Inside/Outside morning news roundup for 12.8

  • Alaska is the 7th best-run state in the country, so says 24/7 Wall St.
  • It’s not confirmed yet, but many now know since, I reported it, that former DNR Commissioner Joe Balash is going to be Sen.-elect Dan Sullivan’s new chief of staff.
  • After more than a year of legal wrangling, the Deepwater Horizon settlement is on the horizon. The Fuel Fix is reporting that on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied BP’s request for the court to review the 2012 oil spill settlement it reached with thousands of Gulf Coast businesses and residents in the wake of the spill. BP claimed that “vast numbers” of those who were part of the multibillion-dollar settlement weren’t financially harmed by the spill.
  • Bill Walker said one of his first acts as governor would be to declare an energy disaster in Interior Alaska, which was supposed to provide the residents there relief. APRN”s Alexandra Gutierrez reports that it’s not that simple.
  • Bill Walker also said one of his first acts as governor would be to expand Medicaid. KTVA’s Rhonda McBride, interviewing DHSS Commissioner Val Davidson, reports that it’s not that simple.
  • The BBC reports that due to falling oil prices, the company will be enacting long-held plans to cut some of its 84,000 employees, 20,000 of whom are in the U.S.

  • Via Fuel Fix: ConocoPhillips will be cutting capital spending by 20 percent. The cuts will come from unconventional fields. Spending in Alaska, among other places, is expected to remain unchanged.
  • The Huffington Post explains why Alaska must take point in addressing ocean acidification.
  • Most people believed that when ObamaCare was enacted that Romney would dismantle it when he won the presidency in 2012. Then critics pointed to the Supreme Court. Now, Politico writes that the most unlikely of people could be ObamaCare’s true executioner: its own architect.
  • Time Magazine has an article about how Millennials are shunning ObamaCare and are more in favor of old-school insurance plans.
  • While oil prices might be dropping, the Peninsula Clarion reports that statewide businesses look positive with total assets from the major state banks growing 3% during the last quarter.
  • Energy Firms with connection to the proposed Pebble Mine are highlighted as having a secretive alliance with Attorneys General in the New York Times.
  • Thanks to Nat Herz, here is the obligatory picture of President Obama meeting with Gov. Bill Walker, who still appears to be wearing the same red tie as in his official office photo. In any case, it’s refreshing that unlike other politicians, Walker isn’t thinking too far into his political future when such a picture might be used against him.
  • The Hill wants to know who will say, “I’m in!” for 2016 first? Nobody should be holding their breath.
  • The Alaska Dispatch covers the latest report questioning the viability of the Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric dam project. The report is written by Juneau economist Gregg Erickson, who claims that the dam “does not survive any plausible market test.” Big red warning: Erickson is working for Trout Unlimited, which are opponents of the Susitna plan, a fact that’s only mentioned once in the story.
  • The Justice Department has issued guidelines for officers in state and local police departments and rules for officers in federal law enforcement task forces to curb racial profiling, according to the Washington Post.
  • Liberals are ramping up for 2016 with one of the oldest political truisms: local politics is king. Politico describes how progressives are taking to the streets to get ballot measures on the ballot during the next presidential election as a way to energize their base. Alaska’s got legal pot and a higher than national average minimum wage, what could possibly be added to our ballot to entice the lefties?
  • Mike Rogers (R-MI) along with intelligence officials are warning that the release of the Torture Report might lead to heightened violence abroad. The Hill reports on what the report will disclose in the 480-page summary of the 6,000-page document detailing Bush-era torture techniques
  • The Superior Court ruling that struck down part of the state’s educational funding formula as unconstitutional has left many wondering how to fill the $220 million dollar hole. The Fairbanks North Star Borough School Board is not idly sitting by: they are meeting with the Interior Delegation to figure out a possible legislative solution, both issues are covered in today’s Fairbanks News Miner.
  • The Juneau Empire was there to hear Alaska Coast Guard Rear Admiral Daniel Abel speak to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce about his vision of the Guard’s future.
  • While Gov. Bill Walker will be submitting his own budget later, former Gov. Sean Parnell’s budget will be used as a placeholder until then, per the Juneau Empire.
  • Paging Gov. Bill Walker’s spokesperson Grace Jang. Your absence from Twitter has been noticed.

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14 thoughts on “Inside/Outside morning news roundup for 12.8

  1. Sam P.

    I guess there’s no point in pointing out that the Legislature passed, just four years ago, a renewable energy goal of 50 percent for Alaska by the year 2025. That’s in 10 years. Without a major hydro project, this is an entirely unreachable goal, but it looks like the greenies are going to win the day with the Walker administration.

  2. Seacastan Sam

    Yes, but if we have to have that element in Alaska isn’t it best to have them confined and contained in a small area like downtown Juneau? Clearly, in later life they become drunks as evidenced by the older crowd hanging around downtown Juneau. Juneau accommodates the capital whereas Wasilla would be in constant strife and turmoil.

  3. Lynn Willis

    Governor Walker can declare a “energy disaster”, but to what end other than to purchase diesel fuel primarily for electrical generation and space heating?
    Keep an eye on the new coal fired plant to be built to supply electricity and steam heat to the Fairbanks University Campus. If the emissions are no more than a gas fired plant and the ash disposal is managed we may have a viable affordable alternative as compared to the dam or waiting decades for alternatives.
    Besides providing short term construction jobs to get politicians re-elected, there are three reasons to build a dam; hydroelectric energy, flood control, and a domestic water supply. Dams are “renewable” only because it rains and snows. Also, they do have a significant environmental impact.
    Regarding the Susitna project, nobody seems concerned about flood control and we have plenty of domestic water supply so if what we need is electricity, than either gas, coal, or nuclear energy seems more viable. Gas from the slope either directly by pipe line or by wire as electricity is years away and good luck attempting to obtain permission to build a nuclear plant on the “Pacific Rim of Fire”.
    Remember we are running out of money so we can no longer afford whatever is most politically correct when energy is the requirement and Alaska has a lot of quality coal which could even be made into mobility fuels.

  4. Fish

    For all the talk of how environmentally unfriendly the Susitna Hydro dam would be, has anyone ever noticed the single hydro feature that provides and protects much of the fish habitat in Bristol Bay and on the Kenai Peninsula, two of the most productive salmon systems in Alaska and the world?

    Very large lake systems that have the ability to hold large volumes of water and mitigate harmful flash flood events so common to the Mat-Su.

    These extreme flash flood events, besides washing away homes and roads, are very detrimental to fish habitat and egg survival. Large lake systems are rare in the Mat-Su, so you tend to have more common large scale high water events that rearrange rivers, streams and fish habitat – which is not good for salmon production.

    But of course anything of human construction such as a large dam in the headwaters of the Susitna would be ipsofacto DOA according to TU and other environmentalists.

    Why have low cost hydro energy for the next century plus for the railbelt when we can exist and subsist on alternative energy (which in the past 20 years has excommunicated hydro).

    We now love, love, love solar (great for Barrow whenever the as yet to be invented Professor MoonBeam moonlight panels come out in 2020) and wind power (which biologically are proving to be bird (usually raptor) killing fields) – both of which are proven to be inefficient and much costlier for large scale, industrial electricity production.

    But let’s just make the switch to big Green Electric (who knew that electricity is generated primarily from coal, gas or hydro – Thank you GE-NBC).

    Don’t even go towards nuclear – its too radioactive – and happily Germans now are learning to love super high electricity rates since they banned their own nuclear power plants after the Fu#!Shi^*a scare affair, which is now acting as a drag on the overall European economy and keeping that enlightened part of the world on its short Russian natural gas leash. But I digress…

  5. AH HA

    As a long time Juneauite and property owner, I confess I’d be glad to see the Capitol moved to anywhere else. Where the Capitol goes so goes an undesirable element..

    If one takes a brief tour of the downtown and capitol hill area of Juneau one can see countless small offices maintained by a plethora of different ‘green’ non-profits. Southeast Conservation council, Green Peace, Earth Justice, Tree Huggers for Tongass…… It’s a really long list and they exist in Juneau only because the Capitol is here. These various groups all have three things in common, they file countless Lawsuits, they threaten to file countless law suits and they lobby

    If this is what you what for your community please send the moving truck.

  6. Milton Friedman

    I didn’t and still don’t see the respected moniker. However, Erickson moved to Bend, Oregon about 2 years ago, so he is not a Juneau economist.

    The bar is very low in Alaska for anyone to be called an economist. But why would anyone want to be called an economist? Is the late George Rogers to blame for most Alaska economists being far, far left of center and so often wrong?

  7. Another Anonymous

    My belief is that a Juneau city tax on lobbying would be a special tax because lobbying is a statewide effort and industry yet presumably the city would try to apply the sales tax to all lobbying done during the session as well as to all lobbying year-round by a lobbyist having an office or home in Juneau. So that would be a broader application than the city sales tax now has for goods and services. For instance, someone claiming residence in Gustavus (in order to qualify for subsistence even though their larger home is in Juneau – as some do) can have a new outboard purchased in Juneau shipped to Gustavus and not pay the Juneau sales tax as a benefit in addition to subsistence qualification. But lobbying sales tax determinations would seemingly need to be more broadly assessed or else no one would pay it. The dollar amounts would be so high and the number of lobbyists relatively so small that lobbyists would have adequate incentives to be more than a little inconvenienced to avoid it (such as buying a cabin in Gustavus). And remember, while a man selling cigarettes one at a time to homeless people in NYC, and avoiding the city taxes, might be killed by city LEOs we cannot expect to see aggressive enforcement in the state capital. I agree with the original writer that taxing lobbyists would be the best way to finally move the capital to the Railbelt.

  8. AH HA

    @Anonymous; Regarding the City of Juneau considering a ‘special tax on lobbying’, I don’t know if they are considering such a move or not, although I hope they are. At any rate (pardon the pun), It would not be a ‘special tax’ since currently lobbyists are specifically excluded from sales tax and business licensing requirements by CBJ Code. It would just make them do what every other business that operates in Juneau has to do… Pay Sales Tax.

    BTW: Can you imagine what a boon this would be for the CBJ’s revenues?

  9. Keith Bradley

    Regarding the “respected economist” moniker, is this just until he becomes a switch hitter ala Goldsmith?


  10. Anonymous

    Ms. Coyne, I have the following comments, submitted respectfully.

    The Wall St. 24/7 analysis is biased toward applauding big government and socialism. For puts Oregon and Massachusetts ahead of New Hampshire even as it acknowledged that New Hampshire has the lowest per capita taxes in the nation, the highest personal income, about the lowest crime rates, etc. The ratings like high taxes.

    I hope Bill Walker doesn’t dodge all of his campaign rhetoric and pledges. I am looking for an honestly balanced budget ASAP.

    It’s clear that Obamacare fooled Americans, including those who voted for it, and now originators of the legislation are becoming more and more candid of their disdain for working Americans.

    Bank numbers are lagging indicators. The number you show may mean that the recession to be driven by lower state revenues will be all the more severe.

    Of course TU doesn’t like new hydro projects. They even argue for dismantling of existing hydro. But the money isn’t there for Watana and Gregg Erickson is a socialist. He lives in Oregon, and TU is where TU wants Alaska to be.

    The new federal guidelines for racial guessing were fun. I guess only white looters can be detained. I understand that President Obama has said that federal authorities now must call looters undocumented shoppers.

    I can think of lots of ballot measures Alaska liberals should consider. Has anyone else noticed how off-key gay pride choruses are in Alaska (compared with those from say, S.F.); how about a pitch training ballot measure for those people? How about requiring low-fat yogurt at soup kitchens? Could we require public broadcasting executives be paid as much as private sector media people? (Oh wait, Alaska public broadcasting already pays more).

    The Superior Court ruling on school funding is a preview of how intricate will be the winding down of state spending. There will be lots of special legislative sessions as all 3 branches of government drop one shoe after another. The shelter provided by being in the unorganized borough will disappear but it’s difficult to say what will replace it except for reduced spending. Voters may be asked to decide between eliminating the PFD and amending the Constitution so that less government is required, especially if the courts interpret the Constitution as requiring more state spending than petroleum can provide. The process will take longer than 4 years, and big decisions will await exhaustion of all savings (not all that long though). It will be messy. No wonder Juneau city government is considering changing their tax to include a special tax on lobbying (but doubtful they will have the courage to do that as it would finally move the capital to the Railbelt).

  11. Anonymous

    Paul, Many people refused to believe Goldsmith’s report on SB 21 because it was paid for by a bank and folks supportive of SB 21. Lots of ink was spilled pointing out this connection. If Erickson works for an organization that is opposed to the damn, why isn’t this something people should know?

  12. Hayduke Lives!

    The Susitna dam project needs to die. Hopefully the legislature decides not to throw good money after bad. It’s a ridiculously expensive project on a very complex river system. Messing with the Susitna is playing with fire. This project fails environmentally and financially.

    Full disclosure, I’m a young[ish] pro development Republican with a monkey wrench tattoo.

  13. AH HA

    I’m not convinced that this dam makes good economic sense but one thing is for certain, It’s highly doubtful you’ll get the whole truth from Mr. Erickson. Not only is he bought and paid for by Trout Unlimited but his CV reads ‘Uber Liberal’ He is a long time shill for the liberals in the state of Alaska, worked for both Governor’s Steve Cowper and ‘Honest Bill’ Sheffield and currently serves as a trustee for Robert Schalkenbach Foundation. This foundation’s mission is to promote public awareness of the social philosophy and economic reforms advocated by Henry George.

    Henry George is famous for his belief that there should be no private ownership of land…..

  14. Paul Bratton

    How many times should a short article in ADN state that Trout Unlimited paid for Erickson’s report on the economic viability of the Susitna Watana boondoggle? Erickson is a respected economist with many decades experience in Alaska. His conclusion seems to fit with the fact that no Susitna dam has been found economically viable after federal or state review over the last 50 years. When the state had billions to throw away the dam was not found viable. It certainly is not viable now. And in the interest of full disclosure, I was a member of Trout Unlimited 40 years ago but TU did not pay for this comment.

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