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From Our Listeners

Alaska and Yukon Headlines

Huggins: Late Saturday Target To Finish Work

Wed, 2014-04-16 09:54

Senate President Charlie Huggins says lawmakers are aiming to complete their work by Saturday night.

Sunday is the scheduled end of the 90-day session, but that’s Easter. Legislative leaders have said they’d like to complete their work before then, if possible.

There are several major pieces in play, including the budgets and bills dealing with education, the state’s unfunded pension obligation and setting the state’s participation rate in a major liquefied natural gas project.

Also pending is a bill to raise Alaska’s minimum wage. The House narrowly passed such legislation Sunday, amid questions of lawmakers’ motives. Voters are scheduled to vote on a similar measure later this year.

Huggins says the bill would need to have the votes to reach the Senate floor. He said that could be a challenge.

Saint Marys Man Dead In ATV Accident

Wed, 2014-04-16 09:48

A Saint Marys man has died in a one-vehicle crash involving an all-terrain vehicle.

Alaska State Troopers say in a web posting that 27-year-old Joe Bryan Joe died at the scene of the accident, near the confluence of the Andreafsky and Yukon rivers.

Troopers were notified of the death about 5 a.m. Tuesday.

Joe’s next-of-kin have been notified, and the body will be sent to Anchorage for an autopsy.

A passenger on the ATV received minor injuries, and was treated at a local clinic.

Troopers say alcohol and poor weather are believed to have played a role in the accident.

AK Beat: Abandoned Fairbanks Castle to become Walgreens

Wed, 2014-04-16 07:34
AK Beat: Abandoned Fairbanks Castle to become Walgreens The long-shuttered Castle Restaurant on the Interior city's west side will become the national drugstore chain's first Fairbanks location.April 16, 2014

I Am A Boogie Woogie Piano Man

Tue, 2014-04-15 22:49

Johnny B. travels throughout Alaska by bush plane to play his signature boogie woogie piano music to remote audiences.

Video and Story:
Travis Gilmour and Slavik Boyechko

Music:
Johnny B. – http://johnnyb88.com

Alaska Senate passes bill to allow Texan to sit on gas line board

Tue, 2014-04-15 21:21
Alaska Senate passes bill to allow Texan to sit on gas line board By a vote of 13-7 Tuesday, the Alaska Senate passed legislation that would allow out-of-state appointees of the governor to sit on the board of the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation.April 15, 2014

Hey Alaska, what would you ask Vladimir Putin?

Tue, 2014-04-15 20:45
Hey Alaska, what would you ask Vladimir Putin? If you could ask Vladimir Putin one question, what would it be? Submit it to Russian National Central Television's woman in Alaska, and the Russian leader may answer it in his annual, sit-down Q-and-A.April 15, 2014

VIDEO: Don't try this at home -- airplane tows skier

Tue, 2014-04-15 20:07
VIDEO: Don't try this at home -- airplane tows skier

In a video making the rounds on the web, skier Reese Hanneman is towed behind an Aviat Husky aircraft through a snowfield. But is it legal?

April 15, 2014

VIDEO: Special Olympics powerlifters demonstrate heart, strength

Tue, 2014-04-15 19:50
VIDEO: Special Olympics powerlifters demonstrate heart, strength

At any given day at Southside Gym in Anchorage, Alaskan powerlifters who compete in the Special Olympics can be found working out, trash-talking and joking around. 

April 15, 2014

Longtime Anchorage attorney faces lawsuit over lease, relationship agreement

Tue, 2014-04-15 19:44
Longtime Anchorage attorney faces lawsuit over lease, relationship agreement A woman claims that long-time Anchorage attorney Peter Walton breached a contract when his family reclaimed property that he had leased to her for 60 years. The two had allegedly made an agreement that Walton would provide Mia Tan with housing in return for companionship for the rest of his life.April 15, 2014

Initiative group wants Alaskans to vote against marijuana legalization effort

Tue, 2014-04-15 19:36
Initiative group wants Alaskans to vote against marijuana legalization effort A handful of Alaskans are looking to make sure a ballot initiative that would legalize marijuana in Alaska doesn't come to pass.April 15, 2014

Anchorage Assembly shifts left, elects new leadership

Tue, 2014-04-15 19:25
Anchorage Assembly shifts left, elects new leadership The first order of business for the Anchorage Assembly after the April 1 election was to elect a new chair and vice-chair.April 15, 2014

Alaska Gov. Parnell commits to candidate debates around the state

Tue, 2014-04-15 18:02
Alaska Gov. Parnell commits to candidate debates around the state Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell has committed to a series of gubernatorial candidate debates and forums in the lead-up to the primary and general elections.April 15, 2014

Alaska News Nightly: April 15, 2014

Tue, 2014-04-15 17:55

Individual news stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via emailpodcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn.

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Legislature Passes Bill On AGDC Appointment

The Associated Press

The Alaska Legislature has passed a measure allowing out-of-state residents to serve on the board of a corporation that could play a key role in a major liquefied natural gas pipeline project.

The Senate’s 13-7 vote helps clear the way for Richard Rabinow, a former pipeline company executive from Texas, to serve on the board of the Alaska Gasline Development Corp.

Governor Sean Parnell appointed Rabinow last September and has defended the appointment as falling within his discretion under the constitution. Rabinow faces confirmation Thursday.

Supporters of the bill, including House Speaker Mike Chenault, have said it was an oversight to not explicitly allow for out-of-state residents to serve on the board. They say they want the best people possible to serve.

Opponents say Alaskans should make policy decisions for Alaskans.

Legislature Considers $150m to Help Refineries

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

The Flint Hills refinery in North Pole plans to cease operation this spring, and the Parnell Administration warns Petro Star’s refinery in North Pole might be next. A bill crafted by the Administration would prop up Alaska’s three remaining oil refineries with $150 million in state funds. But, even some legislators who are helping advance the bill say they’re uncomfortable with the loose terms of the giveaway.

Nikiski LNG Plant May Reopen Soon

Aaron Selbig, KBBI – Homer

The ConocoPhillips LNG plant in Nikiski may be re-opening soon, thanks to a boost from the federal government. The Department of Energy announced Monday that it has approved a request from the company to resume LNG exports to Japan.

Yukon Fishermen Prepare For Summer Of Conservation

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Fishers on the Kuskokwim River are expecting unprecedented restrictions to bring more king salmon to spawning grounds.  On the Yukon River, fisherman can expect a similar set of restrictions.

Some Southeast Chinook Runs Expected To Be Strong

Joe Viechnicki, KFSK – Petersburg

King Salmon are expected to be plentiful in parts of Southeast Alaska this summer.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game this month announced a king salmon harvest quota allowed under the Pacific Salmon Treaty and based on the forecasts of Chinook returning to rivers and streams on the Pacific coast of the U.S. and Canada.

MEA Official Accuses Anchorage Assembly Of Misusing City Funds

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

A Matanuska Electric Association official charges that the Anchorage Municipal Assembly is spending city funds on private interests.  Joe Griffith, MEA’s executive director, has contacted Anchorage officials  with concerns that city money is being spent on one Assemblyman’s legal fight against a power station upgrade.

Haines Residents Pursue Railroad Link

Margaret Friedenauer, KHNS – Haines

Some residents in Haines are pursing the dream of a railroad that may one day link the community to Interior Alaska, Yukon mines and to a future port facility. The state and other stakeholders aren’t dismissing the idea outright.

Group Uses National Water Dance To Raise Compassion

Johanna Eurich, APRN Contributor

A small group of people gathered Saturday in Anchorage to use art to make change. The National Water Dance was an effort to use the art of human movement to generate compassion for the nation’s streams, lakes and oceans.

With Permitting Bill Dead, Some Provisions May Be Resurrected

Tue, 2014-04-15 17:48

Earlier this month, lawmakers announced they were killing House Bill 77, saying that emotions had become so inflamed over the permitting bill that it was best left alone. But now, some of its less controversial provisions might be coming back in a different form.

Natural Resources Commissioner Joe Balash does not undersell the heartburn that HB77 caused. He’ll even refer to it as “toxic,” and jokes about it being “tightly bound” in a casket.
So, when asked what parts of the bill he wants to come back this session, he’s very clear.

“We had all kinds things that caught a lot of heat and light from the public: general permits, appeals, water provisions, temporary water uses, reservations. None of that is what we’re talking about.”

The Parnell administration is currently working with Rep. Cathy Muñoz, a Juneau Republican, to revive language provisions dealing with land exchanges and leases. The idea is to attach it to Senate Bill 106, which already deals with the selling of state land.

Balash says he asked the sponsor of that bill, Sen. Kevin Meyer, if that could work without hijacking the legislation. Meyer was friendly to the idea of SB109 being used as a vehicle.

“This is hitchhiking. He pulled over. Said get in,” says Balash. “We’re good.”

The pressing argument for reviving the land exchange language is to allow property swaps in places like Ketchikan, Anchor Point, and Juneau.

Rep. Cathy Muñoz says the Juneau land swap in question has dragged out for more than a decade under existing statute.

“The trail that accesses Point Bridget State Park is on private land. So there’s a great interest on the part of the State and also on the part of Echo Ranch in having an equal value trade so the State can have access to the park, and Echo Ranch will have access to their facility.”

Balash says there was language in HB77 that would have let that deal go through. He says before the administration began real work to bring back those provisions, they went back to see if those sections of the bill had ruffled any feathers.

“We’ve not gotten negative testimony on it. There were never any amendments offered to undo or take out these provisions,” says Balash. “So, no zombies here.”

Because of the sensitive nature of the bill, the administration has been going around to lawmakers’ offices to see if they’re comfortable with the idea.

Sen. Peter Micciche, a Soldotna Republican, was among those who got briefed on the matter. Micciche had a number of reservations with the original bill, and he worked with the administration to try to rewrite it in a way that better balanced the interests of conservation and development.

Micciche says he agrees with Balash that some parts of the bill that should pass, and that he’s open to what the administration’s proposing on land exchanges. But he’s not willing to touch anything that generated negative public testimony.

“If they try to go into some of the other sections, then it’s too late,” says Micciche. “It’s too late to talk about those things this year.”

For his part, Balash says the administration is willing to drop the issue if there’s any push-back.

“If it were to become controversial, it’s not worth taking any heat over,” says Balash.

The exact changes that are being considered have not become public. Balash says they could come in the form of a bill rewrite sometime this week, or as an amendment to the land sale bill.

Legislature Passes Bill On AGDC Appointment

Tue, 2014-04-15 17:41

The Alaska Legislature has passed a measure allowing out-of-state residents to serve on the board of a corporation that could play a key role in a major liquefied natural gas pipeline project.

Download Audio

The Senate’s 13-7 vote helps clear the way for Richard Rabinow, a former pipeline company executive from Texas, to serve on the board of the Alaska Gasline Development Corp.

Governor Sean Parnell appointed Rabinow last September and has defended the appointment as falling within his discretion under the constitution. Rabinow faces confirmation Thursday.

Supporters of the bill, including House Speaker Mike Chenault, have said it was an oversight to not explicitly allow for out-of-state residents to serve on the board. They say they want the best people possible to serve.

Opponents say Alaskans should make policy decisions for Alaskans.

Legislature Considers $150m to Help Refineries

Tue, 2014-04-15 17:40

The Flint Hills refinery in North Pole plans to cease operation this spring, and the Parnell Administration warns Petro Star’s refinery in North Pole might be next. A bill crafted by the Administration would prop up Alaska’s three remaining oil refineries with $150 million in state funds. Even some legislators who are helping advance the bill say they’re uncomfortable with it.

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But Fairbanks Republican Representative Steve Thompson says he worries it’s not enough money. He says Fairbanks needs Petro Star’s Interior refinery, especially if it hopes to attract the new F-35 fighter units to Eielson Air Force Base.

“No jet fuel? Goodbye. F16s (will) move. That means Eielson is going to close. 1500 civilian jobs. We’re going to have empty houses in Fairbanks. The economy is going to tank further,” he said at a House Finance hearing Monday.

State Natural Resources Commissioner Joe Balash says the high price of North Slope crude makes it hard for in-state refineries to compete with fuel imported from Outside. The Administration originally proposed $300 million in refinery assistance, primarily to help Petro Star, which faces higher costs for crude delivery now that its neighbor, Flint Hills, won’t be contributing.

Anchorage Democratic Representative Les Gara says he wants the refinery to stay open, too, but he calls the bill pending in the House now “insane policy.”

“It’s a bailout, it’s a giveaway, it’s poorly crafted,” Gara says. “It costs the state $150 million over five years, and it gives $50 million to Tesoro who doesn’t even want the money. At a time when we can’t afford our schools we need to come up with smarter solutions than just giving money to companies.”

The bill would allow an Alaska refinery to collect $10 million a year from the state for five years. That would mean $20 million a year for Petro Star, which has refineries in North Pole and Valdez, and $10 million a year for Tesoro’s operation in Kenai. The companies would get the money in the form of tax credits, or in cash if the company doesn’t owe state taxes. The refineries would have to do is show they spent $25 million a year on infrastructure. Gara says the definition is wide open, to include buying or altering any tangible property. And, says Gara, there are no limits on what the refinery can do with its state money. Companies can “keep the money in profits, give the money to their executives, give the money to their share holders,” Gara says “There are no sideboards.”

He proposed offering the refineries low-interest loans instead, but his amendment failed 8-3 in the House Finance Committee Monday. Rep. Tammie Wilson, a North Pole Republican, says Petro Star is too close to the edge for loans.

“Where they’re at right now, they may not be here in five years,” she said. “They’re not going to get a loan for something in which the company might not be able to make it. We have to do something now to make them healthy.”

Petro Star is owned by Arctic Slope Regional Corporation. ASRC Senior Vice President Tara Sweeney, at the Capitol to press for the bill, says she’s doing what she can not to close the refinery.

“The refining industry in Alaska is not healthy. We’re down here working to ensure that it is, and the tools are there that are necessary to keep us afloat,” she says.

“If it does close, the state says it would lose millions of dollars a year in revenues.  But lawmakers who question the refinery assistance bill point out Petro Star hasn’t opened its books for them. Republican Rep Alan Austerman of Kodiak says he’s troubled by the lack of information they’ve received from the state, too.

“We’re just going based upon, a company come(s) to the state of Alaska saying that ‘we’re going to go out of business if you don’t give us some money,’” Austerman says.

Fairbanks Democrat David Guttenberg says the bill was dropped on them in the last days of the session with no meaningful analysis. He’d like not to vote for it but he says they’re in a bind.

“Here we are faced with this, you know, this is what we have. Is it the best thing? I don’t think so. Is it the only thing? Yeah,” Guttenberg says.

The bill cleared the House Finance Committee Tuesday. Sponsors hope to get it through both the House and Senate before the Legislature adjourns this weekend.

Nikiski LNG Plant May Reopen Soon

Tue, 2014-04-15 17:39

The ConocoPhillips LNG plant in Nikiski may be re-opening soon, thanks to a boost from the federal government. The Department of Energy announced Monday that it has approved a request from the company to resume LNG exports to Japan.

Download Audio

Yukon Fishermen Prepare For Summer Of Conservation

Tue, 2014-04-15 17:38

Fishers on the Kuskokwim River are expecting unprecedented restrictions to bring more king salmon to spawning grounds. On the Yukon River, fisherman can expect a similar set of restrictions.

Download Audio

Twenty years ago, king salmon runs on the Yukon averaged 300,000 fish. In 2013, biologists counted just 76,000 fish.

Stephanie Schmidt is the Yukon River Research Biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

“I think with this run size, we’re going to have trouble reaching our escapement goals even if there is no harvest on the Yukon river,” Schmidt said.

The forecast this year is for between 64,000-121,000 kings. Managers don’t expect to have any directed king openings. Still, some kings could be accidentally caught in gillnets intended for other salmon species or whitefish.

Schmidt says fishers will likely not be able to use gillnets unless many more kings than expected come into the river. Using non-traditional gear is the subject of current discussions between managers and fishermen.

“The the idea is can we provide opportunity to fisherman for subsistence fishing in a way that would allow them to catch those other species, especially the abundant summer chum salmon or the fall chum salmon that come in and are supposed to have a good run this year. Are there way* that they can target those species and not harm king salmon?” Schmidt said.

One gear type is dipnets, which allow for the live release of kings. Fisherman may also be using beach seines, and fish wheels with a live chute. There’s no firm fishing schedule set, but subsistence fishing will close according to law when the first pulse of king salmon enter the river. As breakup approaches, Schmidt says conversations with Yukon residents have been positive.

“Fisherman on the Yukon recognize the issue, they recognize that we’re in a situation where we need to conserve, and we need to get more king salmon on the spawning grounds if we’re going to give this run any chance of recovering,” Schmidt said.

On the commercial side, The Board of Fish tweaked the rules for commercial summer chum fisherman. Non-circular dipnets can be as large as 6 feet by 3 feet. The board did not pass a proposal from the Yukon Delta Fisheries Development association to allow for purse seines during times of king salmon conservation.

Some Southeast Chinook Runs Expected To Be Strong

Tue, 2014-04-15 17:37

King Salmon are expected to be plentiful in parts of Southeast Alaska this summer.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game this month announced a king salmon harvest quota allowed under the Pacific Salmon Treaty and based on the forecasts of Chinook returning to rivers and streams on the Pacific coast of the U.S. and Canada.

Download Audio

MEA Official Accuses Anchorage Assembly Of Misusing City Funds

Tue, 2014-04-15 17:36

A Matanuska Electric Association official charges that the Anchorage Municipal Assembly is spending city funds on private interests.

Joe Griffith, MEA’s executive director, has contacted Anchorage officials with concerns that city money is being spent on one Assemblyman’s legal fight against a power station upgrade.

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In a letter to Anchorage Municipal Assembly chair Ernie Hall, MEA executive director Joe Griffith says that one Assembly member, Eagle River’s Bill Starr, is planning to spend city funds to fight MEA’s appeal of a Muni Planning and Zoning Commission decision. Griffith says this is clearly a misuse of public funds.

“The Assembly has had no role whatsoever in this process,” Griffith said. “Now they, so far, have not had to weigh in on it, so therefore, they have no formal position.”

“And yet they have chosen to fund the attorneys that are fighting MEA’s request of a review of the process that refused us the right to upgrade a substation.”

Griffith adds, that, by law, MEA must maintain it’s facilities to keep up with power demands.

The city’s planning and zoning commission had earlier denied a bid by MEA for a conditional use permit for the upgrade of the power company’s Justine Parks substation in Eagle River. Now MEA is appealing the commission’s decision to the Board of Adjustment.

According to Griffith’s letter, Starr has tapped the law firm of Ashburn and Mason to help him in opposing the power station upgrade.

Starr would not agree to a recorded interview. He says there’s no impropriety, because the city maintains legal counsel for Assembly members. He says the “Board of Adjustment process is complicated” and that he wants good legal advice on how the Board operates.

Starr says MEA wants to build the substation in a residential neighborhood, and that “the residents have a right to complain.”