Alaska News Nightly: April 18, 2008

The US Senate votes to ask the Justice Department to investigate “Coconut Road” earmark. Also, Joshua Wade is indicted for murder in the killing of Anchorage nurse Mindy Schloss. Plus, BP and Conoco lobby for their gasline plan in Washington, DC. 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.

Governor Palin gives birth to 5th child
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Governor Sarah Palin welcomed her fifth child into the world today.  Her spokesperson, Sharon Leighow says Palin interrupted a meeting of the Governors’ Energy Conference in Texas yesterday when she recognized she was going into labor. Leighow says the labor subsided enough for Palin to return to Alaska on a late flight before giving birth this morning.

Juneau Avalanches expected to drive electricity prices through the roof

Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
Juneau officials have declared a local disaster in the aftermath of snow slides that have knocked out power from a local hydroelectric project.  The Juneau Assembly last night called for the disaster declaration in an effort to unlock state and federal funds to help businesses and residents deal with escalating utility costs.

Alaska’s Orthodox Bishop Soraich steps aside

Duncan Moon, APRN – Anchorage
Leaders of the Orthodox Church of America say Bishop Nikolai Soraich, head of the Alaska diocese, is taking a voluntary leave of absence, effective immediately. The Holy Synod of Bishops made the announcement yesterday after meeting in New York to discuss allegations that Nikolai is abusing his office through intimidation.

DEC cleans up oil spill along Tanana River
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The State Department of Environmental Conservation is cleaning up an oil spill along the Tanana River in south Fairbanks.  The D.E.C. reports that as much as 300 gallons of waste oil leaked onto the ground from abandoned drums.

Alaska Ranger investigation focuses on ship itself
Charles Homans, KIAL – Seattle
Two Coast Guard ship inspectors who surveyed the Alaska Ranger several months before it sank testified in a Marine Board of Investigation hearing Thursday that patches of steel near the stern of the ship were cracked, and had yet to be fixed when the ship set out on its final voyage. The affected areas weren’t part of the hull itself, but investigators are asking whether the corrosion could have weakened more crucial parts of the ship.

Coal-bed methane tries for a revival in the bush
Tim Bodony, KIYU – Galena
A new generation of coal bed methane projects could be coming to the Bush. More ambitious proposals to extract the subsurface gas in the Mat-Su Valley and on the Kenai Peninsula have been blocked by public resistance in recent years. But as the price of diesel fuel has almost tripled in the past 5 years, the promise of tapping into a local supply of fuel to generate electricity and heat is becoming more attractive for rural villages.

USPS re-examines bypass mail

Paul Korchin, KNOM – Nome
The U.S. Postal Service is looking into restructuring its bypass mail network in Alaska.  Bypass mail goes directly from the shipper to the carrier, avoiding the Post Office and flying at parcel post rates.  But that comes with a big price tag.

TV discovers Alaska stories
Annie Fiedt, APRN – Anchorage
Nearly a dozen television shows highlighting Alaska are set to launch on national networks in the coming weeks. The programs will explore everything from what it takes to be a logger in Ketchikan to surviving bear encounters in the wild.