Alaska News Nightly: October 25, 2007

BP has agreed to pay $20 million in fines for actions — and inactions — related to last year’s oil pipeline spill on the North Slope, but Alaska leaders are wondering if $20 million is enough. Plus, the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) convention kicked off in Fairbanks today. Those stories and more on tonight’s Alaska News Nightly, broadcast statewide on APRN stations.

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BP to plead guilty for North Slope malfeasance
BP today agreed to plead guilty to violations of the federal Clean Water Act and pay $20 million in fines and restitution related to last year’s oil pipeline spills on the North Slope. It’s part of a $373 million settlement in which the company also accepts blame for a Texas refinery explosion two years ago and an attempt to manipulate lower 48 propane markets.

Rick Smith testifies at Kohring trial
Duncan Moon and Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage
Federal prosecutors brought one of their main witnesses to the stand today to testify against former state representative Vic Kohring. Rick Smith explained what was going on during conversations with Kohring that were recorded by the FBI. Smith has already pled guilty to bribing state legislators.

AFN 2007 – Day One
Lori Townsend, APRN – Fairbanks
The 2007 Alaska Federation of Natives Conference opened today in Fairbanks. APRN’s Lori Townsend and Nellie Moore discuss the day’s events.

AFN elders and youth fight for disabled housing
Amy Bracken, KCHU – Fairbanks
It’s a universal concern that young Natives in rural Alaska will leave for bigger cities and lose their culture. But the focus of the resolutions approved at AFN’s Elders and Youth conference was different: that disabled people and elders are forced to live far from home, against their will.

Replacing Diesel with Biomass in the Interior
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Villages in the Yukon Flats are moving ahead with a regional plan to turn local trees into heat and electricity. The Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments is working with other native groups and state agencies on the project. The council’s Natural Resources Director Bruce Thomas says the plan is to replace much of the oil communities currently depend on.

USDA defunds Sheldon Jackson Hatchery
Melissa Marconi-Wentzel, KCAW – Sitka
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has halted critical funding to the Sheldon Jackson College hatchery following the school’s closure earlier this year. The hatchery remains virtually the only functioning entity on campus, kept alive by one manager, a core of dedicated volunteers, and the USDA grant.

Encounters’ Richard Nelson to produce polar series
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Sitka
A Southeast Alaska author and producer will spend the next few years traveling the Earth’s polar regions. Sitka’s Richard Nelson will create a series of radio reports about science in the far north — and south. Nelson and others will fund their work through a $350,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.