Alaska Digest

Posted: Friday, May 20, 2005

State sells Cook Inlet, N. Slope petrol leases

ANCHORAGE - North Slope and Cook Inlet oil and gas leases sold for more than $1.9 million at a state sale.

No major companies bid but state officials said they were encouraged to see some smaller newcomers, known as independents, stake money Wednesday in Cook Inlet, where natural gas prices are rising as existing supplies tap out.

Cook Inlet gas fields for decades have supplied fuel to heat and power Anchorage, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and the Kenai Peninsula.

Mark Myers, state oil and gas director, said other factors that might be attracting drillers include the relatively abundant and cheap land available in Alaska, plus tax breaks for explorers.

The first part of the sale focused on land thought to be rich in gas in the foothills of the Brooks Range.

Anadarko Petroleum Corp., a midsize company based in Houston, was the sole bidder on 11 of 12 tracts leased. Anadarko holds leases on thousands of North Slope acres, and it owns 22 percent of the prolific Alpine oil field.

In all, the North Slope sale generated $403,814 in winning bids for 68,480 acres.

A half-dozen companies plus several individuals submitted winning bids totaling about $1.5 million for 245,120 acres in and around Cook Inlet, stretching from Wasilla south to Anchor Point.

Gov. limits access to news conference

JUNEAU - Gov. Frank Murkowski called a press conference Thursday but declined to allow much of the Capitol press corps to be there.

The governor assembled three reporters to discuss the continuing special session, and during the conference he expressed to them that he was confident of reaching a compromise on reforms to public retirement systems and workers' compensation, The Associated Press reported. Three other reporters, including one from the Juneau Empire, were denied access to the governor's office and a fourth was escorted out by a security guard when he refused to leave.

The last news conference Murkowski held, on May 11, was confrontational as reporters pressed the governor on soft money, retirement and other issues.

Murkowski did not directly answer questions on why other reporters were excluded Thursday. His spokeswoman, Becky Hultberg, said, "This is just a more relaxed format."

Hunting nets Alabama man $13,000 fine

ANCHORAGE - An Alabama man was fined $13,000 after pleading no contest in state court to illegally hunting grizzly bears, caribou, Dall sheep and moose from 2001 to 2003.

Gary Ickes, 60, killed at least one moose and one caribou in his hunts, Alaska State Troopers said. He had Alaska resident hunting tags for the other animals.

"It doesn't really make a difference if he was successful (hunting). In the state of Alaska, there's not a difference between hunting for an animal and getting one and hunting for an animal and not getting one," said Sgt. Bernard Chastain of the Bureau of Wildlife Enforcement.

An investigation into Ickes began when an employee of Wrangell St. Elias National Park in Slana saw Ickes come into the park's office in 2003 and request resident rural subsistence tags, according to court documents. The employee did not recognize Ickes as a resident of Slana, a town 50 miles southwest of Tok in the eastern Interior with a population of 110 people.

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