Alaska News Nightly: February 27, 2008

The Supreme Court justices asked tough questions of both sides during the Exxon Valdez punitive damages hearing today. Plus, Anchorage mayor Mark Begich announced he’s exploring a possible run for Ted Stevens’ U.S. Senate seat. Those stories and more on tonight’s Alaska News Nightly, broadcast statewide on APRN stations.

Individual news stories are posted in the Alaska News category and you can subscribe to APRN’s news feeds via e-mail, podcast and RSS.

ExxonMobil and spill plaintiffs face off in U.S. Supreme Court
Joel Southern, APRN – Washington, DC
Lawyers for ExxonMobil and Exxon Valdez oil spill plaintiffs faced off before the U.S. Supreme Court today. At issue was the $2.5 billion punitive damages award by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of the spill plaintiffs. The punitive damages case ping-ponged for 13 years between the Federal District Court of Alaska and the Ninth Circuit court. The award was originally set at $5 billion but after all the legal back-and-forth, the Ninth Circuit reduced it.

Mayor Begich takes first step towards U.S. Senate campaign
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
After months of speculation, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich has announced he is forming an “exploratory committee” for a possible run for Ted Steven’s U.S. Senate seat. Today’s first step doesn’t make Begich an official candidate, but it does edge him closer to a full declaration.

Fire aboard Bering Sea trawler extinguished
Charles Homans, KIAL – Unalaska
A fire that forced the evacuation of a factory trawler in the Bering Sea 136 miles northeast of Dutch Harbor late yesterday has been extinguished, and the ship is headed back to the port this evening. The blaze started in the laundry room of the Pacific Glacier, and burned for almost half a day before the ship’s crew was able to get it under control. There have been no injuries or deaths reported among the more than one hundred people onboard at the time.

Senate bill would empower state Department of Education
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
The State Department of Education would have more authority to intervene in local school management under a bill the Senate Education committee opened today. The measure is a response to the Moore v. Alaska lawsuit that indicated the state isn’t taking an active role in improving education in poorly-performing schools. In its decision, the court found the state is providing sufficient funding, but called for more oversight of schools that don’t meet state standards.

Transportation officials say Lynn Canal Highway will pay for itself
John Ryan, KTOO – Juneau
There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but Alaska transportation officials say there is such a thing as a free highway. They told the Senate Transportation Committee yesterday that the proposed Lynn Canal Highway would more than pay for itself by reducing the need for ferries.

Kivalina sues energy companies for global warming damage
David Shurtleff, APRN – Anchorage
The Northwest coastal village of Kivalina is suing 24 oil, power, and coal companies for their role in global warming. The small village has been struggling with coastal erosion for years, and now residents want a federal court to force the energy companies to pay for their relocation.

Sealaska makes adjustments to lands transfer bill
Melissa Marconi Wentzel, KCAW – Sitka
Southeast Alaska’s regional Native Corporation, Sealaska, is making major changes to a controversial lands transfer bill. The Sitka Tribe of Alaska has endorsed the bill, but the legislation has met significant opposition from the wider Sitka community. Hoping to earn broader support, Sealaska has amended its claims.