After its May decision to stop seeking permits, Delaware-based PacRim Coal is giving up what had been a key piece of property in its plans to strip mine coal from the west Cook Inlet’s Chuitna River region.
The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission — the state regulatory oversight group for the hydrocarbon industry — has issued a $446,000 penalty to Cook Inlet Energy for safety valve violations in early 2014.
Among the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s budgetary reactions to shrinking state funds is a proposal to save $624,302 by cutting English Language Learner (ELL) tutors, who teach English to students learning it as a second language.
As Homer Electric Association proceeds with its election to withdraw from the oversight of the state utilities regulator, the Regulatory Commission of Alaska, the HEA subsidiary Alaska Electric and Energy Cooperative is also planning a deregulation election.
Homer Electric Association officials, including board members, have been holding member outreach meetings on the Kenai Peninsula seeking support for what it calls “local control” — removing HEA from regulation by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska. But HEA also wants members to make an informed decision, said general manager Brad Janorschke.
“I think it’s more important we have dialogue and ask questions,” he said at a Homer meeting held Sept. 28.
At a series of public meetings Thursday, Oct. 13, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District will begin confronting a budget for next year that may be between 3 and 20 percent less than the previous year’s.
District Superintendent Sean Dusek invited the public to participate in the budget meetings and offered an overview of problems to listeners at a Kenai Chamber of Commerce luncheon Oct. 5.
Among the budget-driven changes coming to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is a new busing system that will change start times for 10 southern Kenai Peninsula schools.
After the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development cut inflation funding from its pupil transportation grant allocations, the school district created a plan to have each southern peninsula bus carry two loads of students — first dropping off the kids picked up on one route then going out on another route to pick up for a different school.
The Alberta-based fertilizer producer Agrium has applied for an Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation permit for waste discharge from its Kenai Nitrogen Operations facility in Nikiski, a plant that closed in 2007 due to a dwindling local supply of the natural gas it uses as raw material.
On Friday, the U.S Army Corps of Engineers released a report about its annual dredging of approximately 9,000 cubic yards of material from Ninilchik’s small boat harbor, finding no expectations that it will impact the local environment.
Bear injures woman on Kenai refuge trail
A woman hiking alone Sunday on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge’s Lower Kenai River trail was bitten on the upper leg by a brown bear.
The woman was hiking with her two dogs when she saw the bear about 20 feet ahead of her in a riverside area of tall grass. She retreated and fell, “and the bear was upon her immediately,” according to a refuge press release.
After the state issued its first marijuana growing permits on June 9 and 10, nine local cultivators were approved by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday. Many expect to have crops ready by the end of the year.
BlueCrest Energy ceremonially opened their Hansen Production Facility, an oil wellpad on the shore of Cook Inlet near Anchor Point.
Within a few weeks drivers passing between Anchor Point and Ninilchik may see a new feature on the coastline — BlueCrest Energy’s 30 foot-tall drill rig, scheduled to be erected soon on the oil company’s wellpad around Mile 151 of the Sterling Highway.
Issues discussed in Homer Electric Association’s annual members meeting, held May 4 at Kenai Central High School, include what the electric cooperative is doing to reduce the electric bills of its members, a proposal to withdraw from regulation by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska — a state utilities oversight agency — and a possible settlement of HEA’s dispute with six other utilities over the cost of transmitting electricity over HEA’s powerlines.
Power costs and gas supply
Last spring, homeowners near Halibut Cove and Homer began to see needles on their spruces turning yellow and brown.
Naturalists from the Alaska Division of Forestry, the Kenai Wildlife Refuge, and the University of Alaska’s Cooperative Extension Service examined the trees on trips in June 2015 and late March of this year.
Local representatives of the Alaska Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Project said that although their leaders have spoken of possible delays, employees of the project remain set on smaller steps before them.
These steps include creating final drafts of impact reports and completing property acquisitions for the prospective pipeline’s liquefaction facility and export terminal in Nikiski.
Rates paid by Homer Electric Association users will rise by 3.25 percent beginning Feb. 1. The Alaska Regulatory Commission, which permits rates charged by public utilities, allowed the rate raise on Friday.
HEA Manager of Regulatory Affairs John Draves said the temporary increase will be in effect until HEA can negotiate other ways of recovering costs — either with the permanent 1.8 percent rate increase that HEA is currently proposing to the Regulatory Commission, or by charging other utilities that transmit power over HEA lines.
Despite the scanty state spending expected in 2016, this year’s state capital budget may provide funding for long-deferred upgrades to Kenai’s wastewater treatment plant.
Built in 1981, Kenai’s wastewater plant discharges into Cook Inlet from an outlet in the Kenai beach mudflats. The ammonia in this discharge exceeds the plant’s August 2015 permit from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, which allows Kenai five years to bring the plant to the ammonia emission limits.
Homer Electric Association decreased its rates starting Jan. 1, while an unresolved proposal that may raise them remains suspended until July.
The cost of power adjustment price that HEA members pay for a kilowatt-hour of electricity was about 7 cents. On Jan. 1 it dropped to about 6 cents. For a member using 550 kilowatt hours a month (the average, according to an HEA press release), the decrease will save around $6.88 each month.
KENAI — Setbacks for commercial marijuana establishments may become more tightly regulated in Kenai than they are at the state level.
Alaska’s regulations for commercial marijuana require establishments to be be 500 feet away from schools, youth centers, churches and correctional facilities. In Kenai, a proposal from the Planning and Zoning Commission would add setback requirements for seven additional facility types and would create a system of measuring setbacks. The Kenai City Council may reduce this list when its members debate and vote on the proposal.