Alaska News Nightly: January 27, 2012

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Oil and Gas Taxes Could Be Separated

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau

The Parnell Administration is ready to talk about separating oil and gas taxes.    Two years ago, the governor vetoed a bill that would have collected revenue from each product independently.

The bill has been reintroduced and,  this morning, Revenue Commissioner Bryan Butcher told the Senate Finance Committee that times have changed.   At the time of the veto,  the state was involved in open seasons on two pipelines from the North Slope to the lower forty-eight.  That no longer is the case.  Butcher also reminded the committee that the governor wants to rewrite the tax on gas during next year’s session.

“What the governor’s looking for is for the bill to be revenue neutral.  As we’re looking at House Bill 110 and doing what we can to increase the investment climate for the companies in Alaska,  we don’t want to –at the same time – put something in that could be taking it in the opposite direction.   So we’re going to work with the committee to see if we can work through the decoupling issue in a way that is more revenue neutral and is not as big of a gap as there is currently in the law.”

Having the two tax structures combined – or “coupled” – in the tax code allows producers to use tax credits for one fuel against profits from another.   Tax consultants don’t see a problem with that when there is a close relationship between the two fuels.   But right now there is no “parity.”   Oil is worth thirty-seven times the value of gas.  And that could cost the state as much as $2-Billion a year in lost Revenue.

The bill’s sponsor,  Senate Finance Co-chair Bert Stedman, says oil and gas companies have pointed to the importance of a stable fiscal regime before they commit to development.   And he says the decoupling issue is the most unstable element in state law.

“I’d expect the current impact on the treasury to be very small – in the tens of millions versus almost $200-million a couple of years ago.   But it pales in comparison to a $2-Billion negative number.   So if you have an issue like that embedded in your tax structure, and you make a change in oil,  you better make sure you look at the net effect or you have no net at all.”

Stedman says the decoupling issue will likely be included in a more-comprehensive oil tax bill.

Legislature Researching DNR’s Mission Change

Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage

Legislators are looking into the Alaska Department of Natural Resources move to change their mission statement. Representative Berta Gardner is the democratic whip in the House representing midtown Anchorage. She says legislators have asked for a research report on the matter.

“The legislature has the power to set the mission of each department. And historically the legislature has renewed that every year, but apparently several years ago, did not do it. To me it seems pretty clear by statute that the legislature sets the department’s missions. And I haven’t seen any statute that says that if we fail to do so on an annual basis, that they can do it themselves, that’s not in statute,” Gardner said.

Sullivan’s staff claim, “According to the Department of Law, it is OK for a department to set a mission statement in the absence of the legislature doing so. The last legislatively approved mission statement expired in 2003.”

DNR Commissioner, Dan Sullivan issued a new mission statement on January 17th. The old statement read that DNR’s mission was, “To develop, conserve and enhance natural resources for present and future Alaskans.” The words conserve and enhance have been dropped in the new statement along with the reference to “future Alaskans.”

Anchorage Economic Forecast Continues Upward Trend

Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage

For the second time in three days, Anchorage was treated to a positive economic forecast for 2012.  While the numbers varied between the state department of labor and the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation reports, the shared projected trend was reassuring.

IPHC Sets Catch Recommendations for 2012

Matt Lichtenstein, KFSK – Petersburg

The commercial halibut catch will drop by just over 18 percent coast wide this year. The International Pacific Halibut Commission voted on the limits at the end of its annual meeting this [Friday] Morning. Southeast is the only area in Alaska that will actually see a small increase, after several years of steep reductions.

Mastiffs, Fish, Hermit Crab Rescued From Knik Home

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Ten large mastiff dogs have been rescued from a residence in Knik in the Matanuska Valley.  Matanuska Susitna Borough animal control officers took the dogs, an abandoned hermit crab and two tropical fish from a residence now under investigation for a marijuana grow operation.

Birth Defect Rate Lowering In Alaska

Joaqlin Estus, KNBA – Anchorage

January is National Birth Defect Prevention month. For Alaskans, the good news is that the rate of birth defects is going down. The bad news is that in 2008, Alaska’s rate of birth defects was twice the rate for all Americans. And the rate of birth defects among Alaska Native infants is even higher.

AK: Going to Extremes

Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

It’s hard to imagine a person crazy enough to want to climb Denali alone in the depth of winter. But Minnesota adventurer Lonnie Dupre has tried – and failed – twice in the last two years. Earlier this month, heavy winds forced him to abandon his latest attempt and retreat back to base camp.

300 Villages: Old Harbor

And now for 300 villages, we’re off to Old Harbor to talk with Phyllis Clough. The picturesque Kodiak Island village is located on a narrow strip of beach at the foot of a steep mountain.

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