Methane Hydrates Could Prove To Be Vast Untapped Resource

The U.S. Department of Energy says it was able to safely extract a steady stream of natural gas from methane hydrates this winter on Alaska’s North Slope. The agency partnered with oil companies to test new technology to remove methane trapped in ice crystals beneath the sea floor. The federal government calls methane hydrates a vast untapped resource with enormous potential.

Parnell Blames Unresolved Oil Tax, Gas Line Bills On Senate

Governor Sean Parnell is laying blame for the failure of the Special Session squarely on the state Senate. The session wrapped up Monday evening when the Alaska House followed the Senate’s lead and adjourned. That left the in-state gas pipeline bill unresolved. Earlier, the governor pulled his oil tax bill from consideration. Lawmakers did pass one bill to strengthen the state’s human trafficking laws.

Report Shows Growing Arctic Militarization

Tuesday, a think tank issued a wake-up call about growing militarization of the Arctic. The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions released a report on the security implications of an Arctic Ocean with less sea ice. The report documents a dramatic increase in policy actions by Arctic nations, many of them military.

Finance Committee Meets To Address High Energy Costs

The state Senate’s Finance Committee held a special meeting late last week to take another look at what can be done to address the high energy costs in Alaska.

Subsistence Rights Top Concerns At UN Hearings

The Women’s Symposium coincided with a visit to Alaska by a UN official who held hearings in Anchorage and Chickaloon this weekend to assess the human rights of Alaska Natives. This is the first time the UN is formally investigating the U.S. treatment of Alaska Natives. The right to subsistence resources topped the list of concerns.

House Pondering Next Step After Senate Adjourns

Members of the State House Republican led caucus are deciding their next step after the Senate abruptly adjourned from the special session Thursday.

Senate Adjourns Special Session

The Senate has adjourned the special legislative session the governor called last week. That follows the governor’s unprecedented action Wednesday night of removing any consideration of his bill lowering taxes on oil.

In-State Gas Line Remains On Legislators’ Radar

The only item remaining on the Governor’s proclamation for a special session is a bill that would take huge steps toward the construction of an in-state natural gas pipeline from the North Slope to Southcentral Alaska. It was sponsored by House Speaker Mike Chenault (R-Nikiski).

State Takes Feedback On Student Achievement Standards

The state is taking feedback on proposed new student achievement standards. Education Commissioner Michael Hanley is hosting meetings around the state, and was in Fairbanks Tuesday. The new standards will replace the current package developed in the mid 1990’s, and are designed to clarify what’s expected of kids at each grade level. Hanley says they’re based on a Common Core package developed by the National Governors Association and the council of chief state school officers.

Election Commission Makes Recommendations For Muni Election Problems

The Anchorage Election Commission just released their report on the April 3 Municipal election. They are asking the assembly to adopt their report and certify the election. But they did find some problems with the election and made several recommendations.

Redistricting Plan Goes Back To The Drawing Board

It’s back to the drawing board for the Alaska Redistricting plan, after a state Superior Court decision sent an “amended” plan back to the panel last week. The state’s Redistricting Board met Tuesday to deal with the latest court rejection of the map of Alaska voting districts.

Tribal Organizations Await Results Of Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Case

Tribal organizations in Alaska and across the country are anxiously waiting for a decision in a case just argued before the U.S. Supreme court.

Sen. Begich Puts Air Force General’s Promotion On Hold

Alaska Senator Mark Begich put a hold on the promotion of an Air Force General last week, citing frustration with a lack of answers about the proposed move of the F-16 fighter squadron from Eielson Air Force Base to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

Judge Rejects Amended Redistricting Plan

A State Superior Court judge has sent an amended redistricting plan back to the Alaska Redistricting Board. Fairbanks judge Michael McConahy ruled Friday that the Board must draw a redistricting plan “solely compliant with the Alaska Constitution,” requiring the Board to “make findings of fact sufficient to allow the courts to independently measure each district against constitutional standards.”

Court Says 2008 Sitka Citizen’s Initiative Was Legal

The Alaska Supreme Court ruled Friday that a controversial 2008 citizen’s initiative in Sitka was legal and should have gone before voters. The decision reverses a lower court ruling.

Legislators Extend Film Tax Incentive Program

At the end of the regular session, legislators adopted a bill to extend a film tax credit incentive program for ten years. It will be funded at $200 million over 10 years starting in 2013. It adds to incentives created in 2008 so film companies will be able to get a base 30 percent tax credit for expenditures in Alaska, with additional credits for local hire, films made in rural Alaska, and during the off season.

Nenana May Receive Additional Funds In Capital Budget

The city of Nenana could get $75,000 if the Governor signs off on the finalized capital budget bill. The money will go towards a study that would line out the benefits and pitfalls associated with creating a new Borough or incorporating the Interior community into an existing Borough.

Special Session Gets Underway

The special legislative session got underway Wednesday afternoon with a streamlined agenda. Lawmakers are considering three subjects, an in-state gas line from the North Slope to Southcentral, a bill strengthening the state’s sex crimes lawas, and a bill rewriting the state’s oil tax regime.

Assembly Appoints New Leaders Amid Ballot Scandal

The Anchorage Assembly heard emotional public testimony at their regular meeting Tuesday evening. Representatives of the Anchorage chapters of the NAACP and the ACLU, as well as 17 voters called on the body to appoint an independent investigator to look into possible voter disenfranchisement during the April 3 Municipal Election. Instead, the Assembly went about business as usual.

Report Says More Needs To Be Done To Make Offshore Drilling Safer

The former members of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Commission aren’t handing out any “A’s” as they grade the progress industry, Congress and the Interior Department have made since the accident two years ago.