HISTORIC MOVE – Harry Greene, maintenance and operations superintendent at the Sitka Public Works Department, uses a backhoe to lift the Baranof statue onto a wooden dolly with the help of co-worker Mike Callahan, this morning in front of Harrigan Centennial Hall. The bronze statue, estimated to weigh between 400 and 600 pounds, was relocated to inside the Sitka History Museum today. The city Assembly passed a resolution, on a 6-1 vote, in July to move the statue from its prominent  outdoor location to inside the museum.  At the July meeting several members of the public said the statue was a symbol of “historical trauma.”  The statue, created by artist Joan Bugbee Jackson, was given to the city in 1989 by Lloyd and Barbara Hames. Hames family members said earlier this year they supported moving the statue into the museum. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

BLM Cuts Royalty Rate For Oil, Gas Companies

By MATTHEW BROWN 

The Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Trump administration has started giving energy companies temporary breaks on royalties and rent they pay to extract oil and gas from leases on public lands because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The move drew quick criticism as a handout to industry that will mean less money for state governments. A Democratic lawmaker called for an investigation into whether the breaks were justified.

Government data shows companies in Utah receiving steep cuts in the standard 12.5% royalty rate, to as low as 2.5% of the value of the oil and gas they produce. More reductions are expected in the coming days in other states with oil and gas activity on federal lands, primarily in the western U.S.

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management said last month that royalty-rate cuts were possible if companies could show they could not successfully operate public energy leases economically or can’t maintain enough employees at drilling sites.

Half the money that comes in through royalty payments is typically disbursed to the states where the oil or gas was extracted. The payments totaled $2.9 billion nationwide in 2019, including $94 million in Utah. 

The rate cuts in Utah included 76 leases on tens of thousands of acres of public lands. 

In a related action in recent days, bureau officials in 85 cases suspended rent payments that companies pay on their oil and gas leases on federal lands, according to government data. The suspensions to date have all been in Wyoming and were linked by agency officials to the pandemic. 

Other states with federal oil and gas leases that generate significant amounts of revenue include New Mexico, North Dakota, California, Colorado, Alaska and Montana.

All royalty relief will be temporary and last a maximum of 60 days, Bureau of Land Management spokesman Chris Tollefson said. Some elected officials and organizations had called for blanket relief for the industry, he said. But the Interior Department rejected those requests and determined each leaseholder must follow the longstanding process for obtaining relief.

“These laws and regulations have existed for decades and across multiple administrations,” Tollefson said. “No special circumstances have been granted.”

But critics of the administration jumped on the cuts. House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate if they were necessary and properly handled, and how much they could cost in lost revenues.

“I am concerned that in its haste to approve huge numbers of royalty cuts, BLM (the Bureau of Land Management) may not be fully following the requirements in the regulation,” Grijalva wrote.

The government has broad authority to grant royalty reductions for both onshore and offshore oil and gas activity provided companies meet its criteria, said American Petroleum Institute vice president Lem Smith. 

He said the organization backs the process for granting companies relief as long as it is “equitable, transparent and easily understood” and added that it’s traditionally been done on a case-by-case basis.

A National Wildlife Federation representative called the rate cuts a “sweetheart deal” benefiting fossil fuel companies even as the administration seeks more money from renewable energy companies that rent federal lands.

“It is simply not fair and is one more signal that oil and gas drilling takes precedence over everything else on our public lands,” National Wildlife Federation Vice President Tracy Stone-Manning said. 

How much value the relief will have for companies is not known. It will depend on the amount of fuel they extract and how many relief applications are granted going forward. 

Interior’s Office of Natural Resources Revenue, which collects the royalties from companies, does not do future projections, spokesman Chris Mentasti said.

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Follow Matthew Brown at  @matthewbrownap

 

August 5, 2020

A Note To Our Readers

Reopening: Phase One:

 

On March 30 the Daily Sitka Sentinel began taking precautions against the coronavirus, which was starting to show up in Alaska.

We closed our building to the public and four key employees started working remotely. Home delivery was suspended to protect our carriers from exposure to the virus.

Four months later, the virus is still with us and the precautions remain in effect.

In appreciation for the willingness of our subscribers to pick up their daily paper at drop-off sites, the Sentinel was free to all readers, and subscriptions were extended without charge.

As of August 1 the Sentinel is once again charging for subscriptions, but the present method of having subscribers pick up their papers at designated sites will continue.

The expiration date of all subscriptions has been extended without charge for an additional four months.

We thank our readers for their support in these uncertain times, and especially those who paid for the paper despite the free offer.

We look forward to the time when we can safely resume home delivery.

To check on the expiration of your subscription or to make a payment please call 747-3219. The subscription email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . We also will be mailing out reminder cards.

The single copy price is again 75 cents. The news racks do not require coins to open, but we ask that the 75 cents for a non-subscription single copy sale be paid with coins in the slot.

– The Sitka Sentinel Staff

 

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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 9-29-20)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 12:20 a.m. Tuesday.

New cases as of Monday: 118

Total statewide – 7,721

Total (cumulative) deaths – 56

Active cases in Sitka – 19 (13 resident; 6 non-resident) *

Recovered cases in Sitka – 47 (37 resident; 10 non-resident) *

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 288.

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

* These numbers reflect State of Alaska data. Local cases may not immediately appear on DHSS site, or are reported on patient’s town of residence rather than Sitka’s statistics. 

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20 YEARS AGO
September 2000

Gilnettings, By Gil Truitt: The Sitka All-Star Team (Team II) of 1939-1956 is revealed here for the first time.  Fermin “Rocky” Gutierrez, Hugh Pace, “Red” Belinski, Harold “Pretty Boy” Morris, George Kucherak, Dorm McGraw Sr., Herb Didrickson Sr., Gorman Shutt, Vic Adamson, Bill Robinson  and Johnny Vander. ... Other gifted players include Tony Herman, Bunny Donnelly, Hal Taylor, Archie Nielsen, Cecil McClain and Richard (Dick) Eliason.

50 YEARS AGO
September 1970

The Alaska Judicial council has selected Sitka as the site of a new branch of the state superior court. The Legislature had created a position for a third Superior Court judge in Southeast, but the city was not specified in the legislation.

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