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Get Alaska statewide news from the stations of the Alaska Public Radio Network (APRN). With a central news room in Anchorage and contributing reporters spread across the state, we capture news in the Voices of Alaska and share it with the world. Tune in to your local APRN station in Alaska, visit us online at APRN.ORG or subscribe to the Alaska News podcast right here. These are individual news stories, most of which appear in Alaska News Nightly (available as a separate podcast).
Updated: 32 min 38 sec ago

Bill To Reject Pay Raises For Governor, Commissioners Moves Forward

Fri, 2014-01-31 18:25

A bill that would reject pay raises for the governor and his commissioners is on track to get a vote in the Senate.

The Senate Finance Committee advanced the bill on Friday. The pay-raise recommendations come from a non-partisan board that look at factors like cost of living and salaries for comparable positions in other states. The State Officers compensation commission advised that the governor’s salary should be increased from $145,000 to $150,873, that his commissioners salaries should be raise from $136,350 to $146,143, and that the lieutenant governor should see a pay bump from $115,000 to $119,658.

Finance Co-Chair Kevin Meyer acknowledged he would like to accept the recommendations, but that “the timing is not good when we’re in deficit spending here.”

There was some pushback on rejecting the recommendations completely. Right now, more than half of the state’s deputy commissioners make more than the commissioners themselves.

Sen. Anna Fairclough, an Eagle River Republican, thought the recommendations might help address that.

“What troubles me the most about rejection is the inequity between a deputy commissioner and a commissioner,” said Fairclough. “If we have talent that is in the ranks, and that they’re not moving up to take those additional responsibilities, and still making more than the person who did, that might create some friction inside of those departments.”

She ultimately agreed to advance the bill out of committee, but supported amending it.

The conversation over bill also triggered some discussion over the point of high compensation for the state’s executives. Sen. Donny Olson, a Democrat from Golovin who caucuses with the Senate Majority, noted that salary was often besides the point when someone takes on the position of governor or commissioner.

“You’re not running because of what the pay’s going to be,” said Olson. “You’re running because you feel like you can do a service to the State of Alaska and affect public policy.”

Sen. Pete Kelly, a Fairbanks Republican, said he thought it was misguided to use salaries to attract people to state executive positions, but for a different reasons.

“I don’t mind that the state doesn’t get the best and the brightest,” said Kelly. “We do tend to attract the best and the brightest on a lot of levels. I would actually prefer they were in the private sector, because that’s what really drives our economy.”

He qualified his statement by saying that salary should not be an object when it comes to the attorney general or natural resources commissioner.

Gov. Sean Parnell has already said he would reject an increase to his own salary. If the commission’s pay raise recommendations are not rejected, the cost of the raises would be upwards of $200,000.

Categories: Alaska News

Students, Parents Organize to Fight Education Budget Cuts

Fri, 2014-01-31 18:17

Students at West High School handed out stickers Friday with an image of a bar code and the words, “Don’t make us a profit center. Public Funds for Public Schools” on them. Students are wearing the stickers to protest proposed budget cuts in the Anchorage School District.

Students and Parents are mobilizing in Anchorage to fight possible education cuts and legislation that proposes a constitutional amendment allowing public funds to go to private schools.

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High School Junior Mae Vaordaz spent her lunch period Friday handing out stickers to fellow students at West High School in Anchorage.

“This is a label that says: ‘Don’t make us a profit center. Public Funds for Public Schools.’ And so this is something that we’re handing out to all students,” Vaordaz said. ”This is just helping get the word out as to what we’re doing because students will ask us, ‘why are you guys wearing labels?’ and we’ll tell them what’s going on.”

Vaordaz says she handed out about 500 of the stickers to raise awareness about the proposed budget cuts in the Anchorage School District. She says other students at schools across the district are passing out the stickers and planning their own protests.

ASD officials rolled out the proposed 2014-2015 budget recently. Under the plan, the district would cut more than 200 positions and high school schedules would have seven periods, instead of six to save money. Governor Sean Parnell has offered to increase the Base Student Allocation, or the funding per student, by $200 dollars over three years, but ASD officials say that’s not enough to make up for several years of flat funding.

Junior Laura Gorden created the bar code stickers. She says they send a message.

“We used a bar code because we want to show that as students we’re not just money that can be pushed around,” Gorden said. “That we are in fact people who deserve education and the quality of that education is a complex thing that is not a basic political issue.”

West High School Students handed out stickers to protest proposed budget cuts in the Anchorage School District Friday. From left to right Mae Vaordaz, Debbie Kim, Laura Gordon and Margaret Clark.

Gordon says the “Students with a Voice” group got going after she and friends heard Governor Sean Parnell’s “State of the State” address and became concerned about budget cuts and legislation aimed at creating a constitutional amendment that would allow public funds to go to private schools, including religious ones.

Parents are organizing too. Becca Bernard, who has a child at a district-approved charter school has joined a group of parents that are meeting to fight the cuts.

“Well I think parents are really important in this whole issue. I think things are just going to continue on the was they are unless parent come forward and really speak up,” Bernard said. ”And talk about how important it is to them that public schools be funded adequately and that they remain as strong as they are. Parents need to come forward and speak just as loudly as they can so that the legislature and the governor know how strongly people feel about this.”

Tina Bernoski is a high school counselor at Bartlett High School and has two children in the Anchorage School District. She’s helping Bernard coordinate the parent group.

“We want people to come with ideas. We’re definitely hoping to write legislators and not just your own legislators, but those who hold the purse strings, so to speak – the House Finance Committee – letters to the editor,” Bernoski said. ”And we’re hopefully going to organize a rally letting legislators know that we’re serious and we really want to connect the dots and make this not only about the Anchorage School District but about Alaska.”

Bernard and Bernoski say they’re working with parent groups in Juneau and Fairbanks. They’ve set a rally for February 22nd at 1pm at Loussac Library in Anchorage. They’re also circulating a petition to increase the BSA by more than the Governor’s proposed $200 dollars.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Paratrooper Collapses, Dies After Jump

Fri, 2014-01-31 17:30

An Alaska-based paratrooper has died after collapsing following a jump.

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U.S. Army Alaska officials say in a release that the soldier died Thursday night at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage.

The statement says there is no indication the soldier had a hard landing or that there was equipment failure during the parachute jump he completed prior to collapsing.

The Army says the soldier’s parachute had been packed away, and he was wearing his rucksack when the drop zone safety officer reached him.

He was rushed to the Anchorage hospital and underwent emergency surgery, but was pronounced dead just after 8 p.m.

Categories: Alaska News

Desperate Renters Face Bugs, Damage

Fri, 2014-01-31 17:29

Housing Complaints Hotline: 343-4141

The Big Timber Motel in Anchorage has been in the news recently because of health and safety concerns – everything from fire code violations to an infestation of bedbugs, but it’s not the only low income housing in Anchorage with problems. And city officials say it’s difficult to address the issue.

Kassie Lee Lewis pets her cat’s head in their room in the Mush Inn in downtown Anchorage. Photo by Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage.

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Forty-eight-year-old Kassie Lee Lewis shares a small room with her gray cat at the Mush Inn on the outskirts of downtown Anchorage. On a recent morning, she’s just finished airing out her clothes and bedding. It’s something she has to do daily to keep the bugs at bay. She points to the bed.

“I just got done going through my clothes and my bed to make sure that the bed bugs were all killed and off,” Lewis said. “I do it every day and I do kill cockroaches every day.”

She says they’ve been a problem since she moved into the room in October from Brother Francis shelter. Even though she works to keep the bed bugs out she says they crawl in from a neighboring room through a gap around a pipe under her sink. And they make her feel bad.

Lewis says bugs use the gap around a sink pipe as a way into her room. Photo by Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage.

“It’s kinda disgusting and it makes me feel – I mean you can see on my face, they bite my face, they bite my arms and my legs and stuff,” Lewis said. “It’s a bummer. It makes me think of those women and children in Africa with flies all over their bodies when it happens to me.”

Besides problems with pests, Lewis shows me a place on the ceiling where water is leaking. But the rent of $850 is all she can afford.

Closer to downtown, David – who asked that we only use his first name – sits beside cages holding tropical birds in the lobby of Henry House, a transitional living facility.

A hole in the floor of David’s room in Henry House is an example of some of the damage in the building. Photo courtesy of David.

Henry House is a for-profit motel for men that has agreements with state agencies to provide housing for people coming out the mental health court, the Alaska Psychiatric Institute and the Department of Corrections, among others. They rent simple dorm rooms for around $750 a month and serve tenants one meal a day. Women are not allowed in the rooms, but David, shared photos of his room on his cell phone in the lobby.

“I was really surprised when I went into the bathroom and I saw a hole on the floor and there was also a hole in the drywall,” David said.

David thinks the rooms should be fixed.

“Bringing up the rooms to code would be a really positive step forward for the people that are here,” David said. “The people that are on the road to recovery or the people that are dealing with long-term mental disabilities.”

The owners of Henry House, Kathy and Bob Henry, did not agree to a recorded interview, but they admit that tenants have damaged rooms and that they have trouble keeping up with maintenance.

The office for the Henry House. Photo by Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage.

The oversight of Motels in Anchorage is not the responsibility of any one department or office. Instead several departments monitor them. Some departments, like fire, inspect annually, but others like building and health only check things out if they receive a complaint.

Anchorage Municipal Building official Sharon Walsh says the problems at Henry House and the Mush Inn can be reported to that hotline at the City’s land use enforcement office.

“Anything having to do with what they call vectors, you know vermin, cockroaches, rats – that will go to the health department,” Walsh said. “And then the ones that are building maintenance related, they’ll go inspect and determine what needs to be done.”

A hole in the drywall beneath a crumbling bottom windowsill in David’s room. Photo courtesy of David.

Over at the Municipal Department of Health and Human Services, Deputy Director Steve Morris, says his Environmental Health Section handles pests.

“Their primary responsibility is inspection of food facilities and that sort of thing, but they also enforce a part of Title 15 which has to do with housing,” Morris said.

And motels. But Morris says the code is at least 30-years-old. There’s no regular inspection for pests. And he says the inspectors are already overworked.

“I can tell you that If we were to get hundreds of bed bug complaints we would not be able to satisfactorily inspect them, there’s just not the resources available to do that,” Morris said.

To really address the issue of bed bugs, Morris says staffing levels and the municipal code would need to be addressed.

“That’s something the Assembly would have to consider,” Morris said.

Back at Henry House, David says he hasn’t seen any pests in his room, but he’s reported the damage in his room to the owners. As of Thursday, nothing’s been fixed.

Kassie Lee Lewis points to a place in her ceiling where water has been leaking through. Photo by Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage.

At the Mush Inn, Kassie Lee Lewis says she’s reported the leaking, cockroaches and bed bugs in her room to the manager’s office, but nothing has been done. She’s on the waiting list for an apartment through Cook Inlet Housing, but for now she’s keeping up her routines.

“Sometimes I kill ‘em in the bathroom and I kill them in the living room,” Lewis said.

Down the road near Merrill Field, many of the two-dozen residents of the Big Timber motel which was seized by the city after the owner did not pay taxes, are still living there.

Problems at that motel include fire code violations and bed bug and mice infestations. The municipality is considering condemning the building.

So far, they’ve spent around $40,000 on upgrades and paying back bills so that residents can have hot water and heat again. They are not charging residents rent at this time.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaskans Unhappy With Postal Service Changes

Fri, 2014-01-31 17:28

An increase in complaints from Alaskans about the U.S. Postal Service prompted Sen. Mark Begich to write the Postmaster General this week, demanding answers.

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Categories: Alaska News

Begich Reports Bringing In About $850K In 4Q

Fri, 2014-01-31 17:27

U.S. Senator Mark Begich reported bringing in nearly $850,000 toward his re-election effort during the final quarter of 2013.

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Begich’s campaign, in a filing with the Federal Election Commission, reported ending the year with $2.8 million on hand.

The contributions from October through December include nearly $530,000 from individuals and about $280,000 from political committees.

Two of Begich’s Republican rivals had released fundraising totals for the quarter but had not yet released their reports. Mead Treadwell’s campaign reported raising more than $228,000, while Dan Sullivan reported bringing in more than $1.2 million.

Categories: Alaska News

Prosecutors Dismiss Case Against Former Dillingham High School Assistant Wrestling Coach

Fri, 2014-01-31 17:26

State prosecutors today dismissed the case against a former Dillingham High School assistant wrestling coach who had been accused of having sexual contact with a 15-year-old female student.

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Categories: Alaska News

300 Villages: Lake Minchumina

Fri, 2014-01-31 17:25

This week we’re heading to the tiny community of Lake Minchumina in Interior Alaska. Charles Draper maintains the local runway and he volunteers at the village’s library.

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Categories: Alaska News

AK: Magic

Fri, 2014-01-31 17:24

Kei Kawada, center, looks on as his friends play a game in Unalaska’s Magic: the Gathering tournament. Photo by Annie Ropeik, KUCB – Unalaska.

For more than 20 years, people all over the world have been playing the strategic fantasy card game Magic: the Gathering. But the game has only recently found its way to Unalaska, where the island’s teenage boys have been going through a serious Magic phase for the past few months.


A close-up of spells on the field during the championship Magic match. The small dice mark added strength on a card. The large die keeps score. Photo by Annie Ropeik, KUCB – Unalaska.

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For the city’s recreation staff, that means a chance to offer a Lower 48-style experience: an official Magic tournament, which they hosted earlier this month.

By Unalaska standards, high school senior Kei Kawada is a Magic: the Gathering veteran. He’s been playing for eight months, more than double most of the rest of the boys in today’s tournament.

When Kei walks into the multipurpose room precisely one minute late, while the rules are being explained, the others aren’t too happy to see him.

Carlos Tayag: No one wanted you to show up.

Kei and 17 other friends and rivals are in for a grueling five hours of strategizing, spell-casting and card shuffling. All these boys are in middle and high school.

Tayag: So we’re playing legacy format, which is basically every card ever invented…

That’s referee Carlos Tayag explaining how the game is going to work.

Kei writes down his score in a Magic game against Isaac Guge during the tournament. Photo by Annie Ropeik, KUCB – Unalaska.

Magic is the original dueling trading card game, invented in Renton, Wash. in 1993 and still based there today. There are thousands of cards, all with fantastical illustrations and names like “Kamahl, Pit Fighter.” Players use them to attack each other and defend themselves in games.

Tayag has been playing Magic for 10 years. He’s also been the youth programs coordinator for the city department of parks, culture and recreation since October.

“It’s probably been going heavily here for about six weeks that I’ve noticed,” Tayag says. “But I’ve heard that there are underground societies on the island where they’ve been playing Magic for longer.”

Full disclosure: Tayag and I are roommates, and he’s even gotten me dabbling in Magic. But I’m only watching and learning today.

Tayag: “One more thing. The youngest player chooses who goes first in this round.”

Group: “Yessss!”

Round one is about to begin. Everyone shuffles their decks, draws their hands and gets their game faces on. Tayag starts the clock. And then… it get serious. Soon, all around, I’m hearing things like this:

Unidentified player: [card slap] “Cradle of Vitality. Whenever I gain life, I may pay one plains and any uncolored mana, and if I do, I can put a one-one counter on a target creature for each life I gain.”

Complicated? Definitely. But the basics of the game are simple. Every card is a spell – creatures, enchantments and more. They all cost a certain number of different-colored mana cards. You have to put those cards down before you can play anything else.

Johnny Khongsuk plays a spell in a Magic game against Kennan Jordan during the tournament. Photo by Annie Ropeik, KUCB – Unalaska.

Players use spells to deal damage to each other or block attacks. You start with 20 points each and try to knock each other down to zero.

Players have to buy the cards to build their decks. You can spend a little or a lot of money, and you could make a deck that was pretty hard to beat. But there’s no card shop in Unalaska. So players buy cards online and barter with friends.

It’s basically a big trump game — and, Tayag says, a learning experience.

“They practice communication skills and really how to problem-solve with each other,” he says. “You have to decipher rules and they kind of get to figure out what works how, and why does it work, and why does one person win over the other.”

So far, Kei Kawada seems to have a good sense of that. He’s victorious after round one.

“It’s all about dealing damage,” Kei says. “I like it.”

Recreation coordinators Carlos Tayag and Andrew Miller watch closely as Johnny Khongsuk and Kei Kawada vie for the championship.

But Kei’s a little nervous; now, everyone wants to beat him. Over the next two rounds, he has to be merciless, even taking out his little brother, Ryu.

Across the room, another younger player is climbing the ranks. Johnny Khongsuk, an eighth grader, has only been playing Magic for month or so. I asked him about his strategy before round one.

“Be a pain, and just like, make — tap his creatures, and attack when he has nothing to defend with,” Johnny says.

Johnny makes it through to the final — and so does Kei. It’s going on 9 p.m. and the room has emptied out by the time the championship match begins.

Soon, both boys are wiping sweat off their brows. This is one of the most intense games they’ve ever played.

Johnny pulls a spell he hasn’t used before. It lets him steal some of Kei’s cards.

Kei: “Dang, he’s just using all my creatures!”

Johnny: [evil laugh] “Using your creatures against you.”

But soon enough, Kei’s back on top, and Johnny can’t pull out the win — Kei defeats him. His championship prize? A big box of new Magic cards.

Johnny Khongsuk, Andrew Miller, Kei Kawada and Carlos Tayag after the championship. Kei took first place; Johnny took second. Photo by Annie Ropeik, KUCB – Unalaska.

The community center plans to hold a Magic workshop in February, and maybe more tournaments later in the year. Carlos Tayag isn’t sure how long the Magic craze can last here, as players graduate and get interested in other things. But he hopes it’ll have some staying power.

“Not only is it an intelligent game, but it’s a social activity,” he says. “I’d much rather have kids playing card games in the community center than playing some other type of game over their videogame system, and they’re not really kind of connecting with the real world.”

And that social interaction holds true even if kids are playing in one of those so-called underground societies — maybe at Johnny’s house, next weekend.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: January 31, 2014

Fri, 2014-01-31 17:23

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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Alaska Paratrooper Collapses, Dies After Jump

The Associated Press

An Alaska-based paratrooper has died after collapsing following a jump.

U.S. Army Alaska officials say in a release that the soldier died Thursday night at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage.

The statement says there is no indication the soldier had a hard landing or that there was equipment failure during the parachute jump he completed prior to collapsing.

The Army says the soldier’s parachute had been packed away, and he was wearing his rucksack when the drop zone safety officer reached him.

He was rushed to the Anchorage hospital and underwent emergency surgery, but was pronounced dead just after 8 p.m.

Desperate Renters Face Bugs, Damage

Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage

The Big Timber Motel in Anchorage has been in the news recently because of health and safety concerns- everything from fire code violations to an infestation of bedbugs. But it’s not the only low income housing in Anchorage with problems. And city officials say it’s difficult to address the issue.

Alaskans Unhappy With Postal Service Changes

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

An increase in complaints from Alaskans about the U.S. Postal Service prompted Sen. Mark Begich to write the Postmaster General this week, demanding answers.

Begich Reports Bringing In About $850K In 4Q

The Associated Press

U.S. Senator Mark Begich reported bringing in nearly $850,000 toward his re-election effort during the final quarter of 2013.

Begich’s campaign, in a filing with the Federal Election Commission, reported ending the year with $2.8 million on hand.

The contributions from October through December include nearly $530,000 from individuals and about $280,000 from political committees.

Two of Begich’s Republican rivals had released fundraising totals for the quarter but had not yet released their reports. Mead Treadwell’s campaign reported raising more than $228,000, while Dan Sullivan reported bringing in more than $1.2 million.

Bill Rejecting Governor, Commissioner Pay Raises Likely To Get Senate Vote

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

A bill that would reject pay raises for the governor and his commissioners is on track to get a vote in the Senate.

With New Gasline Terms, TransCanada Role Evolves

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

The gasline deal that was brokered earlier this month had signatures from more than half a dozen parties. But one party to the agreement confused some lawmakers, like Senator Hollis French.

Prosecutors Dismiss Case Against Former Dillingham High School Assistant Wrestling Coach

Dave Bendinger, KDLG – Dillingham

State prosecutors today dismissed the case against a former Dillingham High School assistant wrestling coach who had been accused of having sexual contact with a 15-year-old female student.

AK: Magic

Annie Ropeik, KUCB – Unalaska

For more than 20 years, people all over the world have been playing the strategic fantasy card game “Magic: the Gathering.” But the game has only recently found its way to Unalaska, where the island’s teenage boys have been going through a serious Magic phase for the past few months.

For the city’s recreation staff, that means a chance to offer a Lower 48-style experience: an official Magic tournament, which they hosted earlier this month.

300 Villages: Lake Minchumina

This week we’re heading to the tiny community of  Lake Minchumina in Interior Alaska. Charles Draper maintains the local runway and he volunteers at the village’s library.

Categories: Alaska News

With New Gasline Terms, TransCanada Role Evolves

Fri, 2014-01-31 15:44

The gasline deal that was brokered earlier this month had signatures from more than half a dozen parties. Executives from Exxon, ConocoPhillips, and BP all were part of the commitment to build a pipeline to transport North Slope natural gas for shipment, as were commissioners from Gov. Sean Parnell’s cabinet. But one party to the agreement confused some lawmakers, like Sen. Hollis French:

FRENCH: In the building, people are asking, ‘Why TransCanada?’

TransCanada was a key player in Sarah Palin’s effort to build a gasline, and legislators from both parties have expressed concern that the company is just a holdover from that attempt. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports that Parnell administration officials are responding by making a case for the pipeline builders.

Since the Palin administration, the State has paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to TransCanada as reimbursement for planning work on a gasline. And during that time, things went bad: Instead of signing on to the project, ConocoPhillips and BP made their own failed effort to build a pipeline. When the state-sponsored project went through an open season, it couldn’t find any customers. The Lower 48 shale boom meant it was no longer economic to route the line through Canada.

Because of all that history, TransCanada’s continued involvement in the new proposal has caused some lawmakers to feel a bit of déjà vu. At a Senate Resources Committee hearing this week, Anchorage Democrat Hollis French wanted the administration to lay out how this new arrangement differed from the terms of the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act.

“Is this like AGIA 2.0? What is this?” asked French, who was once an advocate for AGIA.

Under AGIA, TransCanada was licensed to basically advance a project on Alaska’s behalf. The Parnell administration is now pursuing what they’re describing as a more traditional commercial agreement, where the state and the North Slope producers are partners in a project with roughly similar ownership shares.

But because the project is expected to cost at least $45 billion, it would be a squeeze for Alaska to cover a quarter of that. That’s where TransCanada comes in again …

“We think that this particular partnership is in the state’s interests and will provide value to Alaskans independent of AGIA considerations,” said Balash.

In addition to doing the physical work of constructing the gasline, TransCanada has made a deal with the administration to shoulder a good chunk of the project costs in exchange for a cut of the state’s equity. State consultants Black & Veatch estimate that the State would have to pay $11.4 billion to take on an ownership role if TransCanada isn’t involved. If they are involved, that amount is brought down by half to $5.8 billion.

“What we’re trying to show here is that competition for dollars in this next decade, if we go alone without a partner, we’re going to have some water to carry,” said Balash.

On the money-making side of the balance sheet, the dollar amount the state would take in would be about the same whether TransCanada’s sharing the profits or not, according to the administration’s projections. That’s because in this scenario, the state’s earning income by investing the billions of dollars it didn’t have to spend on the project, which should cancel out the payments to TransCanada.

Balash says another reason for keeping TransCanada involved is that they know how to build pipelines in rough terrain.

“If you take a look at where they got their start in the Canadian Rockies, they’re familiar with constructing in discontinuous permafrost and mountainous areas,” said Balash. “They’ve overcome those challenges, and that’s experience I think we want to have on this particular project.”

Still, senators on the committee had reservations.

Peter Micciche, a Republican from Soldotna, wanted to know why the state isn’t putting the partnership arrangement out to bid, in case other companies might be interested. Eagle River Republican Fred Dyson asked if TransCanada’s involvement with competing pipeline projects in North America might create problems.

“Somebody’s going to win the horse race, and I hear you almost saying ‘We don’t care. Whichever one does it, we’re here to perform for that,’” said Dyson.

TransCanada executive Tony Palmer stressed that the Alaska project is important to them, and their involvement with other gasline plans is the nature of their business.

“That’s what we do. We build pipeline projects — build them an operate them across North America,” said Palmer. “We own 10,000 miles of pipeline in the United States, and we own 30,000 miles of gas pipeline in Canada.”

There’s also one more big reason TransCanada is still part of the new gasline arrangement: They were part of the old one. If TransCanada had been cut out, the state would have been at risk of violating their contract. This way, the two parties avoid going to court.

So while the new plan might not exactly be AGIA 2.0, it’s definitely shaped by it.

Categories: Alaska News

Art Enters the Dialogue about Marine Conservation

Fri, 2014-01-31 13:00

Gyre expedition crew members and National Park Service staff prepare to load marine debris onto a boat during an intensive cleanup of Hallo Bay in Alaska’s Katmai National Park, June 2013. Like most of Alaska’s 6,640 miles of coastline, Hallo Bay is off the road system, so beach cleanup can only be done by boat charter. This is often prohibitively expensive. Photo by Kip Evans.

An exhibition of art made from trash that washed up on beaches is about to open, offering a creative perspective on a growing environmental problem.  It’s part of a thrust by the Anchorage Museum to refresh the dialogue about the Arctic.  And it opens in the nation’s only Arctic state.

HOST: Steve HeimelAlaska Public Radio Network


  • Julie Decker, Director, Anchorage Museum, Curator of “Gyre”
  • Callers Statewide


  • Post your comment before, during or after the live broadcast (comments may be read on air).
  • Send e-mail to talk [at] alaskapublic [dot] org (comments may be read on air)
  • Call 550-8422 in Anchorage or 1-800-478-8255 if you’re outside Anchorage during the live broadcast

LIVE Broadcast: Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.

SUBSCRIBE: Get Talk of Alaska updates automatically by e-mailRSS or podcast.


Categories: Alaska News

Shell Calls Off This Year’s Exploratory Drilling Plans For Alaska

Thu, 2014-01-30 19:08

Shell announced on Thursday that it has called off its plan to do exploratory oil and gas drilling in Arctic waters off Alaska this year – and what it will do in future years is not clear.

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The company’s new CEO, Ben Van Beurden, pointed directly to a recent federal appeals court ruling that casts doubt over the federal oil and gas lease sales in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.

“We are frustrated by the recent decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in what is a six-year-old lawsuit against government,” Van Beurden said. “And the obstacles that were introduced by that decision simply make it impossible to justify the commitments of costs, equipment and people that are needed to drill safely in Alaska this year.

“So, we have to wait for the courts and the U.S. Administration to this legal issue and given all of this, we will not drill in Alaska in 2014 and we are reviewing our options here.”

The ruling by a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals came in a lawsuit filed by environmental groups and the Native Village of Point Hope that claimed federal authorities underestimated the amount of oil and gas exploration and development activity the sales would generate and the impacts that would result from those activities.

Up until now, Shell has been leading that industry push, but its exploration ventures in 2012 ran
into problems, including a drilling rig that went adrift and grounded south of Kodiak.

Van Beurden took the helm of Shell a month ago as the company was putting out signals to the financial community that its earnings would be down.  Today he announced the figures on its financial performance for the past year, and they were not pretty. Profits were down 71 percent from the year before.  He said the company has “lost momentum,” and he’s setting a new course – divesting some stagnant assets and cutting capital expenditures by 20 percent.

“Frankly, I believe we got a little ahead of ourselves and some of these long-term plays and I want to moderate our investment base here,” Van Beurden said.

He said Shell ended up with a “cash flow deficit” last year, and the company needs to concentrate its reduced 37 million-dollar capital budget on areas that will show a return.

Late last year, Conoco Phillips, the other company that had plans to drill in the Chukchi this year, quietly shelved its plans as well.

Categories: Alaska News

Unalaska Copes With Shell’s Decision Not To Drill

Thu, 2014-01-30 19:07

At least one Alaska community was banking on Shell’s presence – and business – this summer.

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Categories: Alaska News

Murkowski Pushes To Lift Crude Oil Exports Ban

Thu, 2014-01-30 19:06

A campaign by Senator Lisa Murkowski to lift the decades-old ban on crude oil exports got its first hearing in Washington today. It’s been 25 years since Congress has formally considered the ban it adopted during the Arab oil embargo, but the recent energy boom in the Lower 48 is triggering new debates.

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To some people it still sounds crazy. Why consider selling American crude overseas when the U.S. still imports 40 percent of its oil from other countries? And then there’s the question of the impact on consumer prices.

Chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, Ron Wyden of Oregon, says that’s his focus.

“American families and American business deserve to know what exports would mean for their specific needs when they fill up at the pump or get their delivery of heating oil,” Wyden said.

The witnesses at the hearing spoke from their own economic corners. Harold Hamm, CEO of Continental Resources, the largest leaseholder in North Dakota’s Bakken play, says the ban gives undue advantage to U.S. refineries. They can sell their fuel overseas, but as he put it, producers
like him are stuck being their milk cows.  A Delta Airlines executive, on the other hand, says allowing crude exports will force the price up to whatever OPEC wants it to be, and American consumers will have to pay more for airline tickets and everything else.

An academic from the University of California-Davis, says it’s not so simple. Amy Myers Jaffe says the export ban is only for crude, so U.S. petroleum is already affecting the world market, in the refined products we export.

“So what we’re really discussing is: Who gets to profit from the exports?” Jaffe said.

With the ban in place, it’s the refiners. Without the ban, producers get in on it. Jaffe notes another market wrinkle: the Bakken boom produces light oil, but refineries are set up to process particular grades, so she says America will always have to import heavy crude.

“Because there’s just going to be some refineries that already exist on Gulf Coast that have certain configurations and there’s just only so much light crude they can put through the system,” Jaffe said.

Murkowski says it’s good for policymakers to ask questions and ponder the issue. She figures it will take a lot more dialogue before Congress members and their constituents feel comfortable with lifting the ban. But she also says we’re running out of time.

“We get to a point where we have a mismatch between what we are producing domestically and the capacity within our refineries,” Murkowski said.

Murkowski says without exports, we may reach that point of oversupply in just two years. After the hearing, Murkowski said Alaskans have a special reason to be concerned, because North Slope oil may have to compete for West Coast refinery space.

“I think as Alaskans, we need to appreciate, we have enjoyed higher prices for our crude because it has been in high demand particularly in California, but if California is now going to be able to meet this demand because of oil from other parts of the Lower 48 – that price is going
to go down (and) our margins are going to be less for Alaska,” Murkowski said.

She says she plans to eventually draft an export bill and press her case to the Administration.

Categories: Alaska News

DOT Works To Dig Out Richardson Highway

Thu, 2014-01-30 19:05

State Department of Transportation crews will be working for days to get the Richardson highway completely opened.

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Hannah Blankenship is a spokeswoman for the DOT’s northern region. She says the majority of the backed up water from the Lowe River has receded back to within the river’s banks.

“However there is still debris and ice from where the river was, and that’s what our crews will be working on removing over the next few days,” Blankenship said.

Blankenship says they are still evaluating the snow pack and it’s unclear what kind of damage may have occurred to the roadway. She says they don’t have a timeline for re-opening the highway because stability is still an issue.

Categories: Alaska News

UAS Training Takes To Skies Above JBER

Thu, 2014-01-30 19:04

Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage.

Soldiers from the 425th Brigade Special Troops Battalion conducted an Unmanned Aircraft System – or UAS – training flight on Thursday morning in the skies over Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage.

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Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage.

With about a 14-foot wingspan, the Shadow stands around knee-high. A rear-facing motor is mounted on the back of the fuselage…trailed by an inverted-V-shaped tail section a few feet behind. On the front half of the aircraft, “El Super Beasto II” is hand-lettered onto the side, with a painted set of grinning teeth adorning the nose.

Once it’s secured in a catapult mounted on a trailer, the crew goes through its pre-flight checklist, ensuring everything is in order for takeoff. Then they walk a safe distance away and await a launch order.

“What you got to see here today was actually probably one of the smoothest takeoffs I’ve seen, probably ever,” Staff Sergeant Brandon Byers said. He helps oversee the maintenance section, which does everything from maintaining the aircraft to launching it.

He says the Shadow can stay airborne for up to around six hours in its current configuration. If the crew opts to use the larger 20-foot wings, it can stay aloft for up to nine hours.

Byers says the operators work off of a constant video feed from the UAS. The camera can pick up heat signatures and see impressions in the ground that trained crews are able to identify.

“They’re able to distinguish the different features and the marks on the ground through that payload, which is pretty amazing. The payload, it’s not..it’s actually pretty great footage for what it is, but it’s not spot on,” Byers said. “You’re not gonna pick out or decipher somebody’s facial features on it or anything like that.”

Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage.

The Shadow is also equipped with a laser designator to “paint” targets for other aircraft.

“Say we’re spotting somebody placing an IED. We call it in; they say, “Hey, we’re sending an Apache on it.” If we can’t get coordinates or something like that, [we] laser designate the area, their missiles sync onto that…and…problem solved,” Byers said.

Though “painting” targets and looking at vehicle track marks in the dirt are a part of what the aircraft can do, Chief Warrant Officer III George Summers says that’s not its entire mission.

“What this system is designed to do is to provide ISR – that’s Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance. And what that means is we’re out there answering questions for battlefield commanders,” Summers said. “So, if I’m an infantry commander, I don’t want to waste my time sending my troops over here in the wrong direction, so his questions are: enemy course of action, enemy capabilities, troop size, troop movement, and we get out there in front of and try to locate those answers for them.”

This particular flight was conducted to maintain the proficiency and readiness of the unit.

Summers says there are several factors that need to fall into place to launch one of their UASs – including weather.

Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage.

“So, we can’t fly when it’s raining; we can’t fly when it’s too cold; we can’t fly in icing conditions or when it’s too windy,” Summers said. “So, normal things that would ground an aircraft is gonna ground us as well.”

When the weather cooperates, Summers says they have to coordinate with the FAA, Alaska Air Traffic Control, the Air Force, Army, and Army National Guard before the aircraft can take off.

During the training flights, the UAS is expected to remain in military restricted airspace. But, in the event it slips out of the designated area, precautions are taken to ensure the aircraft still operates safely.

“There is a chance that the aircraft could [go into] international airspace, so we take every precaution that it would and we pretend that it’s going to just in case that it would, it’s not accidentally, it’s planned, everyone’s aware, we’ve cleared airspace in three different ways: visually, with tower, and with radar,” Summers said.

So far, UAS operations from JBER have not strayed from military restricted airspace.

This is the second time a Shadow has been launched from JBER. The first was in November.

Categories: Alaska News

Department of Defense Prepares For More Arctic Activity

Thu, 2014-01-30 19:03

Shell may be abandoning their plans for drilling in Alaska’s Arctic waters in 2014, but vessel traffic, tourism and other activity will continue to advance. As part of our ongoing look at future plans for port development and military oversight of Arctic safety and security, APRN’s Lori Townsend recently spoke with Daniel Chiu the undersecretary for strategy at the Department of Defense. Chiu says the Pentagon expects large increases in defense activity is likely decades out, but he says DOD is closely following climate science to ensure they have the lead time to adjust if necessary.

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Dr. Daniel Chiu – Thank you very much for asking me to speak with you about our DOD Arctic strategy. Pleased to talk to you about it, it’s something we’ve been working on in my office, the strategy office in the office of the Secretary of Defense for some time now. In support of the work you’ve seen come out from the White House earlier this year, when the President released the national strategy for the Arctic region. As you know the President feels very strongly, particularly with the effects of climate change that we need to pay attention to the arctic and to development and changes in the arctic and insure security, safety and prosperity and especially cooperation in that region as we’ve seen over the past many years.

In support of that, Secretary of Defense Hagel was pleased to roll out the DOD part of the strategy in Halifax. In particular how the DOD will be supporting the national strategy for the Arctic region and how we will be contributing from a defense perspective to supporting security, safety, prosperity and cooperation in the region as well. Something we believe we’re heavily engaged in already.

So to those ends, frankly we see a lot of the changes, although some of the reasons require our attention as a nation, a lot of the changes provide us with some opportunities to continue to work with others as we have in the past on cooperation, collaboration particularly in the safety and security realms. But also on ensuring that environmental conditions in the Arctic are not only protected but well respected as we continue to monitor changes in that area. As you know one of the things that’s important as we think about not only climate change but the Arctic in particular in the context of climate change, is the time frame issue here. I think it’s important for all of us to remember that although we do see already a lot of changes. Clearly the rate of human activity in the Arctic is rising at unprecedented levels and certainly attention and discussion on the Arctic is greater than it has been for many, many years, that changes in the Arctic come over time. And this time is measured not so much in minutes, hours and days but really in terms of years and frankly decades in many respects.

And as such, for the DOD, we’re really trying to think what our near, mid and long term both objects and needs are in the region. The near being roughly now the next couple of years, the mid-term being in the 5 to 10 year time frame, the long term being in the 10, 20, 30 year time frame.  That’s at least how we like to do our strategic planning.

Right now, our assessment, is in the near term, from a needs perspective and a challenges perspective, we actually assess ourselves as being in a good place. For the most part, Arctic nations and others who are active in the Arctic have been not only quite collaborative and cooperative, but have been working to solve in very constructive manners for the most part in the region. And we’ve seen that happen between a number of countries operating in the Arctic.

In the medium to long term, we start to see increasing uncertainty. And as you can imagine that’s tied very closely to exactly what the trajectory of climate change and the effects of climate change will be on the Arctic. We follow the science as closely as possible. We work very closely with, in particular, the Navy’s Office of Oceanography on that, to insure we have the best data we can for making those projections. But I think as you know, those projections, even the best informed ones, have a great amount of variability in them. As such, the way we’re trying to address that is to insure that we’re monitoring the situation in the out years, as closely as possible and simply insure that we have enough lead time to make changes to our planning assumptions should those changes become necessary.

Right now, the scientists are telling us, that their best guess is the kind of changes that would necessitate reassessment of our planning assumptions are in the decades time frame. We’re preparing for that, but we’re keeping that in consideration as we think about, particularly the budget and while we think about budget bills, we’re remembering that, while we need to maintain focus on this, we need  to put it in that decades out, time frame. So we’re doing that and we’re doing that through a process that we have internal to the department of defense that generates for example, our requirements for our budgetary outlooks. And we’re doing that in close conjunction in this case with Northern Command. They have been named the Arctic capability advocate. And that’s just a fancy term for saying they will be the lead for determining as conditions change, should we need to change for the Arctic. They were named as such in particular of course, because they are the only command that we have that has homeland arctic territory, that of course being where you are in Alaska. But they are obviously doing this in close conjunction with other combatant commands, especially UCOM, given the global breadth of the arctic. That’s roughly where we are and the reason why we’re here talking to you.

Thanks for that opening statement. In that backdrop you were just describing, that lead time needed to make changes. There’s a lot of political jockeying around arctic resources, Canada is building up its Arctic military, Russia and Canada are staking overlapping claims in the Arctic. How do you see this unfolding over the next decade and what is the U.S. military’s role in insuring there’s no escalation of tensions over territory and sovereignty?

Dr. Chiu – Right, that’s a great question. Let me divide it into two aspects. One is in terms of Arctic capabilities and resourcing those Arctic capabilities and the other one is Arctic claims. On the capabilities piece, Canada is paying a lot of attention to the Arctic and they are also thinking very hard about how to invest those resources over time and again, the time frame is a very important issue to consider here as we are doing as well. And I think they would, as we do, try to tie that to conditions as much as possible. And by that I don’t just mean environmental conditions, I do mean the conditions that you are alluding to, the competing claims, the political/military so to speak conditions in the region. So in the meantime, we think it’s absolutely critical to manage the resolution of any competing claims in the arctic. But as you, I think have implied, and as we would note, these are largely not defense issues. This is largely about using existing mechanisms to resolve these disputes. They are in place and to a large extent those with competing claims are adherents to those processes and we strongly encourage that. So from a DOD perspective, our view would be to continue to support these and as these ideally get resolved, reconsider what capability requirements are needed at that point.

And then continue to foster the types of collaboration and cooperation that we already conduct obviously with Canada and with many other nations as well to again, foster that more cooperative approach to resolving these claims and that would be a roundabout way to get to the end of your question, which would be how DOD believes we can play a role in trying to manage these diplomatic competition so it does not reach any kind, does not escalate into anything more intense than that.

Conditions are changing rapidly in the Arctic and there’s growing international interest. It takes at least a decade, if congress gave the green light today, for funding for ice breakers, for an Arctic port, we’re still at least a decade away from having that work done. Security is largely unmonitored in this region, how concerning is that?

Dr. Chiu – So, two points that are important and one is the lead time and we’re very cognizant of that. Both because of the types of capabilities we’re talking about, for example the icebreaker question, or because of the nature of the environment there, building infrastructure in an Arctic environment takes much longer, much more difficult than almost any other environment. You’re absolutely correct to say there is a long lead time. That is absolutely why I’ve mentioned a few times, the need to really monitor the situation as closely as possible. Monitor primarily at this point from an environmental perspective which is why I mentioned we’re working closely with the Navy’s oceanography department to insure that we understand the broad environmental conditions which might either accelerate or quite frankly, given the science we’ve seen, potentially decelerate, at least in some time frames, some of the human activity going on there.

But do we absolutely have to monitor the security situation there as well? Yes, we do. Again, this crosses political, military, diplomatic and hard security realms. We do have to pay attention to that. I think we have historically and we will continually. But we are also really emphasizing and the point of this strategy is to highlight our opportunity, at this point, not to just monitor and react but really to be involved in shaping the outcome of this in a proactive manner so we can preserve, the more cooperative angles/aspects of our interactions in the Arctic and make that the predominant theme going forward.

Kotzebue is strategically the best location for a deep-water port, but Port Clarence appears to be emerging as the likely choice. Is the Pentagon weighing in on where it should be and where on the Alaskan coast do you think it should be located?

Dr. Chiu – So currently our work on this has largely been in support of the work the CG has been doing and we’ll continue to do that. From a defense, Navy, broader joint service perspective, we have not assessed a need for that kind of an installation at this time. So we’ll continue to work with the CG and work closely with DHS as they make their decisions about this kind of infrastructure. But at this point, this is not a DOD initiative so we don’t have any specifics on any DOD requirements, frankly because we don’t have those requirements on those near-term time frames. As we get further out, this is something we would take into consideration and you’re right, we’d have to do that kind of comparative analysis to make sure we have the capabilities we need.

What should Alaskans expect to see for military presence in the next five to ten years? How will the DOD ramp up to address traffic, territory and security concerns in the Arctic?

Dr. Chiu – Currently, certainly in the next five years or so, I don’t anticipate any major changes in presence. From a security standpoint, we don’t see any major threats in the region in this time frame that require military presence. On the safety piece and particular on environmental safety and human safety issues. We certainly will insure that we can support our colleagues in the CG for example as effectively as possible and as necessary. We work very closely with them on these issues. If there are changes necessitated, because of increased human activity in the region, we’ll certainly consider that in conjunction with the CG and with the support of CG, but we’d have to array that against the broad range of things that DOD will do. Again, though I would caution you and listeners to put this in perspective. Although we do see a lot of additional activity, everything from tourism to intraregional commerce and exploration, we do have to put that into context.

Certainly more people, but this is not a vast opening of the Arctic. The Arctic remains a very harsh environment and its important as people use vague terms like vague terms, or misunderstood terms like ice free, we are not in any near term time frame, anticipating a rush of people to the region. So we will monitor this, able to support as necessary but in the near term we don’t see any big changes in the area.

Failure of the U.S. being signed on to the Law of the Sea Treaty. Does this impact the strategy militarily to not be signed on?

Dr. Chiu – On the one hand no, at an operational level, we continue to operate and collaborate consistent with the norms laid out in the law of the sea treaty on a day to day basis. So it’s not hampered or changed the way we behave on day to day basis and that’s allowed us to generate the kind of collaboration and cooperation we’ve seen in the arctic to date.

That said, on a broader, political level, the one concern I have about not being part of the structure associated with the Law of the Sea Treaty is that there will be a lot of forums and discussions which we may not be able to participate in as effectively as we’d like to if we’re not signatories to it. So the competing claims you mentioned before, of course we would like to be resolved in a manner consistent with the Law of the Sea and theoretically may be done through the mechanisms that the law of the sea has already prescribed. Not being signatories creates constraints in our ability to be able to participate in that at a diplomatic level. I would defer to my friends in the state department but suggest that this is at least less than optimal. On a day-by-day basis for DOD, the type of cooperation we have with other militaries, the types of support with the CG, the types of operations we need to do to protect our homeland and our interests, we’re find on that front.

What sort of future does the missile defense system that is partly based in Alaska facing?

We’re currently doing a review on that as part of the quadrennial defense review. We are of course, extremely concerned about growing ballistic challenges. While not technically an Arctic issue, you can understand why it has implications there as well, both from an early warning perspective and a missile defense perspective. And we’re trying to find the appropriate solution in terms of managing that problem from a defensive standpoint, but frankly insuring that we have the right capabilities to deter and dissuade the use of those weapons in the first place and not rely on just on defenses.

Categories: Alaska News

Democrats Introduce Medicaid Expansion Legislation

Thu, 2014-01-30 19:02

Democratic state lawmakers are introducing legislation in the House and Senate to expand Medicaid in Alaska. Governor Sean Parnell rejected the expansion, which is part of the Affordable Care Act, in November.

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The law calls for the federal government to pay for 100% of the expansion for the first three years. That match will gradually decrease to 90% by 2020.

Senator Bill Wielechowski, an Anchorage Democrat, says the Governor’s own Medicaid report shows the expansion would be a huge benefit to the state:

“From better health care to Alaskans to new jobs to lower health insurance premiums for businesses, expanding Medicaid makes sense both financially and morally.”

No Republican lawmakers have signed onto the legislation. Wielechowski says he’s hopeful that will change.

Senator Berta Gardner, a Democrat in Anchorage, says she’s going to keep working to win Republican support:

“The folks I’ve talked with are theoretically supportive, but they want to take a wait and see approach, they’re not willing to come out publicly at this point.”

The bill expands Medicaid to childless adults who earn less than about $20,000 a year. The state would participate as long as the Federal government pays at least 90% of the cost.

Representative Lance Pruitt, an Anchorage Republican, says he wasn’t approached by Democrats about the bill, but thinks the legislation is a no-go:

“Are we really going to give something to someone, and we’re going to write legislation that says here you go, and if the feds do something, we’re going to take it back?”

26 states are expanding Medicaid this year and several more are considering it.

This story is part of a reporting partnership between APRN, NPR and Kaiser Health News.






Categories: Alaska News

Taku River Tlingit Sue To Stop Tulsequah Mine

Thu, 2014-01-30 19:01

The Taku River Tlingit First Nation has filed suit in the Supreme Court of British Columbia to stop the Tulsequah Chief Mine. The old mine is at the headwaters of Southeast Alaska’s most prolific salmon stream.

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Water treatment plant at Tulsequah. It operated for a few months to treat acid rock drainage, but Chieftain shut it down due to the high costs. Photo courtesy Chieftain Metals.

Now the Tlingit First Nation says British Columbia authorities failed to consult with them, and believe that voids the mine’s environmental permit.


In 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada ordered the British Columbia government  to consult with the Taku River Tlingit First Nation on decisions surrounding the Tulsequah Chief Mine.

The Taku River watershed in northwestern B.C. and Southeast Alaska is the Tlingit’s traditional territory.

 “The consultation is an ongoing obligation.”

Randy Christensen is a lawyer for Ecojustice Canada, the donor-funded  environmental law firm handling the case.

He says the obligation is clearly spelled out in the 2004 decision.

 “At the end of the day the Supreme Court of Canada declared that our client was owed a duty of consultation and accommodation on this project.”

At the time, Redfern Resources owned the mine. The company went bankrupt in 2009 and Chieftain Metals picked up the property and environmental permits.

Substantially started

In the current lawsuit, the Taku River Tlingit allege they were never consulted about a government decision that the Tulsequah was “substantially started.”

Under the B.C. environmental process, once a mine is approved, the owners have a limited amount of time to get mobilized. In this case, 10 years.

Substantially started does not mean mining. Though Chieftain Metals says it’s ready to mine the Tulsequah, in reality the company is still looking for financing.  But in June 2012, the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office declared the mine was substantially started.

Christensen says the First Nation wants the B.C. Supreme Court to declare that Chieftain Metal’s environmental permit has expired.

“Without an environment assessment certificate, they can’t proceed with any on-the-ground construction of this project, so what we’re seeking from the court would be an order that the environmental certificate has expired. That would halt activities on the ground,” Christensen says.

Such a declaration would void all Tulsequah permits.

“My primary feeling is one of relief,” says  Chantelle Hart, a member of Children of the Taku. The society is not party to the lawsuit, but members are all Tlingit born in the Taku River watershed.

I’m glad the lawsuit is now out because at least it’s another firm very clear stance that shows that Taku River people are not going to allow Chieftain into the territory.

Hart says Chieftain Metals has ignored her people.

The transboundary group Rivers Without Borders says the same goes for the B.C. Ministry of Environment. Chris Zimmer is Alaska spokesman for the international group.

The clear implication here is if this lawsuit is successful, the mine is dead in the water and will have to go back to environmental assessment, because it can’t proceed without that certificate.

Chieftain Metals did not return calls for this story.  In its year-end financial report  to the Ontario Securities Commission the company acknowledged the lawsuit, stating the “Corporation believes the petition is without merit.”

Chieftain Metals’ stock closed Monday at 28 cents a share  on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Categories: Alaska News

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