Saying Good-Bye to Turbulent 2017… Looking Forward to a Prosperous 2018
By Kathryn Mackenzie
So many thrilling changes occurred in Alaska in 2017. The oil and gas industry received exciting news in May when US Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke signed a secretarial order to advance exploration efforts in the National Petroleum Reserve—Alaska and to update resource assessment for certain areas of the North Slope, specifically in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The 1.5 million acre coastal plain of the 19 million acre ANWR is the largest unexplored, potentially productive geologic onshore basin in the United States, according to the Department of the Interior.
Later in the year, the EPA and Pebble Mine settled their respective lawsuits allowing Pebble’s owners to move forward with planning and pre-permitting. And then there was the $43 billion landmark LNG (liquid natural gas) agreement made last month when Alaska Gasline Development Corporation, the State of Alaska, Sinopec, China Investment Corporation, and the Bank of China signed a memorandum of understanding to advance the LNG pipeline in Alaska. The long-debated project could create 12,000 jobs and reduce the trade deficit between the US and Asia by $10 billion a year, according to Governor Bill Walker’s office. “Because Alaskans need well-paying jobs and affordable energy to power our homes, schools, and businesses, this Alaska LNG project is critical,” Walker said in a statement.
For those of us who work or live in midtown Anchorage, another not-to-be-missed story in 2017 was the demolition of the old Northern Lights Hotel. First opened in 1965 as the Gold Rush Motor Lodge, the Northern Lights Hotel was rebuilt just five years later after a fire, identified as arson, killed five guests. The Northern Lights Hotel was closed for good by the Anchorage Fire Department in 2002 after responders found more than sixty fire code violations. After sitting vacant for fifteen years, the treacherous (and some say haunted) building was finally laid to rest in late summer. Today, as I gaze out my window at the icy snow and cement blocks surrounding the now-vacant lot, I can only imagine what’s next for 598 West Northern Lights Boulevard.
Multiple landmark projects and legislative changes took place this year, including changes to oil tax credits, the initial formation of a multi-billion dollar LNG international trade agreement, and Quintillion’s announcement that it installed the final section of subsea fiber-optic cable in Arctic Alaska, completing the Alaska portion of the project that brings high-speed broadband access to several rural areas that previously had none. It will be exciting to see how the addition of Internet access connects area such as Utqiaġvik, Wainwright, Point Hope, and Kotzebue in a way never seen before.
Our hope for the coming year is that Alaska continues this forward trajectory and all of our industries, from oil and gas and resource development to fisheries, tourism, and technology keep discovering new and innovative ways of not just succeeding, but thriving, despite an uncertain economy ahead.
In this, our final issue of the year, we present the biggest stories of 2017; provide an update on the continuous expansion in the Mat-Su Valley (bowling, anyone?); and, since we’re rushing headlong into winter’s depths, medical experts offer tips on how to stay healthy and happy through the long, dark months ahead. We hope you enjoy reading this issue as much as we enjoyed creating it.
Happy Winter, friends!
Managing Editor, Alaska Business