picked up since (passage of Senate Bill 21, which altered the tax structure for the oil industry in Alaska) so there’s undoubtedly a tie between SB 21 and the fact that we’re picking up rigs,” said Mike Wheatall, manager of drilling and wells for ConocoPhillips in Alaska...

Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS -- The small private natural gas utility in Fairbanks, which has about 1,100 customers, “engaged in numerous highly irregular transactions” that warrant a state investigation, according to the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

The borough raised numerous objections to the proposed 6.92 percent rate hike by Fairbanks Natural Gas and asked the Regulatory Commission of Alaska to review the company’s operations.

FNG provides natural gas service to the urban center of Fairbanks, while a municipal utility is forming to serve North Pole and suburban Fairbanks. Both entities competed for the right to serve the less populated areas but the RCA awarded a certificate to the municipal entity in late 2013...

Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS -- A 647-mile section of the Alaska-Canada border runs on a straight line from Mount St. Elias to the Beaufort Sea, following the 141st meridian.

More than a century ago, crews struggled to turn the simplicity of an unbending line into marks on mountaintops and valley floors. They planted monuments in concrete and cleared a 20-foot swath across hundreds of miles of forests and hills. The work took seven years.

“The line now constitutes a very prominent and noticeable feature of the landscape,” a 1918 report concluded, “and one that will remain so for many years owing to the slow growth of timber in those northern latitudes.”...

Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS -- Anyone who has ever opted for large type and oversized margins on the printed page should take note of the Alaska Supreme Court decision in the case of Silver Bow Construction v. State of Alaska. It’s the content that counts, not the size of the words, the court said Friday.

The case stems from a 2010 request for proposals to renovate the governor’s mansion in Juneau. The state request said responses “shall not exceed” 10 pages or they might be rejected.

Alaska Commercial Contractors bid on the job with a 15-page request, while JKM produced 11 pages. Silver Bow hit the mark at 10 pages, while North Pacific Erectors, a model of brevity, offered seven pages...

Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS — John Sauer has spent 16 years building a home along the Salcha River, and now he’s struggling to keep it from being washed away.

When he began the project, the site seemed to be a safe distance back from the stream channel. “You had to look through the trees to even see a figure back there,” he said.

In recent years, however, and particularly during this summer of heavy rainfall, the Salcha River has been on a rampage, eating away the river bank and moving ever closer to swallowing his home. His margin of safety has disappeared.

“This year I lost 35 feet from the river to the deck and a couple of weeks ago I had to cut the deck off because it was falling in the river,” said Sauer, 60, who has owned the property since 1969...

Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS -- When the Alaska Senate approved a bill setting up the framework for state participation in a liquefied natural gas project, Gov. Sean Parnell said the measure “ensures an open public process going forward.”

But a new joint venture agreement with the three major oil companies that includes a state commitment of up to $125 million will remain confidential to the public and to legislators under terms of a broad legislative grant of secrecy governing gas pipeline work...

Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS -- Of the nearly three dozen bills and resolutions from the 2014 Alaska Legislature awaiting final approval from Gov. Sean Parnell, one calls upon the administration to seek a plan before January to “reduce the cost of quality bank adjustments paid by in-state refiners of Alaska North Slope crude oil.”

A related measure would provide subsidies to refinery owners Tesoro and Petro Star, justifying the state aid by arguing that the so-called “Quality Bank” has created a severe drain on refinery finances and helped lead to the shutdown of the Flint Hills Refinery in North Pole in May...

Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS -- Jean Aspen and her husband, Tom Irons, who divide their time between Homer and the Brooks Range, created a documentary about a solitary life in the wilds of Alaska that differs from a lot of Alaska reality TV in one key way: It's real.

Stopping in Fairbanks recently before heading to their cabin for the summer on the Chandalar River, Aspen and Irons showed their film, “Arctic Son: Fulfilling the Dream” to a full house in the auditorium at the Murie Building on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus...

Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS -- The oil industry and its supporters warned that the Alaska tax plan would threaten the viability of a gas pipeline.

“The proposed action brings into question whether it would be possible for the state to ensure the predictability and durability necessary for such a huge project as the Alaska gas pipeline,” ExxonMobil declared.

A BP representative chimed in, “A gas pipeline project can only happen if the oil business is healthy.”

The action that triggered those remarks was not the referendum on the ballot next month to repeal the tax cut, but the decision nine years ago by then-Gov. Frank Murkowski to change field designations on the North Slope because some areas were paying next to nothing in taxes because of the “economic limit factor.”...

Dermot Cole