Alaska News Nightly: July 14, 2008

A volcano erupts in the Aleutians and a long-time cop and public servant leaves state service on short notice. Meanwhile the Forest Service receives a new lawsuit over Tongass timber operations and both federal regulators and First Nation leaders in Canada appear poised to green-light a gas line project from the North Slope. Those stories and more on tonight’s Alaska News Nightly, broadcast statewide on APRN stations.

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Image of the eruption of Okmok, taken Sunday, July 13 by flight attendant Kelly Reeves during Alaska Airlines flights 160 and 161.

Okmok volcano throws ash 60 miles from evacuated Umnak Island
Anne Hillman, KIAL – Unalaska
An Aleutian volcano erupted suddenly over the weekend causing 10 people to be evacuated from an isolated ranch on Umnak Island. The ash cloud float more than 60 miles east to dust Unalaska and beyond.

Governor asks state public safety chief to step aside
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
State Department of Public Safety commissioner Walt Monegan was abruptly relieved of his position Friday. Monegan, a 30-year veteran of the Anchorage Police Department (APD) and chief of the APD under two mayors was appointed by Palin to the post of Public Safety Commissioner in 2006. Monegan says there was no prior notice that he would be removed and although he was offered the position of Director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, Monegan declined the job. Governor Palin has appointed Kenai police chief Charles Kopp as the new public safety commissioner. Palin’s spokeswoman Sharon Leighow says the Governor wanted a new direction for the Department of Public Safety.

Federal regulators ready to receive a gas pipeline proposal
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
The final regulatory step on a gas pipeline from the North Slope to North American markets will be taken by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). And legislators today heard that a project under FERC’s review will be favorably received by the agency.

Will ExxonMobil out-maneuver ‘Valdez’ plaintiffs on 19 years’ of interest?
Jay Barrett, KMXT – Kodiak
Last week lawyers for the plaintiffs in the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill punitive damages case filed a request with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking clarification on the question of interest payments on the judgment. As Jay Barrett in Kodiak reports, plaintiffs are concerned that not only will Exxon Mobil Corporation fight interest payments, but will try to reduce the judgment even further through other means.

Canada’s First Nations may hold key controls over gas line project
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Challenges from Canada’s First Nations could slow down construction of a gas line from the North Slope through Canada. However, legislators in Juneau yesterday heard two attorneys say Native groups are not likely to stop the project.

Forest Service sued over deer assesments amidst Tongass timber sales
Joe Viechnicki, KFSK – Petersburg
Two environmental groups are suing the U.S. Forest Service over the way it evaluates habitat for deer in the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska. The groups says the agency has been overestimating the number of deer the forest can support. The suit challenges four specific timber sales but could have a larger impact on the Forest Service’s Tongass timber program.

Immigration actions against illegal aliens in northwest U.S. up 40%
Eli Menaker, APRN – Anchorage
A new study from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) shows a 40% increase in the number of illegal immigrants deported from Oregon, Washington, and Alaska.