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KNBA News - TransCanada respects idea of a buyout; Blood quantum a new subsistence requirement?

Oct. 27, 2015

Gas pipeline partner supports state buyout proposal

A TransCanada Corp. spokesman says the company respects Gov. Bill Walker's wishes to take on an increased role in a proposed natural gas project. Walker has argued a buyout would give Alaska a greater say in the project. A TransCanada  official is scheduled to appear at legislative hearings Wednesday and Thursday.


Nome port study put on hold

By Matthew Smith, KNOM – Nome

A highly-anticipated study looking into a deep-draft Arctic port for Alaska is being shelved for at least a year by the U.S. Army Corps of  Engineers—due to what the Corps calls the changing economic picture of the Arctic.  Those changes all ripple out from Royal Dutch Shell and the company’s decision in September but put its Arctic oil ambitions on indefinite hold.

The Corps of Engineers announced Monday a 12-month pause in the feasibility study for a deep draft Arctic port in Alaska. That study put an expansion of Nome’s existing facility as the leading candidate for investment—with a projected price tag around $210 million.

Now, in the wake of what Shell calls “disappointing” results for its oil search in the Chukchi Sea this summer, the Anglo-Dutch oil giant has suspended its Arctic operations “for the foreseeable future.” The Army Corps says Shell’s decision shifts the economics of Alaska’s Arctic and “brings into question” the core assumptions an Arctic port was based on.

Bruce Sexauer —the chief of civil works for the Alaska Army Corps—says the port would certainly service local and regional needs, but the economic underpinnings of Nome’s port expansion hinged on oil and gas—specifically, on fleets of vessels saving up to 1,600 miles for every round trip in support of ongoing oil and gas operations in the Chukchi Sea.

With Shell pulling out, that’s no longer the case.

“With oil and gas, the number of vessels and the amount of miles that are saved are larger than the amount of miles saved for some of the other users of the port,” said Sexhauer.”So 80% of the benefits were attributable to oil and gas.”

Nome Mayor Richard Beneville says oil and gas is “part of the pie” but there’s much more to a deep-draft Arctic port—and he says putting the project on hold isn’t the end of it.

“What is important is that this whole project must be kept in the forefront, if you will, both with the governor and with our Congressional delegation," said Beneville. "The Corps, that’s just one entity. There are other entities involved. There are other issues involved. It’s not just about petroleum and Shell. It’s about traffic through the Bering Strait. It’s about the protection of the United States of America. It’s about a lot of things other than oil.”

The Corps notes projects that aren’t economically supportable are “typically” terminated, but Sexaur says the nature of this project is different.

“With the dynamic nature of the oil and gas industry, and the strong interest in enhanced Arctic infrastructure, there could be a variety of criteria that could come into play that could bring the study off of pause,” said Sexhauer.

The Army Corps says they’ll monitor Arctic activities over the next year to see if there is worthwhile developments—specifically in oil and gas—that could make the project economically justified. Sexhaur says they’ll re-assess no later than 12 months down the road.


Will blood quantum become new measure of “Nativeness” for subsistence?

By Daysha Eaton, KBBI – Homer

At the Alaska Federation of Natives convention earlier this month, the AFN Subsistence Committee delivered a report on their work. Subsistence Committee Co-chair Rosita Worl said blood quantum is an emerging issue that the committee is looking into. She said that the Marine Mammal Protection Act requires that marine mammal hunters be one quarter Native.

“One of the issues that really has been emerging is the issue of blood quantum,” said Worl. “We are now hearing from parents, grandparents, that they are no longer able to take their children, grandchildren with them hunting. We realize that under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, that the regulations state that you have to be one fourth Alaska Native blood.”

Worl reported that the AFN Subsistence Committee is working on a memorandum of agreement with the Indigenous Peoples Council on marine mammals. She also said AFN will be coordinating a study on the issue and holding focus groups in villages to learn more.

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