Lobbyist spending drops in 1999
JUNEAU - Businesses and municipalities spent $11.1 million to lobby legislators and bureaucrats in 1999, according to an Associated Press analysis of a state report released Friday.
That figure was down about $400,000 from spending in 1998, the highest year on record.
World Net Communications racked up the highest spending, part of a surge of lobbying by telecommunications companies listed in the Alaska Public Offices Commission lobbyist report.
World Net spent $309,313 on four lobbyists and their expenses, while General Communications Inc. spent $247,973, Century Telephone $96,090, AT&T Alascom $94,649 and Anchorage Telephone Utility $69,998.
Rep. Norm Rokeberg, an Anchorage Republican and chairman of the House Labor and Commerce Committee, said the heavy spending by telecommunications companies may have been directed at issues before the Alaska Public Utilities Commission rather than the Legislature.
Petroleum companies also were among the top spenders. BP Exploration spent $283,602, Arco Alaska $270,827, Exxon $208,012 and Yukon Pacific $120,000.
Joe Hayes, a former House speaker, was the highest paid lobbyist. Hayes earned $720,716 in 1999, about $8,000 more than the previous year.
Second on the lobbyist list was Kent Dawson, who earned $665,496. Sam Kito Jr., Lawrence Markley, Mitch Gravo, Ashley Reed, Kim Hutchinson, Jerry Reinwand, Ray Gillespie and Robert Evans were the other top 10 lobbyists in terms of fees. All earned at least $300,000.
Coast Guard seizes driftnetter
JUNEAU - The Coast Guard has seized a Honduran-flagged fishing vessel accused of illegal driftnetting south of the western Aleutians.
The 177-foot Arctic Wind was taken into custody Friday after an enforcement operation that lasted nearly two weeks.
It was to be escorted to Adak, where the crew was to be turned over to U.S. immigrations officials.
While flagged in Honduras, the Arctic Wind is owned by a South Korean company and was operated by a Russian crew.
On May 1, a Coast Guard patrol plane spotted the Arctic Wind engaged in suspected high-seas driftnetting 600 miles south of Adak. High-seas driftnetting is illegal under international treaty.
The boat allegedly cut its nets and tried to get away from a Coast Guard cutter sent out from Dutch Harbor to investigate.
The cutter Sherman recovered at least nine miles of net, the Coast Guard said. It contained 700 salmon, eight sharks, 50 puffins, 12 albatross and a porpoise.
Alaska gas prices steady
ANCHORAGE - While gasoline prices are on the decline in the Lower 48, prices in Alaska are holding steady, according to the Alaska office of the American Automobile Association.
Self-serve regular pumps in Alaska averaged $1.63 a gallon as of Friday, up a half-cent from mid-April. Juneau prices are generally higher than the statewide average.
Nationwide gas prices have fallen more than 2 cents a gallon since mid-April, AAA Alaska said. The average self-serve price for regular gas across the country was $1.46 a gallon.
Outside Alaska, gasoline is most expensive in the West at $1.61 a gallon and least expensive in the Midwest at $1.37.
Retiring senator takes job with Alyeska
JUNEAU - Retiring state Sen. Jerry Mackie will join Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. as state government affairs manager, a new position.
Melphine Evans, Alyeska senior vice president of administration, said Mackie will be responsible for communicating the company's position to state and local government agencies and lawmakers and informing them about Alyeska projects. Mackie will be based in Juneau.
Mackie, a Craig Republican, is retiring from the Legislature after six years in the House and one four-year term in the Senate. He is a former Alaska Federation of Natives board member and he spent 10 years as a commercial fisherman in Southeast Alaska.
Knowles signs gas pipeline bill
JUNEAU - Gov. Tony Knowles has signed a bill aimed at encouraging the construction of a pipeline to bring the North Slope's vast natural gas reserves to market.
``Trillions of cubic feet of natural gas are available on the North Slope, but it requires the state's help to get it to market,'' Knowles said. ``This bill is another step in that direction, making technical changes in state law to create a more certain playing field that is needed to encourage gasline development.''
House Bill 290, sponsored by the House Resources Committee, modifies several areas of state law to clarify that, except in terms of setting rates, the pipeline would be subject only to the Alaska Pipeline Act, and not the Alaska Public Utilities Regulatory Act.
That would allow the state to regulate the pipeline as a common carrier only for gas shipped to utilities within the state, but not for exported gas.
Potential developers contend the pipeline would likely not be built unless marketers can commit to ship large fixed volumes of gas to foreign markets for a lengthy period of time. A common carrier requirement could interfere with such export commitments.
The bill preserves the authority of the Department of Natural Resources to oversee the pipeline and related facilities and extends the jurisdiction of the Regulatory Commission of Alaska to transportation of natural gas within the state.
HB 290 passed both bodies of the Legislature without opposition.