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Native corporation considers lawsuit against city of Anchorage

Posted: July 31, 2013 - 12:03am

ANCHORAGE — An Alaska Native corporation is thinking of filing a lawsuit against the city of Anchorage in response to a dispute over revenues from the sale of methane gas.

Eklutna Inc. CEO Curtis McQueen said his corporation is entitled to half the revenue from a new city system that collects methane from the Anchorage regional landfill near Eagle River. The city could owe the company as much as $24 million in projected revenues, McQueen said.

Eklutna is Anchorage’s largest land owner.

McQueen said the city is supposed to split any revenues from public interest lands with Eklutna under a long-standing settlement called the North Anchorage Planned Agreement, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

An Eklutna attorney outlined the corporation’s legal case before the Anchorage Assembly at a work session earlier this month.

City Attorney Dennis Wheeler said a settlement with the Native corporation could be possible. But Solid Waste Services Department director Mark Madden said the land-use agreement applies only to revenues related to the land itself, not from improvements like the methane-capturing system.

“The gas doesn’t come from the ground — it comes from the trash that we put there,” Madden said. “So, where do you draw that line?”

Madden said that even if that argument doesn’t hold, Eklutna would be entitled only to net profits from the sale of the methane gas. Madden said Eklutna’s argument does not account for money spent on building the system.

Since last November, Doyon Utilities, LLC, has purchased the gas to run a plant that produces power for Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

McQueen said Eklutna will wait for another Assembly work session on the dispute. The corporation, he said, will then “see what kind of overture is made” by city officials.

Assembly chairman Ernie Hall, however, said he expects a resolution would be reached only after litigation.

“Our legal department has got their interpretation; Eklutna has their interpretation,” Hall said. “Since we can’t come to an amicable decision on this, maybe we do have to let the courts decide.”

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