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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: 17 min 53 sec ago

Blue Crest Plans New Onshore Wells, LNG Shipments

Fri, 2015-01-09 16:44

The resurgent boom continues in Cook Inlet. At the annual Kenai Peninsula Industry Outlook Forum this week in Kenai, new oil and gas player Blue Crest, based in Forth Worth, made some of the biggest announcements.

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CEO Benjamin Johnson says they’ve partnered with a California company called Wespac to build a new LNG facility that would make natural gas available across the state.

“Put it in small containers that can fit on barges, on rail cars, on trucks, and basically provide a cheap alternative to diesel fuel that most of the communities in the state are using.”

Johnson offered few details about what communities might provide a market for the gas, when it could be available or for how much. He says bringing in someone else to produce the gas will get it to market faster.

“They (Wespac) will drill these gas wells and they’ll deepen some into the oil zones. They’ll also put the platforms and pipelines in place. And then at some point after they’ve reached a minimum return, or are able to get their money back, then Blue Crest will come back in and begin owning the assets and eventually end up the majority owner.”

Wespac will own the gas producing portions of the fields, located near Anchor Point, while Blue Crest will operate them and several onshore oil wells it plans to drill in 2015 and 2016.

Categories: Alaska News

AK: The Art Of Medicine

Fri, 2015-01-09 16:42

(Photo by Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage)

Physicians spend a lot of time thinking about how to fix the human body. A group of young doctors in Anchorage recently had the chance to draw it instead. They are all overworked, over tired interns- halfway through their first year of residency. They spent a morning in an intro to drawing class in an effort to get them to think more creatively about their careers.

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At first, Doctor David Silbergeld wasn’t sure what to make of the drawing class that popped up on his schedule.

“I think my first thought was, ‘uh oh,’” he said.

Silbergeld’s dad teaches art history, so he’s had lots of exposure to art. But the last time he remembers producing any of it was a long, long time ago.

“When I was 4 or 5 years old I used to do art my dad said was amazing, and I have not done anything since then,” he said.

Silbergeld is in his first year of the Alaska Family Practice Residency in Anchorage. Since July, he has been whizzing through a series of challenging rotations, working 80 hours a week and getting very little sleep. But for a month in the depth of the winter, all of the residency’s interns have a break of sorts called ‘trans-cultural medicine.’ It’s like an extracurricular holiday- a feast of lessons in things like cultural diversity, wilderness survival and nutrition.

And for three hours one recent morning – drawing.

University of Alaska Anchorage art professor Garry Mealor is teaching the class in figure drawing. He explains the students will have 90 seconds to draw each pose the model takes. He offers a few quick pointers – like how to get the proportions right (a human figure is about eight heads tall).

Then the model takes off her robe and more than a dozen doctors start to draw. Silbergeld is clearly enjoying himself, but it isn’t easy. He develops a coping strategy early on.

“I simply can’t recreate the human head or the human face in any beautiful or realistic way, so I’ve sort of given up on that and I’ve focused more on the torso or to some extent the legs, and I’m more pleased now that I’m doing that,” Silbergeld said.

(Photo by Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage)

This is the fourth group of interns to take the drawing class. Dr. Susan Beesley, an Anchorage pediatrician, came up with the idea. Beesley thinks medicine is both a science and an art. She helped start an arts program at her medical school in Colorado. And she wanted to offer a small piece of that experience to the Alaska residents. Beesley likes that it pushes them out of their comfort zone.

“I think it’s important to think creatively when your subjects are humans,” Beesley said. ”Humans don’t really follow textbooks all the time and I think if you can integrate a little bit of creative thought into your healing practice that it will benefit both the doctors and the patients.”

Beesley also hopes the class offers the doctors a different perspective after six months of looking at disease and illness in the human body.

“Now we’re asking them to just look at it as a piece of art and think about it as just beautiful and miraculous and something that they can enjoy,” Beesley said.

The morning’s last challenge is to use different erasers to create an image of the model on paper blackened with charcoal, which Mealor assures is “going to be messy, but fun.”

(Photo by Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage)

Silbergeld spends the rest of class immersed in his final piece of artwork.

“It took an hour to get me okay with it but I’m okay with it.”

Silbergeld isn’t exactly sure how this class may affect his decisions as a doctor three months, or even three years, from now. But he appreciates the chance to spend a morning thinking a little differently than his typical doctor routine allows.

“I think classes like this are a good reminder that sometimes when you do that physical exam you do need to step back and get that broader image of the human body when you’re seeing patients,” he said.

As he packs up, Silbergeld decides to take several of his drawings home. He says he’s not exactly ready to frame them, but he doesn’t want to give them up either.

Categories: Alaska News

AK Essay: Barenaked

Fri, 2015-01-09 16:41

Nude is what is it is called. Nude is artsy and sophisticated. But when I crumpled onto the small wooden platform, I was just plain old naked. And then when I crawled the several feet between me and my robe, I was even more naked.

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Apparently, I am told by everyone I have ever told this story to that if one stands with locked knees for too long with locked knees, one faints. Apparently, everyone knows this. I wish I could say collapsing onto a wooden platform, while naked, was the hardest thing that happened as an art model.

It wasn’t.

Walking into the classroom for the first time, naked under my robe, was harder than pretty much anything else I’ve done. Wedding day – easy. Childbirth – pudding. Climbing mountains – yawn city.

The classroom door had a small glass window that I could peer through. I saw them all in there, waiting. I had applied for the job. I had agreed to work. I did want the best paying college job on campus, but I could not open the door. Staying behind the door meant I could still run away. I told myself it would be good for me. I tried to think of other things that would be good for me, but scary, tweezing nose hairs, eating eggs without toast. I still couldn’t open the door.

I told myself the artists didn’t know me. After all, I was one of many models. I would act aloof. I would pretend experience. I would feign boredom, ‘Oh, naked in front of strangers again.’

I opened the door. I walked in. I stepped up on the stage.

“Here’s the model,” the instructor said, “Let’s make her feel welcome, it’s her first time.”

I had been naked before. I was naked before. In fact, I had been naked in front of other people, a few. Sure, it was more like slinking naked in front of one person, or dodging naked in front of another. I had never stood face on in front of 20. And certainly not face on in the bright light that streamed through the windows and surrounded by hot floodlights.

“Model, model – we’re ready,” the instructor said. My sweaty hand pulled the robe tie. My shoulder shrugged the robe off and tossed it off to the side. And then I stood there and didn’t breath. And I’m sure I didn’t breath for at least a couple of minutes.

I did note that that not breathing could cause fainting, so despite the thundering heartbeat in my ears, the cold sweat on my neck and an intense need to urinate, I eventually took a breath.

And then I modeled.

Although the first time was quite traumatic, when I’m asked what the hardest part of the job was, it wasn’t being barenaked, it was not moving. Unless one is getting paid to sit, or stand, or lie down motionless, I don’t think one would ever try this. One pose could last for 45 minutes. Let’s say it’s a reclining pose, one arm down on my back, the other arm bent and resting across my forehead. The pose feels fine, for a minute.

Three minutes into it, my arm, resting on my forehead, becomes heavy. Five minutes into it, my arm becomes The Arm. Eight minutes, I begin to worry about nerve damage to the arm. Then I worry about nerve damage to the forehead.  At 12 minutes, I’m certain the brain is at risk.  17 minutes, breathing, trying to stay calm. 21 minutes trying to pretend I am somewhere else, somewhere without a log pressing on my forehead.

26 minutes and  I’m walking on a white sandy beach.  Breath in, Breath out. 35 minutes and I’m sure I will quit, no job is worth brain damage. 42 minutes and I think about tweezing my nose hair. 45 minutes and the instructor says, “That will be all, model.”

And then using the arm that is still my arm to pry the arm that is a log off the forehead and then placing the log next to the body and then trying to get up, trying to pretend that it is easy to get up.

Stepping off the stage numb, aloof and barenaked.

Categories: Alaska News

Halcro Files Letter Of Intent In Anchorage Mayor’s Race

Fri, 2015-01-09 15:46

Former Alaska legislator Andrew Halcro has filed a letter of intent to run for mayor of Anchorage.

Halcro filed the letter, signaling his interest in seeking the post, with the Alaska Public Offices Commission on Friday.

Halcro is a former state representative who unsuccessfully ran for governor as an independent against Republican Sarah Palin in 2006. He currently serves as president of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce.

The field of candidates for mayor already includes former Anchorage Assembly Chairman Dan Coffey, current Assembly member Amy Demboski and former Assembly member Paul Bauer.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Skiers Placing Well In National Championships

Fri, 2015-01-09 15:44

Alaska skiers continue to post top results at the U.S. cross country ski championships in Michigan.

Thursday, Alaska Pacific University program skier Rosie Brenan won her second straight title in chilly Houghton,Michigan, taking the women’s 20 kilometer classic event. She was joined by three APU teammates in the top 10, including Becca Rorabaugh, formerly of Fairbanks, who finished 5th.

APU skiers also fared well in the men’s 30 K race, with Lex Treinen in second, and four others in the top 10, including former Fairbanks residents David Norris and Reese Hanneman in 5th and 6th.

In the junior men’s race Fairbanks skier Max Donaldson put up another top result, placing 8th in the junior men’s 10k event. Donaldson was the top skier in the under 18 age group and secured a spot on a U.S. team that will travel to races in Sweden.

The National Champions conclude Saturday with a skate technique sprint.

Categories: Alaska News

Food To Schools From Farms

Fri, 2015-01-09 12:00

Click for more information about growing your area’s Farm to School program.

A national effort to bring fresh food from farms to schools has resulted in $385 million in purchases for school lunches and other meals across the country.  More than half the school districts in Alaska are participating in the Farm to School program, feeding more than a hundred thousand kids in the state.

HOST: Steve Heimel, Alaska Public Radio Network

GUESTS:

  • Deborah Kane, Director, Farm to School Program, U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service
  • Johanna Herron, Farm to School coordinator, Alaska Division of Agriculture
  • Callers statewide

PARTICIPATE:

  • 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, January 13, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.

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

TALK OF ALASKA ARCHIVE

Categories: Alaska News

The Future Of Alaska’s LNG Pipeline Project

Fri, 2015-01-09 09:00

As the Federal Coordinator’s office for an Alaska North Slope LNG pipeline prepares to close its doors, we take a look at the history of the office, the current state of proposed Alaska LNG pipelines and the outlook on the future of the project.

HOST: Lori Townsend

GUESTS:

  • Larry Persily, federal coordinator, Office of the Federal Coordinator for Alaska’s Gas Line

KSKA (FM 91.1) BROADCAST: Friday, January 9 at 2:00 p.m. and Saturday, January 10 at 6:00 p.m.

Alaska Public Television BROADCAST: Friday, January 9 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, January 10 at 4:30 p.m.

Categories: Alaska News

Walker: With State In Red, Tax Credit Payouts “Unsustainable”

Thu, 2015-01-08 18:59

Since the Murkowski administration, every Alaska governor has offered his or her own version of oil tax reform. Now, Gov. Bill Walker is taking issue with aspects of the current tax regime, without committing to any immediate legislative changes.

On Thursday, Walker took to the pages of the Alaska Dispatch News to raise concerns over how the existing oil production tax works at low prices. With the value of oil now in free fall, Walker explained the state is now collecting less money than it is paying out. The Department of Revenue expects to collect $524 million in revenue this fiscal year, after North Slope producers deduct $750 million available to them in liability credits. Those liability credits can be used to buy their tax burden down, but do not require the state to pay out money. The major producers — Exxon, BP, and ConocoPhillips — are the top beneficiaries of these credits.

But on top of those deductions, the current tax law also grants smaller producers refundable credits meant to encourage more competition on the North Slope and stimulate production in Cook Inlet. These independent companies are eligible to receive $625 million in subsidies that can be cashed out if they end up exceeding their tax bill.

Once both kinds of credits are applied, the state expects to lose $100 million on its oil production tax.

Walker called this situation “irresponsible and unsustainable,” and said the revenue problem must be addressed “from all angles.” But that doesn’t mean legislators should prepare for an oil tax fight this session. In an interview with APRN, Walker said he does not plan to introduce a tax bill.

“No, no, no. I think we have to maybe look across the board and give it some thought. Nothing maybe this year — I’m not looking at going in and making any significant changes,” said Walker. “But I just feel it’s part of my job that Alaskans know what I know, and this is unusual.”

Walker also has no plans to make regulatory changes to the oil tax system that would affect the credits.

While campaigning, Walker came out against the current tax regime. He was in favor of a ballot referendum to repeal Gov. Sean Parnell’s 2013 oil tax law, known as Senate Bill 21. When the referendum narrowly failed in August, Walker said that he respected the outcome and that he would give the law more time on the books if he became governor.

Since Walker was elected on November 4, oil prices have fallen from $80 to $50 per barrel. Walker said that drop is responsible for the state going into the red with its production. His office has done an analysis of how Parnell’s Senate Bill 21 compares at current oil prices to the system that preceded it — ACES — and found the outcomes were not “significantly different.”

“Whether it’s ACES or Senate Bill 21, we’d be in this situation either way, quite honestly,” said Walker. “So, it’s not being judgmental on one versus the other. But’s a new place for us. We’ve never been here before, that we’re paying out more than we’re receiving in production tax.”

Historically, oil tax receipts have made up the bulk of the state’s revenue. Last year, the state generated nearly $5 billion in oil revenue, with more than half of that coming from production taxes.

The state still expects to collect $2 billion this year from other forms of oil revenue, including royalties, corporate income taxes, and property taxes from production.

Categories: Alaska News

Early Study Shows Surprising Optimism Among Homeless Alaska Natives

Thu, 2015-01-08 17:38

A University of Washington researcher says a strong desire to pass down traditional knowledge may be related to high levels of optimism that he’s found among homeless Alaska Native elders. (Photo by Heather Bryant/KTOO)

A University of Washington professor has found high levels of optimism among homeless Alaska Native elders living in Seattle, and he’s connected the finding to a strong desire to pass on knowledge and experiences to future generations.

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As an Aleut who grew up in Naknek, Jordan Lewis knows a little something about Alaska Native culture. Whenever he’s back home, Lewis says he likes to talk to elders and soak up traditional knowledge.

“They tell stories about how Naknek used to be when they were kids, because it’s changing so much now,” he says. “And I think just the fact that they talk to you and share their experiences, and pass on recipes, or how they used to make things, or where they used to pick berries, is this idea that they are hopeful that you’ll take that knowledge and use it to benefit your own life, but then pass it on again.”

Lewis is an assistant professor at the University of Washington’s School of Social Work. His research focuses on Alaska Native communities and generativity, a concept developed by psychologist Erik Erikson. It says that as we grow older, humans tend to want to pass on their experiences and knowledge to future generations.

“The first generative act most people have in their lives is having kids,” Lewis says. “That’s going to secure your future. But as you grow older there’s this need to pass on your legacy, write your memoirs, storytelling for elders, and passing down stories you heard to your grand kids.”

Lewis has studied how generativity helps Alaska Natives age well and become role models, as well as overcome addictions.

He says he became interested in the homeless because it’s an underserved and often overlooked population. Years ago, he says, his family had a relative involved with the Chief Seattle Club, a nonprofit that provides meals, housing assistance and other services to low-income and homeless Alaska Natives and American Indians. That’s where he and a student interviewed 14 Alaska Native elders last year. He says the results surprised even him.

“All of the elders talked about the importance of giving back and teaching others,” he says. “Whether it’s through sharing a sandwich, giving extra change if they had extra change to someone who wasn’t doing as well as they were. Volunteering at the Chief Seattle Club was almost everybody’s response. That’s what made them happy, that’s what got them up every day. And they all said that they did that because it’s going to come back to them in a positive way.”

He says other themes of the interviews included the importance of laughter and religion.

In addition, each of the elders – ages 45 to 70 – filled out surveys to measure generativity and optimism. Lewis says 12 of the 14 individuals scored very high in both.

“That kind of complimented the qualitative interviews. So I could say, you know, 85 percent of the people I interviewed are very optimistic and like to give back and teach the young people, and then here we have specific examples of what they do to do that,” Lewis says.

While he’s excited about the early results, Lewis admits more research is needed to confirm his findings. He’d like to do more than 100 interviews, and has considered expanding to include American Indians.

He’s planning to present his research at the Chief Seattle Club, and ask officials there for ideas on how to do a broader study of Native homelessness.

“How could we either help the people who are homeless, or how do we prevent homelessness, or how do we make their lives more enjoyable from these experiences of what these elders are doing for themselves,” he says.

Lewis also hopes to publish his findings in a peer-reviewed journal. The initial study was part of an online Stanford University program on successful aging that he participated in last year.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: January 8, 2015

Thu, 2015-01-08 17:38

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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Is SB21 Working?

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage & Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

Since the Frank Murkowski administration, every Alaska governor has offered his or her own version of oil tax reform. Now, Governor Bill Walker is expressing concern with aspects of the current tax regime.

Chugiak Lawmaker Proposes Legislature Move

Jeremy Hsieh & Jennifer Canfield, KTOO – Juneau

Sen.-elect Bill Stoltze plans to introduce a bill to move the Alaska Legislature to Anchorage.

On Murkowski’s First Day Chairing Energy Committee, Panel Passes Keystone Bill

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

Senator Lisa Murkowski held her first hearing today as chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The committee promptly passed the first priority of the Republican leadership: a bill approving the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta, Canada through Nebraska. Murkowski also outlined what she wants the committee to accomplish.

UAF To Field Wildfire Crew

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The University of Alaska Fairbanks will field a wildfire fighting crew. The tram will be staffed by students in a wild land fire science program.

Petersburg’s New Superintendent Resigns

Angela Denning, KFSK – Petersburg

Petersburg’s School board will be searching for a new superintendent again this year. The superintendent of the school district has resigned after six months on the job.

An LGBTQ Renaissance In Juneau

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

Juneau’s alliance group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people has been going through a renaissance with new board members and energy. Now, with recent grant funding, SEAGLA hopes to increase visibility and awareness in the capital city and beyond.

Early Study Shows Surprising Optimism Among Homeless Alaska Natives

Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau

A University of Washington professor has found high levels of optimism among homeless Alaska Native elders living in Seattle, and he’s connected the finding to a strong desire to pass on knowledge and experiences to future generations.

Categories: Alaska News

Is SB21 Working?

Thu, 2015-01-08 16:59

Senator Bill Wielechowski, a Democrat from Anchorage, has been a vocal critic of the state’s new oil tax structure. He says the law provides larger tax credits to oil companies as the price of oil declines.

Senator Cathy Giessel, a Republican from Anchorage, helped craft the new oil tax law. She says the tax structure is designed to bring in more revenue at lower oil prices than the previous law, ACES.

Listen for the full interviews with Sen. Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage) and Sen. Cathy Giessel (R-Anchorage)

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Categories: Alaska News

Chugiak Lawmaker Proposes Legislature Move

Thu, 2015-01-08 16:58

The Alaska state capitol building in downtown Juneau. (Photo by Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)

Update | 4:05 p.m. Jan. 8, 2015

Sen. Dennis Egan, a Juneau Democrat, says he thinks the bill “is a crock.”

“I’m really dismayed that he’s pitting one section of Alaska against another,” Egan says.

Through a spokeswoman, Gov. Bill Walker said he typically doesn’t commit on how he’ll deal with legislation before receiving it. But, he added, he doesn’t favor moving the capital.

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Original post | 7:27 p.m. Jan. 7, 2015

Sen.-elect Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, plans to introduce a bill to move the Alaska Legislature to Anchorage. Stoltze isn’t proposing a full-on capital move. Instead, KTUU reports that the bulk of state government would remain in Juneau and legislative sessions would be held at the Anchorage Legislative Information Office.

“I have always been a vocal advocate for relocation,” Stoltze told KTUU.

This is the second time Stoltze has advocated for such a move. In 2008 he supported a similar bill introduced by Rep. Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake.

Many attempts and discussions to move the capital have taken place since the days of Alaska’s first constitutional convention. According to a brief history compiled by The Alaska Committee, the last attempt to swing the legislature away from Juneau happened in 2002. Voters defeated a ballot measure that required the legislature to meet in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

Stoltze’s bill will be introduced as the state grapples to deal with a $3.5 billion budget shortfall and declining oil prices.

Categories: Alaska News

UAF To Field Wildfire Crew

Thu, 2015-01-08 16:56

The University of Alaska Fairbanks will field a wildfire fighting crew. The tram will be staffed by students in a wild land fire science program.

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Categories: Alaska News

An LGBTQ Renaissance In Juneau

Thu, 2015-01-08 16:55

SEAGLA members get together to march in Juneau’s 2014 July 4th parade. (Photo courtesy James Hoagland)

Juneau’s alliance group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people has been going through a renaissance with new board members and energy. Now, with recent grant funding, SEAGLA hopes to increase visibility and awareness in the capital city and beyond.

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SEAGLA has been around since the early 1980s providing support for the LGBTQ community in Juneau. The name used to be an acronym for Southeast Alaska Gay and Lesbian Alliance, but it’s moved away from that strict definition to be more inclusive.

For years, SEAGLA’s programming consisted of a weekly Friday night social and an annual picnic. Last year, SEAGLA organized a first ever Pride Week in Juneau with several events.

“We did a film festival, a hike, a kickball game, a karaoke night, a big dance and a picnic,” says James Hoagland, one of eight volunteer board members. “All sorts of different kinds of events because we wanted to see who was out there, who our community was and what they needed from us, and we found that they liked all the events and they said, ‘We need more of this and we need to do it even bigger.’”

The annual picnic last year drew about 200 people, the biggest attendance in the organization’s history.

It recently received a $5,000 grant from thePride Foundation, which supports LGBTQ groups in the Northwest. It awarded funds to 56 organizations – three in Alaska. This is the largest grant SEAGLA has ever received.

The money will help expand programming.

“We know that there are hundreds of people out there who just even locally want to get together and do things and build community in all sorts of ways,” Hoagland says.

SEAGLA is meant to be an alliance group for all of Southeast Alaska, but it’s historically served just Juneau. The grant will allow the nonprofit to bridge gaps and offer services to other Southeast communities. Hoagland says individuals in Ketchikan, Haines, Sitka and Skagway have reached out to SEAGLA.

Josh Hemsath with Pride Foundation in Anchorage says the organization gave funding to SEAGLA for this very reason. Anchorage-based Identity Inc. also received a grant to bring students from rural areas to a youth leadership summit at Birchwood Camp.

“The need that we were seeing was how best to address serving individuals, whether they be youth or people who experience geographic isolation because they live in rural and remote communities,” Hemsath says.

Outside of grant funding, Hoagland hopes SEAGLA can grow in other ways.

“It’ll be particularly interesting during the legislative session and figuring out how to plug SEAGLA into the really dynamic political landscape that’s going on right now in Alaska for LGBT people,” Hoagland says.

With the legalization of same-sex marriage, Hoagland says other issues are ripe for change. Representatives Cathy Muñoz, a Republican, and Democrat Andy Josephson have pre-filed billsto add sexual orientation to the state’s anti-discrimination laws. Hoagland says SEAGLA can play a role in education. He says many Alaskans don’t even realize that people can get fired from a job because of sexual orientation.

“They thought that maybe we’re protected under another law or something like that and it’s just not the case and I think that most people understand that that’s just not fair. And just opening up their eyes to the importance of putting that on the books in writing so that we can make sure that people don’t experience a really tragic situation like losing your job just because of the person you love,” Hoagland says.

Hoagland says making a political impact will be a natural outcome of expanding membership and strengthening SEAGLA.

Categories: Alaska News

Tongass Supervisor, Deputy, Leaving The Forest

Thu, 2015-01-08 10:35

The Tongass National Forest will soon be without its two top officials.

Forest Supervisor Forrest Cole plans to retire in April after about a dozen years in the job. He’s overseen timber sales, stewardship efforts and other agency programs in Southeast Alaska.

The Tongass National Forest makes up most of Southeast Alaska (Courtesy U.S. Forest Service)

Cole’s deputy, Tricia O’Connor, is moving to a new Forest Service job in Wyoming. She’ll be supervisor of the Bridger-Teton National Forest, which borders Yellowstone National Park, starting in February.

Both have been based in Ketchikan. Neither was immediately available for comment.

The supervisors work under Alaska Regional Forester Beth Pendleton, who also oversees Southcentral’s Chugach National Forest.

Cole came to the Tongass about 35 years ago and worked in management positions throughout Southeast. Most recently, he’s been a leader in the forest’s transition from old-growth logging to harvesting younger trees.

O’Connor has been Tongass deputy forest supervisor since 2011. She’s been in the region almost 15 years, beginning as Yakutat district ranger.

Both positions have been posted on USA Jobs, a federal employment website.

The Tongass is the nation’s largest national forest, at about 17 million acres. Most of Southeast Alaska is within its borders.

We’ll have more on the Tongass management changes in future reports.

Categories: Alaska News

Human Remains Found In ‘Talkeetna Area’ Cabin Fire

Thu, 2015-01-08 10:18

The Alaska State Troopers report that a cabin fire in the Talkeetna area killed one person.

According to troopers, the initial call was received just before midnight on Saturday night. When troopers arrived from the Talkeetna post, the cabin had burned to the ground.  The next day, they returned with a Deputy Fire Marshal to search in the daylight.  Human remains were found during that search.  No positive identification has been made of the remains, and the investigation is ongoing.  Troopers say foul play is not suspected at this time.

Trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters says that, since there is currently no positive ID, no further details, including the location of the fire, are being released.  Talkeetna Fire Department Chief Ken Farina says that the Talkeetna Fire Department did not respond to any structure fires in on Saturday.

Categories: Alaska News

On Murkowski’s First Day Chairing Energy Committee, Panel Passes Keystone Bill

Thu, 2015-01-08 08:21

Sen. Lisa Murkowski gavelled in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee this morning with a Tsimshian mallet. On her first day as chairman, the committee passed a bill to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, by a vote of 13 to nine, without amdendments. The bill is the first priority of the new Republican leadership of the Senate. It now heads to the Senate floor and debate scheduled to begin next week. The House is expected to pass its version tomorrow.

Categories: Alaska News

As Walker Forges Own Way On Gasline, Republicans Wary

Wed, 2015-01-07 19:59

It was a not-quite-midnight purge. At 9pm on Tuesday, Gov. Bill Walker announced via press release that half the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation board of directors was being dismissed. And in the process, he put the oil and gas industry on notice that he would be doing things differently from his predecessor. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez has more.

The announcement came just 36 hours before the board tasked with representing Alaska’s interests on the natural gas megaproject was set to get an update on how the work was going. Of the five public members, three — Drue Pearce, Al Bolea, and Richard Rabinow — were notified they should not plan on attending a Thursday meeting in Anchorage.

All three were appointed when the board was created in 2013 by former Gov. Sean Parnell. Pearce heads an oil spill response company in Anchorage, and previously served as the federal coordinator for an Alaska Natural Gas project and as president of the Alaska State Senate. Bolea is a retired BP executive who once chaired the Alyeska Pipeline Services Company board. Rabinow is a former president of the ExxonMobil Pipeline Company. Rabinow’s appointment was opposed by a bloc of Democrats because of his status as a Texas resident, and legislation explicitly permitting out-of-state board appointments was passed to allow him to serve.

Walker says his reasons for removing these members was not personal. He says he mainly wants to see more geographic diversity on the board, and plans to make sure rural areas are represented.

“I think we need to spread out a bit,” says Walker.

The original announcement did not provide a reason for the dismissals, except for to say the changes were part of a “paradigm shift in the way the state will conduct business with Alaska’s gas.” In addition to the board dismissals, Walker announced that the two cabinet members — Labor Commissioner Heidi Drygas and acting Commerce Commissioner Fred Parady — who represent the administration on the board have been directed not to participate in discussions that require confidentiality agreements.

“There’s certainly appropriate times to go into executive session, and organizations do that all the time. But it’s unusual to layer on top of that a confidentiality agreement,” says Walker. “It just seems like it’s one more step of keeping the public away from what’s going on, and I’m not sure that’s the way to do business.”

The state is currently in talks with Exxon, BP, ConocoPhillips, and TransCanada to develop an 800-mile pipeline to get North Slope natural gas to market. The project is expected to cost at least $45 billion. In 2014, the Legislature passed and Parnell signed a bill that would allow legislators to review specific terms of negotiations so long as they sign non-disclosure agreements. The producers involved say the confidentiality rules are needed to prevent competitors from learning proprietary information about the project.

Walker is allowing his natural resources deputy commissioner, Marty Rutherford, to participate in confidential meetings.

“We will participate in AKLNG with our representative,” says Walker. “That’s a different entity and a different process.”

Walker’s announcement was met with a mix of surprise and apprehension by key Republicans in the state Legislature.

“The three people that have been removed, of course, have decades of expertise and experience,” says Sen. Cathy Giessel, an Anchorage Republican who chairs the resources committee. “To let them go — it was just kind of breathtaking.”

Giessel is worried that rehauling the board puts the Alaska LNG megaproject at risk.

“I’m concerned it’s going to slow it down,” says Giessel. “As we miss windows of achievement on that timeline, this could jeopardize the project altogether.”

Giessel is also concerned that refusing the confidentiality terms could make it hard to work with the partners on a project.

“To reject that means rejecting a seat at the table. It doesn’t make sense,” says Giessel.

House Speaker Mike Chenault agrees.

“Without confidentiality agreements, I just can’t see this process going forward,” says Chenault.

Chenault says Walker’s actions raise questions about his strategy for moving ahead with a gasline.

“Nobody was informed on what was transpiring,” says Chenault. “By sending out that message, I have no clue which direction the governor wants to go. Is he wanting to keep these two projects online, or is he wanting to kill these to come up with some other project? I don’t know.”

Meanwhile, Alaska’s partners in the LNG project are staying quiet on Walker’s announcement. A representative from ExxonMobil declined an interview on the subject, while ConocoPhillips and BP each offered brief written statements saying that their positions on the project had not changed.

But even if the producers are not commenting on Walker’s action, they’re still watching them closely.

“I would expect industry is waiting to hear more details on what Walker’s ‘paradigm shift’ means,” says Larry Persily, the federal coordinator for an Alaska North Slope natural gas pipeline.

Persily notes that Walker’s recent actions signal a more confrontational approach with industry than his predecessor.

“Proponents of the Parnell administration would say he made great strides — new investment on the Slope, new investment in Cook Inlet. Critics of Parnell would say he was too cozy with the industry and the state needs to stand up more. And my guess is the industry is waiting to see how Walker goes about things,” says Persily. “The important person in all this is not any of the individual AGDC board members or the head of AGDC or the deputy commissioner of natural resources or revenue. It’s the governor. He sets the policy. He sets the tone, and makes the important decisions. So, the announcement about a ‘paradigm shift’ in dealing with the industry is much more important than changing some board members or getting into a debate over who signs the confidentiality agreement.”

Categories: Alaska News

Mat Su Ferry Draws Interest

Wed, 2015-01-07 17:15

 Despite televised reports that a sale could be imminent, the Matanuska Susitna Borough’s ferry MV Susitna remains tied to a dock in Ketchikan, while the Borough faces a tight deadline for repayment of a twelve million dollar debt to the Federal Transit Administration.

At  Tueaday night’s   Borough Assembly meeting, Borough Attorney Nicholas Spiropolous [ spir OPP o lous ] told the body that the FTA wants its money back by January 15. He said he’s written a reply to FTA.

“Our submittal to FTA in response to [their] demand letter is due January 15. The manager and finance director and port director have seen a draft and made comment on it. ”

 

The mid – January date represents an extension of an earlier, September, deadline.

But a European – based company, Intercity Rental Car Corporation, has given the Borough 20 thousand dollars to pay for a demonstration of the boat’s abilities. The Borough Assembly spent little time Tuesday in approving the acceptance and appropriation of the money to pay for the sea trials, passing the motion without comment.  

Intercity Rental, however, is not an American company, and selling the vessel to a foreign – owned company could pose a challenge. The ferry can be given away to a US non-profit, or sold to an American company, but the FTA could frown on selling a Navy – built ship outside the US.

According to its website, Intercity Rental is a fleet leasing company in Turkey, which has about a quarter share of the market. The company leases cars to corporate clients with 1 year to 3 year contracts, and provides comprehensive maintenance services.

 The Borough was given the ferry free of charge, but with grant restrictions attached. The Borough failed to initiate ferry passenger service across Knik Arm, so the FTA is asking for it’s grant money back.

The MV Susitna sea trials have already taken place.  Borough manager John Moosey says negotiations are ongoing.

Categories: Alaska News

Gov. Walker Meets With DC Officials

Wed, 2015-01-07 17:00

Gov. Bill Walker scheduled meetings with two of President Obama’s cabinet secretaries while he was in Washington Tuesday for the swearing in of Alaska’s new U.S. senator.

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He says he talked to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell about the road options to the Greater Moose’s Tooth field on the North Slope. That wasn’t the only road they discussed. Walker says Jewell seems resolute in opposing a road between King Cove and Cold Bay, but he says it was good to hear her exact reasons. Walker says he doesn’t think it’s a lost cause.

“Well I’m not convinced of that. Sometimes a fresh set of eyes on it is a good thing,” Walker said. “So I’m going to take a look and see if there are some options available in advancing that road project.”

He took up the Prince Rupert ferry dock with Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. Walker made the case for a waiver from the requirement to use U.S. steel.

It was the new governor’s second trip to the nation’s capital since he was sworn in. He says he doesn’t plan to make the trip so frequently in the future.

 

Categories: Alaska News

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