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Alaska and Yukon Headlines

Texan Confirmed to Alaska Gasline Board

Thu, 2014-04-17 17:14

Sen. Hollis French, who argued against controversial appointments.

Gov. Sean Parnell’s choice of Richard Rabinow drew criticism on two fronts: That he’s not Alaskan and that he spent a career at Exxon.  Sen. Hollis French, an Anchorage Democrat, questioned his allegiances.

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“Exxon already’s got 25 percent of the line. I don’t think they should get 20 percent of the public board positions on the Alaska gas Line Development Corp.,” French argued. “Mr. Rabinow’s work history is nearly exclusively with Exxon. Indeed, 34 years with the company. Thirty-four years.”

Rabinow, a Texan, is a former president of Exxon’s pipeline subsidiary, and he now works as a consultant on pipeline projects. The AGDC board is positioned to oversee a multi-billion-dollar natural gas project, and service on the board is unpaid. Underlying the debate over the appointment is the larger question of how closely aligned the state should be to its dominant industry. Rep. Charisse Millett, an Anchorage Republican, says it’s time to get closer.

Richard Rabinow

“They’re partners. We are partnering with Exxon in the pipeline,” she reminded legislators, gathered in a joint session for a series of confirmation votes. “The adversarial role that we have with them, we have to get rid of that. We have to stop that.”

Like other proponents, Millett says Rabinow’s expertise is invaluable to the board.

“It’s tough to feel we’re hiring an Outsider to come in and help us, but I want the best,” she said. “If I’m going to have brain surgery, I’m not going to go to the guy who maybe has done it once or twice. I’m going to go to the guy whose done it 120 times, 130 times.”

Lawmakers voted 43-17 to confirm him. Sen. Bert Stedman of Sitka and Rep. Tammie Wilson of North Pole were among the few Republicans who voted no.

The Legislature also voted 45-15 to confirm former Conoco Philips executive Bernie Washington to the board that sets the value of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline for tax purposes.

The critics, mostly Democrats, said Washington’s previous work winning favorable tariffs for the oil company left him with divided loyalties. Washington is now the chief financial officer of APRN’s parent company, Alaska Public Media.

Journalists within Alaska Public Media objected to his service on the state board, too, due to concern it creates the appearance of a conflict of interest for the news organization.

Parnell Signs Abortion Bill

Thu, 2014-04-17 17:13

(Photo distributed by Alaska Senate Majority)

Gov. Sean Parnell has signed a bill that restricts state Medicaid payments for abortions.

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The new law puts a set of recently adopted regulations into statute, and takes them a step further. It specifies that the state will not pay for elective abortions. It also limits the term “medically necessary” to cases where a woman’s life or physical health is at risk. The regulations had included a mental health exception.

The new law is expected to be challenged in court. Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union are already suing the state over the existing regulations, arguing that they violate the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

Last year, the state’s Medicaid program covered about a third of the 1,500 abortions performed in Alaska.

State House OKs Refinery Subsidy Plan

Thu, 2014-04-17 17:12

The Alaska State House has a approved a deal to give the state’s refineries – and one fertilizer plant — up to $200 million in subsidies spread out over five years.

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The plan was introduced by Gov. Sean Parnell, and it comes in response to the closure of the Flint Hills oil refinery. It originally applied to the Petro Star refineries in Valdez and North Pole and the Tesoro refinery in Kenai, but was amended yesterday to include the shuttered Agrium fertilizer plant in Nikiski.

The bill allows each of those facilities to secure an tax credit or payment of $10 million a year if they spend $25 million on tangible assets.

Supporters of the bill argue it’s necessary to keep the refineries running because of the jobs they provide and their importance to the state’s military bases. But some Democrats have characterized the bill as a bailout, and they unsuccessfully tried amending the bill so that the money would be given out as loans instead.

The bill passed today on a 35-5 vote. Anchorage Democrats Les Gara, Harriet Drummond, and Andy Josephson opposed the bill, along with Juneau Democrat Sam Kito III and Eagle River Republican Lora Reinbold. It still needs to be approved by the Senate.

High Mercury Levels Found In Lake Trout From Lake Clark

Thu, 2014-04-17 17:11

A new study shows that lake trout in the Lake Clark National Park and Preserve have mercury levels that exceed the state and national standards for consumption by women and children.

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Alaska Inuit Circumpolar Conference Searches For Food Security Definition

Thu, 2014-04-17 17:10

The Alaska Inuit Circumpolar Council met in Nome this week to define food security from an Alaska Native perspective.

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Carolina Behe is the ICC Alaska Traditional Knowledge and Science Advisor.

“When we say food security, we’re talking about the entire environment, and there’s so many changes occurring within that,” Behe said.

As those changes occur, Behe says, Alaska Natives want a role in the decision making, but she says their voices are often not being heard and their participation often excluded.

“So if there is a lack of sea ice,” Behe said. “If all of a sudden a new regulation is imposed that limits their accessibility to getting a food resource, they’re not involved in making a decision that caused the impact of the environment or that resulted in the adaptation that people think need to take place for us to control the environment.”

Behe says, creating this definition helps communicate an Inuit understanding to outside bodies like government agencies and development corporations.

Education was also a major focus, particularly in teaching young people about subsistence. Behe says, failing to transfer this knowledge threatens food security by limiting accessibility and altering identity.

“Inuit are part of this ecosystem and their culture has evolved because of this ecosystem and this ecosystem has reacted to that,” Behe said. “It’s not static; it’s continuously changing and there’s continuous adjustments. But at this point, there’s a lot of outside interest, and it’s causing an increase in concern over food security.”

The Alaska ICC is planning another meeting in Bethel later this year. They’ve already held two sessions in Barrow and Kotzebue. The gathered information will be peer reviewed and then distributed to tribal councils, industry and government agencies, and the international Arctic Council.

National Weather Service Forecasts Kuskokwim Breakup

Thu, 2014-04-17 17:09

The Alaska Pacific River Forecast Center predicts the Kuskowkim will break up at Bethel between May 9th and May 15th. That range is right around the historical average of May 12th. But after a warm winter with little snow, the Forecast Center says this year’s breakup could happen in one of several ways.

Celine van Breukelen is a hydrologist with the National Weather Service. She says her team is looking at two different scenarios. The first is a traditional breakup based on snow melting upriver.

But the Kuskokwim snowpack is less than half of normal levels at this time. If the river breaks up in the traditional way with little snowmelt in the pipeline, the ice upriver could have trouble floating and lead to flooding.

“Because the water level is so low, there’s not enough depth to get the ice sheets down stream, they get caught in the bends of the river and they get caught on sandbars. That’s exactly what happened in Crooked Creek in 2011,” said van Breukelen.

Van Breukelen says, thanks to warmer than normal temperatures, that could lead to an earlier than normal breakup.

The second scenario is a thermal breakup – or mush out. That happens with the sun degrades the ice and there’s not enough water to push ice downriver.

“That could lead to a later than normal break up, in the sense that it just sits in the river and it takes time for the sun to work on it before it finally moves out,” said van Breukelen.

Ice thickness is currently a little below normal to normal. Measurements from earlier this month show ice 44 inches thick at Aniak, 34 inches at Napaimute, and 25 inches at McGrath.

In any case, the conditions over the next two weeks will in part determine what kind of flood risk residents of the Kuskokwim will face.

“It’s easy for people to say oh, there’s a very small snowpack, we can already see the ice beginning to deteriorate. But people just still be aware of the potential for breakup flooding, just for the reason that if there isn’t as much water to push on the ice sheets, they tend to ground and we could see some flooding from that. So still be aware and be prepared,” said van Breukelen.

Van Breukelen will be part of the 2014 River Watch program, a partnership between the state and National Weather Service to assess flood threats and navigational hazards. They plan to begin flying upriver around May 3rd, while a second team flying from Bethel could start around May 8th.

Birthday Cupcakes Exempt From Ketchikan Schools’ Nutrition Guidelines

Thu, 2014-04-17 17:08

The Ketchikan School Board adopted new administrative regulations last week governing student nutrition and physical activity, in order to meet new federal standards.

The standards essentially require that only healthy food be served in schools. There are some exceptions built into the rules and the Ketchikan school board added a few more, including the “cupcake clause.”

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Those last two areas raised some concerns, and led to a couple of language changes in order to relax the rules a little.

One of the issues was selling food at athletic competitions that take place during the school day, such as the recent regional basketball tournament. Many non-students attend those activities, and, as Board Member Stephen Bradford pointed out, want their snacks during a game.

“And I think that we can do that by amending line 263, after ‘sold or served’ add the words, ‘Directly to KGBSD students,’” He said “In other words, they can still operate the concession stand, old guys like me can still go in and enjoy my popcorn and coke while I watch the basketball game. We just have to put up a note up for our own students that says you can’t buy anything until 30 minutes after the instructional period is over.”

That amendment passed unanimously, as did Bradford’s second suggestion, which provides an exception to the healthy food standards for special occasions.

“So the amendment would be, ‘Traditional or cultural foods may be exempted from the food standards described above for educational or special school or classroom events when offered free of charge,’” Board President Michelle O’Brien summed up.

Board Member Dave Timmerman then asked, “Does that cover cupcakes?”

Bradford answered, “Well, I believe that a cupcake, in our culture, is a standard item to be offered at a birthday.”

Student board member Evan Wick suggested a third amendment to the guidelines. He noted that the rules prohibit any kind of educational material or school display that includes a name-brand of an unhealthy food.

“I’ve brought with me some educational materials. This is my AP world history book. It has a picture of McDonald’s in it. That would fall under the brands or illustrations of unhealthful foods,” he said.

Wick then handed around a detail from a mural that covers a wall in the high school’s commons area. “It features a Burger King soda, fries and what appears to be a cheeseburger, which I do believe probably falls under unhealthful foods,” he said.

As the student representative, Wick isn’t allowed to make motions, but he asked the School Board to consider amending the regulation, adding the words “within reason.” Board Member Trevor Shaw complied, and the amendment passed unanimously.

The main motion also passed without dissent.

Approving it means that the district’s policies now are aligned with the 2010 federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

NOMAR Names ‘Alaska Manufacturer Of The Year’

Thu, 2014-04-17 17:07

NOMAR Manufacturing in Homer has been churning out gear for fishermen, hunters, oilmen and outdoor enthusiasts for more than 35 years. The company was recognized for its work a few weeks ago, when it was named “Alaska Manufacturer of the Year” by the “Made In Alaska” organization.

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Alaska News Nightly: April 17, 2014

Thu, 2014-04-17 17:04

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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Ferry Workers Considering Strike If Contract Negotiations Don’t Move Forward

Margaret Friedenauer, KHNS – Haines

Contract talks between the state and Alaska’s ferry workers are heating up as each side disagrees on how to make up the gap between revenues and the cost of operating the ferry system. Workers are now considering whether to authorize a strike if negotiations remain stalled.

Texan Confirmed To Gasline Board

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

The Alaska Legislature confirmed a controversial appointee to the Alaska Gas Line Development Corporation board of directors on Thursday, but not without debate over whether he has Alaska’s interest at heart.

Gov. Parnell Signs Bill Restricting Medicaid Payments For Abortions

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

Governor Sean Parnell has signed a bill that restricts state Medicaid payments for abortions.

State House OKs Refinery Subsidy Plan

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

The Alaska State House has approved a deal to give the state’s refineries – and one fertilizer plant – up to $200 million in subsidies spread over five years.

High Mercury Levels Found In Lake Trout From Lake Clark 

Mike Mason, KDLG – Dillingham

A new study shows that lake trout in the Lake Clark National Park and Preserve have mercury levels that exceed the state and national standards for consumption by women and children.

Alaska Inuit Circumpolar Conference Searches For Food Security Definition

Anna Rose MacArthur, KNOM – Nome

The Alaska Inuit Circumpolar Council met in Nome this week to define food security from an Alaska Native perspective.

National Weather Service Forecasts Kuskokwim Breakup

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

The Alaska Pacific River Forecast Center predicts the Kuskowkim will break up at Bethel between May 9th and May 15th. That range is right around the historical average of May 12th.  But after a warm winter with little snow, the Forecast Center says this year’s breakup could bring some flooding.

Birthday Cupcakes Exempt From Ketchikan Schools’ Nutrition Guidelines

Leila Kheiry, KRBD – Ketchikan

The Ketchikan School Board adopted new administrative regulations last week governing student nutrition and physical activity, in order to meet new federal standards. The standards essentially require that only healthy food be served in schools. There are some exceptions built into the rules and the Ketchikan school board added a few more, including the “cupcake clause.”

NOMAR Names ‘Alaska Manufacturer Of The Year’

Aaron Selbig, KBBI – Homer

NOMAR Manufacturing in Homer has been churning out gear for fishermen, hunters, oilmen and outdoor enthusiasts for more than 35 years. The company was recognized for its work a few weeks ago, when it was named “Alaska Manufacturer of the Year” by the “Made In Alaska” organization.

Going fast: Low airfares for Alaskans

Thu, 2014-04-17 15:12
Going fast: Low airfares for Alaskans Airfares are dropping from Juneau, Anchorage and Fairbanks as airlines compete prior to the summer travel season.April 17, 2014

Guide, client watched hunters’ illegal actions

Thu, 2014-04-17 14:27
A Dawson City hunter has been slapped with a $7,000 fine for four violations of the Yukon Wildlife Act near Kloo Lake in November 2011.Sadie Jabbar pleaded guilty in territorial court this week to:

Deceased puppies discovery left woman shocked, tearful

Thu, 2014-04-17 14:25
How the carcasses of two puppies, believed to be stillborn, came to be left in a bag next to the mailbox at the Carcross Corner will likely never be known, say Whitehorse RCMP.

Birds’ departure sees eagle cam fade to black

Thu, 2014-04-17 14:23
A pair of locally famous eagles appear to be choosing privacy over fame this summer.

Parnell appointments sail through Legislature, despite bubbling controversies

Thu, 2014-04-17 13:43
Parnell appointments sail through Legislature, despite bubbling controversies The Alaska Legislature confirmed Texan Richard Rabinow to the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. and Bernie Washington to the State Assessment Review Board. The controversial appointments were among dozens considered in a joint session Thursday.April 17, 2014

K2 Aviation shares Denali with a wide range of visitors

Thu, 2014-04-17 12:57
K2 Aviation shares Denali with a wide range of visitors K2 Aviation has been flying in and around Denali National Park for more than 30 years and is one of only four companies with permission to land on Mt. McKinley.April 17, 2014

Wrestling event sees 500-plus compete

Thu, 2014-04-17 12:47
More than 500 students from 16 Yukon elementary schools hit the mats at the Canada Games Centre yesterday during the Yukon Schools’ Athletic Association wrestling tournament.

On To Nationals

Thu, 2014-04-17 12:46
The Northern Novas competitive synchronized swimming team of Jamie Duke, top, and Katelyn Vowk competed in the Wildrose Classic in Lethbridge, Alta. last weekend.

Female hockey teams excel in Calgary

Thu, 2014-04-17 12:42
Lindsay Dawn scored a hat trick in her club’s 5-0 win over the Ms Conducts.

NTSB releases preliminary report on deadly Hageland Aviation crash near Bethel

Thu, 2014-04-17 12:36
NTSB releases preliminary report on deadly Hageland Aviation crash near Bethel According to the report, weather does not appear to have been a factor in the Ravn Alaska air group accident that resulted in the death of two pilots.April 17, 2014

Law enforcement in northern Canada: Booze seized in Northwest Territories, new 911 service eyed in Yukon

Thu, 2014-04-17 12:35
Law enforcement in northern Canada: Booze seized in Northwest Territories, new 911 service eyed in Yukon The Royal Canadian Mounted Police found vodka, beer and other contraband in vehicles stopped on winter roads. Yukon officials, meanwhile, are hoping to expand 911 service beyond the Whitehorse area. April 17, 2014

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