Connect with us

Alaska

Sponsors of petition to repeal Alaska's ranked choice voting score a partial win in court

Published

on

Sponsors of petition to repeal Alaska's ranked choice voting score a partial win in court



This is a sample ranked choice ballot the Division of Elections created for the 2022 special election, the first time Alaska used the system. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

A Superior Court judge in Anchorage has dismissed a significant portion of a lawsuit filed by supporters of Alaska’s ranked choice voting.

Judge Christina Rankin ruled last week that the Division of Elections acted properly early this year when it gave sponsors of a repeal petition an opportunity to correct problems with petition booklets they submitted to the division.

Her summary judgment order brings a group called Alaskans for Honest Elections one step closer to getting a measure on the November ballot that would repeal election reforms that Alaska voters adopted in 2020. The measure aims to get rid of ranked choice voting in Alaska. It would also end Alaska’s current primary election style, in which all candidates appear on the same ballot. The repeal measure would restore the use of partisan primaries.

Advertisement

Three voters, represented by Anchorage attorney Scott Kendall, sued to block the repeal measure, saying repeal sponsors shouldn’t have been allowed to fix defects in their petitions after they turned them in. The most common problem was that dozens of booklets weren’t properly notarized because the notary’s commission had expired.

The judge’s decision still leaves part of the lawsuit alive. The people challenging the repeal petition claim petition circulators collected signatures improperly by, among other things, leaving signature booklets unattended and swapping booklets among circulators. Alaskans for Honest Elections defends its methods.


Advertisement


Advertisement
Previous articleAnchorage Economic Development Corp. is asking residents what projects they want to fund from a proposed sales tax





Source link

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Alaska

Reported trawling too close to Kuskokwim Bay draws industry response

Published

on

Reported trawling too close to Kuskokwim Bay draws industry response



Kuskokwim Bay (From NOAA ShoreZone)

Coastal communities near the mouth of the Kuskokwim River have expressed concern about bottom-trawling vessels operating in close proximity to where salmon enter the river. But trawl industry leaders say that this is nothing new.

In recent weeks, posts widely shared on a popular Facebook group critical of the trawl industry have raised issues with vessels apparently just a few miles offshore. The posts on the STOP Alaskan Trawler Bycatch page featured marine traffic maps showing the location of the trawlers, with one post reading “six trawlers right outside the mouth of Kuskokwim.”

Chris Woodley, executive director of Groundfish Forum, a trawl industry association that represents 17 catcher-processor vessels operating in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands regions, testified about the issue before the North Pacific Fishery Management Council during its June 7 meeting in Kodiak.

Advertisement

“Over the past two days, I’ve been hearing concerns coming from stakeholders from the Yukon-Kuskokwim region regarding the presence of trawl vessels fishing southwest of Kuskokwim Bay, and concerns regarding those fisheries’ impacts upon western Alaska salmon,” Woodley said. “This is a public perception issue. What we have been hearing in the past, and this year, is that boats are fishing in the mouth of the river. And that is just simply not true.”

Woodley told the council that the vessels were operating in full compliance with federal regulations and that the maps could be misleading, making vessels appear closer to shore than they actually were.

According to Woodley, the vessels flagged on Facebook were fishing well outside of an established 8.2 million acre conservation zone off-limits to bottom trawling. The zone encompasses the entirety of Kuskokwim Bay and extends to buffer nearby coastal communities.

“In the spring, a limited number of our vessels fish for yellowfin sole in the federal waters, approximately 25 miles southwest of Kipnuk,” Woodley said.

David Bayes, a Homer-based fisheries advocate who also runs a halibut charter company, says that the presence of the conservation area that Woodley referred to doesn’t necessarily ease concerns about threats to Kuskokwim River salmon stocks.

Advertisement

“The thing that people get concerned about is the fish don’t have fences down there,” Bayes said. “So if somebody is dragging right next to the habitat zone, they might not be in it, but the fish theoretically would go back and forth. And it’s not like the fish just stay in one spot.”

Bayes is one of the moderators for STOP Alaskan Trawler Bycatch, the Facebook page where many of the concerns have been posted.

Beyond the direct impact on fish, Bayes also says the ecological damage to the area from trawling can’t be overstated.

“They do have a lot of habitat damage. So all their stuff is hard on the bottom trawl,” Bayes said. “We’ve heard from crews talking about the corals getting mashed down year after year. They used to get big chunks, but now they get smaller and smaller, and now there’s none at all. So you can imagine the habitat side of that.”

According to Woodley, the bottom-trawl vessels operating near the mouth of the Kuskokwim have yet to scoop up a single protected salmon in the area this year.

Advertisement

“In 2024, there have been zero incidental catch of chum salmon and zero incidental catch of chinook salmon in this fishery,” Woodley said. “These bycatch data are confirmed by two federally trained fishery observers on board our vessels, 100% of the time.”

However, the groundfish fleet that Woodley represents is responsible for only a small percentage of Alaska’s salmon bycatch. The vessels are instead responsible for the vast majority of halibut bycatch in Alaska waters, a species which coastal communities like Kipnuk rely on as a food source.

“The rates in this area are much lower than any place else in the Bering Sea. I believe at this point we have, I want to say, 7 metric tons of [halibut] bycatch for the season in this area,” Woodley said.

Following Woodley’s testimony in Kodiak, council member Andy Mezirow asked whether the Groundfish Forum director had any ideas for changing public perception. Woodley didn’t have a direct answer.

“This is becoming a kind of an annual thing, both for the Togiak fishery as well as for this fishery, and we’re just trying to do our best in this process where a lot of these issues are raised and concerns are expressed to communicate what’s going on here,” Woodley said.

Advertisement

Beyond his testimony, Woodley didn’t outline a plan for addressing community concerns about trawling in the Kuskokwim Bay area at the June 7 meeting. Online, public perception appears to remain widely skeptical about the proximity of trawlers to Kuskokwim salmon.






Source link

Continue Reading

Alaska

State releases summary of most recent Prudhoe Bay workplace death

Published

on

State releases summary of most recent Prudhoe Bay workplace death


Adam J. Trujillo, 23, was the person who died in a workplace incident at Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay oil field this month, according to his father.

For the first time, the state this week also released a short summary of the construction activity that led to Trujillo’s death. State workplace regulators are investigating the incident and have not disclosed his name.

The operator of the Prudhoe Bay oilfield, Hilcorp, as well as Trujillo’s employer, Chosen Construction, last week acknowledged the fatal incident in media reports. The companies declined to disclose the victim’s name at that time.

Advertisement

Jim Trujillo said in a phone call this week that he’s heartbroken over the loss of his only child. He said he wanted to disclose his son’s name because many people around Alaska knew him.

Adam Trujillo was a graduate of Kenai Central High School and a basketball player there. During high school, Adam was also part of a youth trapshooting league that competed with schools from other communities in Alaska.

The Trujillo family is well-established in the Kenai area. For decades, they owned Ed’s Kasilof Seafoods in Kasilof and Soldotna, a seafood processor, Jim Trujillo said. The family sold the business about five years ago, and it’s now called Tanner’s Alaska Seafood.

Adam Trujillo’s death on June 5 was the second reported fatality in the North Slope oil industry in recent weeks, and the fourth in a little over a year.

The string of workplace deaths represents an unusually high number of fatalities in a relatively short period of time for oil field operations in the region, state and federal workplace safety records indicate.

Advertisement

Trujillo was involved in construction activity, according to a summary from the Alaska Labor Standards and Safety Division on Monday.

“An employee was caught in/between two pieces of an emissions stack being assembled with a crane,” the statement said.

He was fatally injured during lifting operations involving an emissions-stack assembly, the statement said.

“The victim died from wounds sustained … when a section of the stack rolled and crushed the employee,” the statement said.

“EMTs responded and the employee was transported to the local medical clinic where the employee was declared deceased,” the statement said.

Advertisement

The statement recommended that companies take steps to prevent future accidents.

Companies should ensure that all loads are stable before any lifting equipment or material is adjusted, and that employees are not exposed to “falling objects and crushing hazards” when materials are being adjusted, the statement said.

Companies should ensure that workers involved in lifting operations “have a clear line of sight with the crane operator or otherwise have adequate means of communication.”

They should also ensure that only employees involved in a specific lifting activity are in the fall zone, while other employees involved in lifting operations are at a safe distance away.

• • •

Advertisement





Source link

Continue Reading

Alaska

The Biden Administration Must Act to Stop Alaska’s North Slope ‘Carbon Bomb’ | Common Dreams

Published

on

The Biden Administration Must Act to Stop Alaska’s North Slope ‘Carbon Bomb’ | Common Dreams


Recent technology breakthroughs have unlocked the potential production of many billions of barrels of Alaska’s high viscosity heavy oil, a development not yet accounted for in U.S. climate strategy. Federal intervention is needed now to keep this heavy oil carbon bomb in the ground.

Pacific Environment, alongside other environmental groups, filed a legal petition this week asking the Department of the Interior for a new analysis of the climate damage and other harms related to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS). The petition was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Pacific Environment, Sovereign Iñupiat for a Living Arctic, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition, and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

Right now, more than 5 billion barrels of previously unrecoverable Alaska North Slope (ANS) heavy oil appear commercially feasible to produce using polymer flooding technology. For comparison, the sprawling, massive Willow field—development approval of which by the Biden administration last year sparked widespread objection because of the impacts to the climate, communities, and wildlife—is estimated to have 576 million barrels of recoverable oil reserves. The potential and incentive to produce the massive, viscous, and heavy oil accumulation larger than Willow is a huge, dangerous development for the climate.

It’s time for the Department of the Interior to review the nearly 50-year-old aging TAPS infrastructure and put a plan in place to decommission it.

Advertisement

The ANS heavy oil accumulation is enormous—large enough to qualify as a “carbon bomb” (greater than 1 gigaton of CO2 equivalent) with roughly 3 gigatons of CO2 emissions—and is Alaska’s largest prospective oil development. The accumulation contains an estimated 20 to 25 billion barrels, with more than 5 billion now commercially feasible to produce.

Although the international scientific consensus urges a rapid transition away from fossil fuels, Alaska crude oil production is projected to nearly double between 2024 and 2048, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook 2023.

The increase in Alaska production is driven by a combination of Willow, Pika, enhanced oil recovery in aging existing oil fields, and new enhanced oil recovery in previously uneconomic viscous and heavy oil formations using new polymer flooding technologies adapted for the Alaska North Slope. In contrast, the entire Lower 48 crude oil production is projected to be flat over the long run, growing by only one-twelfth of 1% (12.29 million barrels per day to 12.30 million b/d) from 2024 to 2048.

The heavy oil accumulation overlays deeper reservoirs on state-owned land in production for decades, including the Prudhoe Bay, Kuparuk River, and Milne Point units. ANS heavy oil, with a consistency ranging from molasses to tar, is extremely carbon intensive and is driving the greenhouse gas emissions intensity of ANS oil upward from already high levels, which have increased by 25% since 2012, according to California Air Resources Board greenhouse gas emissions estimates.

Polymer flooding technology for enhanced oil recovery was field tested and validated at the Milne Point Unit in a DOE-funded, four-year study that concluded in 2022, which dramatically improved the outlook for production of ANS heavy oil. The study was conducted by the University of Alaska, Fairbanks’ petroleum engineering department, with technical support from Hilcorp.

Advertisement

Because of the enormous climate impacts more heavy oil production would unleash, the Biden administration should act now to start a new environmental analysis that will evaluate and lead to implementation of remedial actions addressing climate impacts.

The existing environmental analysis of TAPS, now more than two decades old, fails to examine the climate harms of the extraction and burning of oil moving through the pipeline.

A Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process for TAPS should be initiated immediately to examine existing and potential climate impacts and the effects of using the heavy oil that could be transported through the nearly 50-year-old aging pipeline, among other issues.

During the past 45 years, TAPS has undergone two environmental assessments required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA): the initial pre-construction EIS in 1972 and the Reauthorization EIS in 2002. NEPA requires that an existing EIS must be supplemented whenever there is new information or circumstances relevant to environmental concerns, or if there are significant environmental impacts that were not evaluated.

A lot has changed since 2002—more than 20 years of science have increased understanding of the causes, impacts, and necessary actions to address the climate emergency.The contributions of fossil fuels to greenhouse gas emissions have been irrefutably documented. Global climate change has accelerated with dramatically observable effects including the increase in the frequency and severity of climate disasters and disruptions and storms eroding the rapidly melting Arctic.

Advertisement

The prior EIS assessments did not sufficiently address climate impacts nor the impact TAPS will have as the infrastructure that delivers Alaska’s heavy oil to market.

The 2002 EIS contains this dubious prediction: “Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from TAPS would add little to the global CO2 concentration level.”

Neither outdated EIS discussed the fact that the 18.5 billion barrels of crude oil transported through TAPS already has contributed 9 billion metric tons of CO2 equivalent to the global atmosphere, including methane through leaks, venting, and flaring. The stale 2002 pipeline renewal EIS estimates refer only to emissions from the pipeline system itself (the pump stations, generators, etc.) and do not include the 92 million metric tons of CO2 per year currently associated with the crude oil that TAPS transports after it gets refined and burned.

Ironically, the physical stability of TAPS is threatened by thawing permafrost caused by fossil fuel-driven warming. The combination of advanced age and unstable land caused by thawing permafrost potentially jeopardizes the integrity of the pipeline and substantially increases environmental risk, including the increased potential for leaks and spills.

Under the current authorization the TAPS EIS will be reviewed again in 2032; however, changing circumstances and new information require that the Biden administration immediately reevaluate the TAPS authorization by initiating a Supplemental EIS process. New information since 2002 includes the commercialization of heavy oil and the listing of species as endangered including polar bears and ringed and bearded seals.

Advertisement

As the Trans Alaska Pipeline System approaches the end of its life, climate change is impacting Alaska and the Arctic region significantly. Alaska is warming faster than any other state and nearly four times faster than the global average.

By transitioning beyond fossil fuels, Alaska can build a thriving economy based on its abundant renewable energy resources, reduce energy costs for families and businesses, and increase the state’s energy security.

It’s time for the Department of the Interior to review the nearly 50-year-old aging TAPS infrastructure and put a plan in place to decommission it. How the TAPS is managed is key to America’s climate future.



Source link

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Trending