The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

News briefs


Steven Weber photo

The Buccaneer mascot showed his support for the red, white and blue last Wednesday during the Independence Day parade down Pioneer Dr. Blue skies and warm weather made for a great day to celebrate and Valdez made the most of it.

Trooper kills man

(AP) A Copper Center man died after he was shot by at least one Alaska State Trooper.

The Department of Public Safety did not immediately release how many troopers were involved or how many responded to the home in the Richardson Highway community of 300.

Troopers shortly after 2:30 a.m. Friday received a report that 38-year-old Eric Hash was assaulting a 72-year-old family member and placing other family members in fear.

Troopers received a second report that Hash had left and returned.

Family members barricaded themselves inside and reported Hash was yelling at them and damaging property.

At least one officer responded to the home. Hash was shot at about 3:15 a.m.

He was medically evacuated but he died at a hospital.

The state medical examiner will conduct an autopsy.

Largest ferry out

(AP) Alaska's largest state ferry, the Columbia, will be out of service for an additional week.

The Ketchikan Daily news reports the Columbia on June 29 developed a mechanical issue with its bow thruster engine exhaust system as it arrived in Bellingham, Washington.

After repairs, the Columbia had been expected to be returned to service Friday.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities says the return has been rescheduled for July 13.

Without a replacement vessel, the Alaska Marine Highway System was forced to cancel two weeks of reservations.

Transportation Department spokeswoman Aurah Landau says the Columbia needed significant repairs that required the manufacturing of new bow thruster exhaust system components.

More information is available at

A new high

(AP) State marijuana tax revenue has reached another new high in Alaska.

The state Department of Revenue reported collecting nearly $1.2 million in May. It is the fourth time this year that state tax collections topped $1 million.

Cultivation facilities pay the tax, which is imposed when marijuana is sold or transferred from a licensed grow facility to a retail marijuana shop or product manufacturing facility.

The department is taking public comment on proposed changes to the way the state taxes parts of the marijuana plant. The move is intended to address some enforcement and industry concerns.

Some in the industry have sought more extensive changes to the tax, which they see as too burdensome for growers. Such an overhaul would have to come from the Legislature.

Small businesses

(AP) A U.S. senator from Idaho held a recent hearing in Anchorage to get feedback from Alaska business leaders on Small Business Administration programs.

Republican Sen. Jim Risch, chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, wanted to gather insight into how and if the programs are helping businesses navigate the system for federal contracts, the Alaska Journal of Commerce reported.

Federal contracts for Alaska small businesses grew by more than $200 million last year, Risch said. The administration helped U.S. small businesses get for more than $105 billion in total federal work last year.

Alaska Sens. Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski joined Risch last week. Though they are not on the committee, Risch said he deferred to them because of their familiarity with issues that the state's businesses face.

"The key, whether it's the U.S. economy, or the Alaska economy, is small-business growth," Sullivan said.

Representatives from Alaska Native corporations and professional trade businesses told the senators that federal regulations often make it difficult for the Small Business Administration to help small businesses efficiently.

The agency is working to ease regulatory challenges, although specific requirements can vary among programs, said Robb Wong, associate administrator for government contracting.

New bud categories?

(AP) The state of Alaska is proposing changes to the way it taxes parts of the marijuana plant, a move intended to address enforcement and industry concerns.

The current tax is $50 an ounce for any part of the bud and flower and $15 an ounce for the rest of the plant. The tax, paid by growers, is imposed when marijuana is sold or transferred from a growing facility to a retail store or product manufacturing facility.

The Department of Revenue is proposing new bud categories. It proposes taxing mature bud at $50 an ounce and immature or abnormal buds at $25 an ounce. The remainder of the plant would remain taxed at $15 an ounce.

The department is taking public comments on the proposed changes until Aug. 10.

Hawkins out of race

(AP) One of the Republican candidates for governor in Alaska has withdrawn from the race.

Scott Hawkins announced Monday that he will not compete in the Aug. 21 primary. Hawkins, in a statement, said Mead Treadwell's late entry into the race was a factor that "significantly diminished" Hawkins' ability to win.

Hawkins said he was looking forward to a head-to-head matchup with former state Sen. Mike Dunleavy, saying they had offered different visions for the state while campaigning. But he says Treadwell's entrance in the race "complicated this contrast."

Treadwell, a former lieutenant governor, joined the race last month. He and Dunleavy are the highest-profile remaining GOP candidates.

Hawkins says he'll support the eventual GOP nominee.

Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, is seeking re-election. Democrat Mark Begich is also running.

BP out of Kuparuk

(AP) BP is planning to sell its stake in a large northern Alaska oil field to ConocoPhillips and increase its holdings in an offshore oil field near the United Kingdom.

BP announced this week its intent to sell its entire 39 percent stake and related holdings in the Kuparuk field to ConocoPhillips and focus its Alaska operations on the Prudhoe Bay field, the Anchorage Daily news reported.

"In Alaska, this transaction will increase our focus on managing our deep resource base at the massive Prudhoe Bay oilfield and help enable a more competitive and sustainable business for BP," BP Upstream chief executive Bernard Looney said in a statement.

Should regulators approve the deal, ConocoPhillips' assets at Kuparuk will increase to 95 percent. Alaska could see benefits from the deal as ConocoPhillips has indicated efforts to increase production.

"We view this as great news," said Andy Mack, state Department of Natural Resources commissioner. "ConocoPhillips has demonstrated an appetite for continuing to invest heavily in Alaska. This has the potential to increase production in Alaska, which is good for our economy and good for our coffers."

The transaction should not significantly affect the company's employment numbers in the state, said Dawn Patience, a spokeswoman with BP in Alaska. BP has more than 1,600 direct employees in the state.

"The state of Alaska will see little change, since the operators of the fields remain the same," Patience said. "The state will continue to collect taxes and royalties from production."

BP plans to buy a 16.5 percent stake from ConocoPhillips in the Clair field in the North Sea near the United Kingdom, boosting its holdings to 45 percent.

The transactions are expected to go through this year, pending approval from regulators, Patience said.


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