A magnitude 6.67 earthquake struck at 11 p.m. Thursday night, 80 miles northeast of Chignik on the Alaska Peninsula, according to NOAA.
KTUU viewers also report feeling the quake in areas across Southcentral Alaska and in Kodiak.
The Alaska Earthquake Center reports that the epicenter was 395 miles southwest of Anchorage. No tsunami warning is expected, according to the center.
If you have information you would like to share about the quake, please email Channel 2 at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1:50 P.M. THURSDAY UPDATE: Anchorage police say alcohol and speed are “suspected contributing factors” in Wednesday night’s head-on collision which left one man dead in Eagle River, with three other people also injured.
APD spokeswoman Renee Oistad identified the deceased as 22-year-old Yong Lor, a passenger in a car which crossed the Old Glenn Highway’s center line near its intersection with Monastery Drive shortly before 8:15 p.m. Wednesday. A second 22-year-old man -- the car’s driver, Xeng Yang -- remains hospitalized Thursday.
“A 2003 white Subaru Legacy, driven by (Yang), was traveling northbound on the Old Glenn Highway when it crossed the center line and crashed head-on into a 2012 blue Toyota Rav4 which was traveling southbound,” Oistad wrote in a Thursday statement on the collision. “The Subaru burst into flames.”
Yang was taken to Providence Alaska Medical Center, where staff listed him in fair condition Thursday afternoon. Both of the Rav4’s occupants, who had been wearing their seat belts, reported only minor injuries in connection with the belts and the SUV’s deployed airbags.
“Due to the damage done to the Subaru, it was not readily apparent whether or not either Yang or Lor were wearing their seat belts,” Oistad wrote. “That is a question that will hopefully be answered during the vehicle examination. Alcohol and speed are suspected contributing factors to the crash.”
Oistad said Thursday afternoon that there wasn’t word from investigators on why speed and alcohol were suspected in the crash, or how fast the vehicles involved were traveling at the time of impact. The Toyota’s occupants haven’t yet been publicly identified.
Chugiak Volunteer Fire Department Chief Virginia McMichael said a total of three ambulances, one heavy rescue unit and an engine responded within minutes to the crash, which occurred during a gathering of firefighters at a nearby station.
“We were having a business meeting that night, and everybody was there,” McMichael said.
Crews arrived to discover part of the Legacy ablaze. McMichael said the car’s wreck was barely recognizable.
“Basically, the (Legacy) was almost ripped in half -- basically the rear half of the vehicle was on fire,” McMichael said. “It was on fire and the grass around it was on fire.”
Volunteers were able to extinguish the fire as medics loaded Yang for transport, with the ambulance involved spending just four minutes at the scene.
According to Oistad, the highway was closed until almost 1 a.m. Thursday as investigators examined the crash site. She urged motorists to wear their seat belts Thursday, both as a requirement of state law and as a measure that saves lives.
McMichael called Wednesday’s crash one of the worst collisions she’s seen as a firefighter.
“As long as I’ve been doing this, I’ve never seen that extent of damage on a road that you can’t go that fast on,” McMichael said.
A crash Wednesday evening in Eagle River left one person dead and sent another to the hospital.
At about 8 p.m., two vehicles crashed at Old Glenn Highway and Monastery Drive.
Anchorage Police say a vehicle traveling northbound lost control and collided with a car traveling southbound. Investigators say one male victim was pronounced dead at the scene.
"Both vehicles were occupied two times, one occupant was transported to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries," said APD Sgt. Danielle Hrovat.
Two other occupants in the vehicle refused treatment according to Chugiak Volunteer Fire Department Chief Clifton Dalton.
The cause of the crash is still under investigation.
ANCHORAGE -- A 39-year-old man who was shot multiple times May 11 in Muldoon has died at a local hospital, police say. His death marks the 16th Anchorage homicide of the year in the highest annual body count in the city since at least 2010.
David French was being treated for gunshot wounds suffered more than two weeks ago during a fight outside a trailer home at the Rangeview trailer court, according to Anchorage police.
French died today from his injuries. “He never left the hospital," said police spokeswoman Renee Oistad.
One person was arrested at the time of the shooting because he or she was wanted on a warrant unrelated to the gunfire, Oistad said. No one has been arrested in connection to the killing.
Police have said French was struck in the chest and thigh. Oistad would not reveal additional details in the case citing the ongoing investigation.
Anchorage police saw a spike in homicides to begin with year with six people killed in six weeks. Mayoral candidates made city violence a cornerstone of the recent election, with frontrunners vowing to hire more police despite a statewide public spending crunch brought about by crashing oil prices.
While the murders slowed in the spring, May has been another deadly month. A man was stabbed May 4, followed by a domestic violence murder-suicide that left a mother and two small children dead May 13 and a shooting death May 25th.
With more than half of the calendar year remaining, more people have been killed in 2015 in Alaska's largest city than in any of the previous five years, according to annual reports.
ANCHORAGE HOMICIDES PER YEAR
-- 2010: 13
-- 2011: 12
-- 2012: 15
-- 2013: 14
-- 2014: 12
-- 2015: 16 as of May 28
(SOURCE: Anchorage Police Department and the city annual crime report. Oistad said homicide totals for years prior to 2010 were not immediately available.)
vid-UPDATE Man critically injured in East Anchorage shooting
EAGLE RIVER -- When Louie Amundson of Eagle River had a conversation with his daughter about bullying, she asked if he had ever bullied anyone.
After a moment of thought, the father admitted he had years ago when he was in junior high school.
The conversation left Amundson feeling like he owed his former classmate, ChadMichael Morrisette, an apology.
While Morrisette left Alaska long ago, Amundson found him on Facebook.
This week, Morrisette returned to Alaska for the first time since he left at age 15 and met with Amundson in person.
Watch the video for the full story...
BETHEL -- Police are asking for the public’s help identifying and locating a person of interest in the homicide of Eunice Whitman. Whitman was found stabbed to death early Sunday morning along a boardwalk in a Bethel park.
Police Thursday released a video from the Bethel AC Quick Stop store. Police have already arrested the primary suspect, but Lieutenant Joe Corbett says they’re trying to identify another male who appears with him in the video taken around the time of the murder.
“The man with the gray sweatshirt over his head, we have not been able to identify yet,” said Corbett.
The video shows two men walking down a hallway at the AC Quick Stop store apartments early Sunday morning. Whitman’s boyfriend Justine Paul, walks ahead while the person of interest trails behind in a gray hooded sweatshirt. Paul, the primary suspect, was taken into custody and arraigned on first-degree murder charges Tuesday. But police say they want to talk with the other man in the video.
“We know that he was there right around the time of the homicide or at least the time of the report. He was with our primary suspect, so his role in it is unclear us and that’s why we want to talk with him and figure out how he was involved,” said Corbett.
Bethel Police are asking anyone with information about the man in the images to contact Investigative Sergeant Amy Davis at the Bethel Police Department.
This story has been reprinted with permission from the original at KYUK Public Media.
A bear-motorcycle collision on the Glacier Highway in Juneau ultimately left one man injured and three bears dead Thursday morning, after officials decided to kill two cubs of a sow that died in the crash.
Juneau Police Department Sgt. Chris Gifford said in a Thursday statement that the 58-year-old motorcyclist called police at 8:20 a.m. from Mile 32 of the highway, near the road’s end beyond Auke Bay and the state ferry terminal.
“JPD and Capital City Fire and Rescue responded and found the caller, who had been injured after a bear ran in front of his 2000 BMW motorcycle while he traveled on the highway,” Gifford wrote. “The bear, a sow, was killed in the collision.”
Medics took the man to Bartlett Regional Hospital, as state authorities went to the crash due to the bear’s involvement.
“Employees of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Alaska State Troopers were notified and responded,” Gifford wrote. “Two young cubs were located in the immediate area and were euthanized.”
Gifford said the motorcyclist’s injuries in the crash were relatively severe. He declined to identify the driver Thursday, noting that no criminal charges or citations were issued in the crash.
“They were fairly serious injuries, but not life-threatening,” Gifford said. “I think it’s a good thing that he was wearing his helmet.”
There wasn’t any word from JPD Thursday on who made the decision to kill the cubs, or why they did so.
“They appeared to be black bears,” Gifford said. “That decision was not made by the Juneau Police Department.”
Gifford said the crash closed the highway for about half an hour Thursday morning, but added that traffic disruptions were likely minimal. The motorcycle sustained an estimated $5,000 in damage during the crash.
Stephanie Sell, an area management biologist with the Department of Fish and Game, told the Associated Press Thursday afternoon that the agency responded to a call to pick up a dead bear but realized the sow had been lactating. She said two young cubs were found in a tree nearby.
She said no placement was available for them, and they would have suffered if they had been left on their own.
A Chugiak man has been convicted on all counts in the brutal August rape of a teenage girl near Jim Creek, in which prosecutors said he strangled the victim when she wouldn't comply.
An Alaska State Troopers dispatch said a Palmer jury convicted 33-year-old Ralph Barenz II on one count each of first-degree sexual assault and second-degree sexual abuse of a minor, as well as two counts of third-degree assault. The jury returned its verdict at about 11 a.m. Thursday.
Prosecutors said in a criminal complaint last year that Barenz and the 15-year-old victim had drank and smoked marijuana together, then touched each other in the early-morning hours of Aug. 5, 2014 at Barenz’s tent and camper on the creek near Butte.
When Barenz wanted more, however, the victim refused -- prompting Barenz to strangle her to the point of blacking out. He raped her after she tried to knee and kick him, tearing out her nose and ear rings during the assault.
Barenz faces a Sept. 11 sentencing date in Palmer court, according to AST.
A small Juneau business launched a Kickstarter campaign this week to crowdsource funds for a unique line of apparel and accessories. Tidal Vision is hoping it’s onto the next big thing: garments sewn from discarded salmon skin and crab shells.
Craig Kasberg, the founder of the company, pulls out a wallet from his back pocket. It’s a muted jade color, shiny with a slightly bumpy texture.
“It’s much different than what you see when you throw a skin away in the garbage when you’re cooking up your dinner or something,” he says.
The wallet is made entirely from salmon skin sourced from a processor in Kodiak, and then sewn at a tannery in Washington State.
The odor is different than what you might think.
“I would say it smells quite similar to any vegetable tanned leather really,” he says.
The skin has gone through a 24-step process that dries it out until it turns into leather. The material doesn’t stink because the fish oils have all been removed.
“And then replace those with all natural based vegetable tanning oils.”
Alaska has a long history with fish leather. Historically, Alaska Natives across the state have used salmon and other fish skins to craft durable garments, bags, boots and other items necessary for village life. These days, a few Native artists continue the time-consuming tradition of processing fish skins.
The material was also marketed to tourists and fashion houses in the 1990s until those ventures fizzled. Over the last few decades numerous Alaska entrepreneurs have tried their hand at the fish leather business, prompting speculation that it could be a new cottage industry for the state.
Kasberg says the biggest hurdle is convincing consumers byproducts are cool.
“When people think of fish waste, they almost plug their nose in reaction. When people haven’t seen it, smelt it, felt it, I think there is a challenge there,” he says.
Kasberg owns a gillnetter and has fished commercially in Southeast Alaska for almost a decade. He recently sold his commercial fishing license to help fund the new business.
His partner, Zach Wilkinson, has a background in economic development in agriculture. He says the agriculture industry already uses animal byproducts to make high-end items, like shoes and handbags, so why not Alaska fisheries.
“Clearly this stuff is valuable and useful and we could be doing something with it,” he says.
Some seafood processors sell byproducts for pet food, fish meal and vitamin supplements.
“What I’m particularly excited about it is kind of moving those things up the value chain and producing higher value products,” Wilkinson says.
Another item Tidal Vision plans to roll out is clothing made from chitosan extracted from crab shells. The fabric is antimicrobial, so it’s perfect for socks, underwear or gym shirts.
“We’re still going to recommend you wash your clothes but as far as odor goes, you won’t have to,” Kasberg says.
The use of chitosan is common in many industries. It’s usually stripped away from crustacean shells with formaldehyde, but Tidal Vision has a patent pending on a greener, more environmentally friendly method. They’re hoping to eventually expand the product into bandages and other medical supplies.
“The sutures that dissolve into your bloodstream are made out of a chitosan,” he says.
If the products take off, Kasberg says the business could add an overall boost to revenue for fish processors in Alaska. He would be giving them a dollar a pound for the skins, which he says is 90 percent more than fishmeal manufacturers pay. And that money could trickle down to commercial fishermen who supply the processors, like Juneau fisherman Anthoney Sine.
“That would increase our price. That would increase the money that we would be getting on our end,” he says.
Sine owns a boat called the Fortune and is preparing for the upcoming gillnet season. He says the price of seafood can fluctuate; alternative revenue streams could provide more stability.
“It greases the wheels,” Sine says. “Our seasons are short, especially the salmon season. Being able to get a little more money for my product strengthens my business for sure.”
Kasberg’s Kickstarter campaign has already raised more than half of the money it needs to begin mass production. They’re starting with wallets and plan to roll out one item at a time.
Tidal Vision surpassed its Kickstarter goal of $17,500 in 24 hours.
This story first appeared on Southeast Alaska news source KTOO.org.
A federal agency says the grounding of a Royal Dutch Shell PLC mobile offshore drilling rig in 2012 was due to the company's inadequate assessment of risk involved in a winter tow across the treacherous Gulf of Alaska.
The National Transportation Safety Board issued its ruling Thursday on the Kulluk, which had been used to drill in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska's north coast.
Shell later towed it to Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands and attempted a gulf crossing to Seattle. The conical drill barge broke loose from its tow vessel seven days into the transit.
Reattached lines failed in stormy seas, and the Kulluk ran aground.
Spokesman Curtis Smith says Shell is reviewing the NTSB report but has already incorporated lessons learned.
Shell intends to resume Arctic offshore drilling operations this year.
A federal judge in Anchorage is deciding whether to allow a case filed by the backers of a proposed mine in southwest Alaska to proceed against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Attorneys for the Pebble Limited Partnership allege the EPA violated a federal law by establishing and working with groups of mine critics that essentially acted as advisory committees but failed to comply with open meeting requirements.
The government counters no such committees were formed and opponents were only trying to have the EPA hear their concerns. EPA lawyers contend Pebble had as much contact with the EPA as they people they are complaining about.
U.S. District Judge H. Russel Holland heard arguments Thursday. He plans to later issue a written order on the government's motion to dismiss the case.
In another federal courtroom Thursday, a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel upheld a ruling dismissing a separate Pebble Partnership suit against the EPA.
Pebble’s case challenged an agency process initiated last year that could result in development of the massive gold and copper prospect being restricted or prohibited.
A federal judge in Anchorage last September dismissed the case as premature, saying the decision to initiate the process could not be considered a final agency action. On Thursday, a three-judge 9th Circuit panel agreed.
The U.S. Department of Energy has issued an authorization for the Alaska Liquefied Natural Gas Project as well as an export license for gas, in a Thursday decision hailed by the state’s U.S. senators.
Under the terms of the license, announced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski at a roundtable on federal permitting in Anchorage Thursday morning, up to 2.55 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day could be exported from facilities in Nikiski to nations without U.S. free-trade agreements for up to 30 years.
A pipeline carrying natural gas from the North Slope to ports in Southcentral Alaska has been a major priority under Alaska gubernatorial administrations dating back to Sarah Palin. Current Gov. Bill Walker backs the Alaska LNG Project as well as a backup option: the separate Alaska Stand Alone Project, a “bullet line” meant to provide gas for in-state use which has been criticized by some members of the Legislature as redundant.
Murkowski said in a statement accompanying the news that the license that its extended span, a decade longer than standard 20-year licenses, was justified by the potential $60 billion expenditure associated with the project.
“Receiving the conditional license to export LNG to non-free trade agreement countries is a major milestone for the Alaska LNG project and great news for Alaska,” Murkowski said. “With federal permission in place, those working on the project have the ability to begin selling Alaska gas in the Asian markets. With this project comes good jobs and a stronger economy and I’m excited to see Alaska at the forefront of LNG exports.”
Sen. Dan Sullivan, currently on a trip to Asia, emphasized the decision’s security implications as well as its economic boost to the state.
“I am pleased to see the Department of Energy approve this application. This project is not only critically important for Alaska’s future, but for the future of our country as well,” said Senator Sullivan. “Today’s news is a big milestone for the project, and will send a serious signal to the market that America is again open for business and poised to be an energy superpower, which would dramatically increase national and economic security.”
The license is subject to approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Murkowski said Thursday that Alaska project officials were at the pre-filing stage of that process.
Channel 2’s Blake Essig contributed information to this story.
A woman being held at the Anchorage Jail died shortly after a reported suicide attempt Saturday morning, with Alaska State Troopers investigating the cause and circumstances of her death.
Troopers said in a Wednesday dispatch that they were informed of the inmate’s death shortly after 9:20 a.m. Saturday.
“A corrections officer found the inmate unresponsive from what appeared to be a suicide attempt,” troopers wrote. “Medical staff and (emergency medical services) was notified and performed CPR until relieved by Anchorage Fire Department EMS. AFD EMS pronounced the inmate deceased at (10:07 a.m).”
DOC spokeswoman Sherrie Daigle said the inmate was a woman, but that the department hasn’t yet released her name as of Thursday.
“We haven’t notified next of kin yet,” Daigle said. “We can’t release anything until that happens.”
The death comes after another inmate being held at the jail, 26-year-old Alexis Hathaway, experienced breathing problems and died at an Anchorage hospital on the night of May 21. Daigle said he hadn’t had any reported altercations at the jail during his one-day stay on a felony DUI charge.
Troopers said the woman’s body was sent to the state medical examiner’s office for an autopsy.
Anchorage police are alerting the neighborhood of Spenard to anticipate loud noise throughout the day Thursday, as SWAT officers conduct training in the area from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
A brief APD statement on the training said it would occur in the vicinity of Spenard Road’s intersection with 36th Avenue.
“Loud explosions may be heard periodically throughout the day,” police wrote.
Neither the public nor the media will be able to see the training, police said.
A California woman reported missing in the Aleutian Islands village of Akutan was found dead Wednesday, with Alaska State Troopers reporting no foul play involved in her death.
A local village public safety officer informed troopers shortly before 2 p.m. Tuesday that 30-year-old Bakersfield, Calif. resident Yuliana Zazueca hadn’t shown up for work that day at Trident Seafoods.
“A search of the island was conducted using resources from Trident Seafoods, Aleutians East Borough, and the Alaska Wildlife Troopers out of Dutch Harbor,” troopers wrote. “The body of Yuliana was located (at about 11 a.m. Wednesday).”
AST spokesman Tim Despain didn’t immediately have details Thursday morning on where Zazueca’s body was found, or the nature of her death.
Zazueca’s body is being sent to the state medical examiner’s office in Anchorage for an autopsy. Her next of kin have been notified.
Alaska State Troopers have issued a warrant for a Venetie man accused of going on a destructive rampage in the village last week, then using an all-terrain vehicle to elude responding troopers on two separate occasions.
A Wednesday AST dispatch indicated that a warrant including “numerous charges” of assault and criminal mischief had been issued for 30-year-old Vincent Roberts.
“He remains at large and investigation continues on locating him to serve the warrant,” troopers wrote.
A village public safety officer and Fairbanks-based rural unit troopers had responded to the 180-person village near Fort Yukon on May 20, after reports that Roberts was “repeatedly shooting a firearm during the night, broke windows out of multiple houses with rocks, stole and destroyed other property, and assaulted several people.”
An online database of outstanding trooper warrants listed $50,000 bail on the warrant for Roberts Thursday morning.
There's an effort under way to further protect the Kenai Wildlife Refuge from environmental damage...
Three years ago, 27-year-old Said Beshirov was shot dead outside the now-shuttered Downtown bar Platinum Jaxx as many people celebrated Halloween a few days early on a Sunday evening.
Wednesday in a courtroom just a few blocks from the chaotic crime scene, the murder trial of Korakanh Phornsavanh, 28, got under way.
Phornsavanh faces first- and second-degree murder charges, with prosecutors arguing he shot Beshirov in the head and in the chest when Beshirov tried to intervene in a fight his friend got involved in.
Beshirov was sober and on his way home on Oct. 28, assistant district attorney Jenna Gruenstein said.
However, Phornsavanh's attorneys claim the wrong man is on trial, and during opening statements they named a different man involved in the fighting as the shooter.
"Not a single person is going to come in to this trial and tell you, 'I saw the shooter and the shooter looked anything at all like Korakanh Phornsavanh'," said Daniel Lowery, who represents the defendant.
Lowery said the jury would be convinced by "landslide evidence" that Phornsavanh did not murder Beshirov.
The state describes the events leading up to the shooting as "chaotic."
"There was a lot going on, a lot of people fighting, a lot of people in costumes, a lot was happening. People were getting knocked down, people were getting punched," said Gruenstein.
She addressed the possibility of witnesses in the trial providing different accounts of what they saw that night and suggested it be attributed to the fast pace of the events and the combination of alcohol, exhaustion, adrenaline, and fear.
Both the state and defense played video that shows the moments before the shooting, but pans away from a moment before the trigger is pulled. There is audio of shots being fired and people screaming.
The trial will continue in the coming weeks.
The House Finance Committee introduced a new version of the state operating budget Wednesday morning, adding back funds for education and union agreements -- contingent on use of the state’s rainy-day fund.
The proposed spending plan includes the restoration of $16.5 million of base student allocation funding removed from the budget by the Legislature during its regular session. Details were released in Anchorage Wednesday on an information sheet reporters received from House Finance co-chair Rep. Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake.
Lawmakers have been meeting for weeks on the budget, after Gov. Bill Walker called a special session to address a Legislature budget which didn’t fully fund the fiscal year. On Thursday, however, the Legislature adjourned Walker’s special session and convened its own -- giving itself another 30 days to work on the budget.
The House Finance proposal also restores $17.9 million removed from collective bargaining agreements with union employees, providing an additional $11.8 million in cost-of-living increases for non-covered employees.
The restored funds depend on Walker vetoing House Bill 176, which provides a separate set of cost-of-living increases. The House Finance statement also said it would be necessary to tap the Constitutional Budget Reserve. The Senate approved using the CBR in a 15-5 operating-budget vote during the regular session, but the House fell four votes short when it tried to do so.
“If supermajority access to the Constitutional Budget Reserve fund is not obtained, the base student allocation formula remains prorated at 98.6 percent,” House Finance members wrote. “All bargaining agreements are rejected and cost-of-living increases are not funded if a CBR vote is not obtained.”
If adopted, the bill would be an alternative to using the Permanent Fund Earnings Reserve -- a separate pool of money, which requires a 75-percent supermajority vote by the Legislature to tap. GOP-led House majority members have introduced a bill which would let lawmakers do so on a simple majority vote, after objections from minority Democrats.
House Finance’s proposal also includes a $29.8 million reduction in executive-branch funding. It wasn’t immediately clear Wednesday where those cuts would come from.
The bill must be approved by the Senate Finance Committee before it can be considered by the full Legislature.
This is a developing story. Please check KTUU.com and the Channel 2 newscasts for updates.
A Fairbanks food stand was robbed at gunpoint Wednesday afternoon by a woman, according to the Fairbanks Police Department.
Police dispatchers received a call at 3:21 p.m. reporting an armed robbery at Simply Thai restaurant on Rewak Drive, near Safeway and Airport Highway.
"A black female wearing dark clothing pointed a small caliber gun at the occupant of the building and took an undisclosed amount of cash," spokeswoman Amber Courtney wrote in a news release. "The suspect fled from the scene on foot through Sophie Plaza."
When asked for additional information about the suspect, police declined to provide more details.
An officer said the incident occurred in an area that receives a fair amount of afternoon traffic, but also just at the edge of a wooded area.
"It is brazen and bold to do it at the time of day," Sgt. Gregory Foster said by phone. "While it is in broad daylight it is also a restricted-view lot, so there is a point of approach and a point of escape."
The suspect remained at-large at 7 p.m. Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call police at 907-450-6500 and ask to speak to Sergeant Foster.
"If you were in the area and saw any unusual behavior that would be enough to have concern, we want you to call us," he said.
Gov. Bill Walker paid a Wednesday visit to Shell’s Polar Pioneer oil rig in Seattle -- the subject of multiple environmental protests in Washington over its planned role in Chukchi Sea drilling.
Photos provided by Walker’s staff showed the governor wearing a hard hat and posing against the Seattle skyline on the rig’s helipad. Crew members appeared markedly happier to see him than they were a group of Greenpeace protesters who boarded the Polar Pioneer off Hawaii in March.
“Toured Shell's drill rig in Seattle,” Walker wrote in a Twitter post. “Responsible #oilandgas development provides much of #AK's revenue.”
Shell plans to bring the Polar Pioneer and the drillship Noble Discoverer to the Chukchi Sea this summer to conduct exploratory drilling for offshore oil wells, in a project estimated to cost roughly $1 billion or more. Despite Shell receiving a federal go-ahead earlier this month, environmental groups have challenged a Port of Seattle lease for Shell’s Arctic drilling fleet.
After touring the Pioneer Wednesday, Walker said by phone that he came away with a favorable impression of its preparations for offshore Arctic drilling.
“I was very impressed with it, the number of backup safeguards, and the modifications they did specifically for Alaska,” Walker said.
Walker said that Shell seems to have improved both its safety procedures and its relationships in Alaska since 2012, when the Noble Discoverer was cited for environmental safety violations and the drilling rig Kulluk ran aground near Kodiak on New Year’s Eve 2012.
“I think they’ve learned a lot since they came up last time,” Walker said.
The other purpose of Walker’s trip was a visit with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. Walker said the two men discussed the economic and employment importance of oil and gas development to Alaska.
“I explained that if you took Boeing and Microsoft and a few others combined, it’s to Washington what oil revenue is to Alaska -- over 90 percent of revenue,” Walker said. “He wasn’t aware of that.”