Alaska News Nightly: July 28, 2008

The Palin – Monegan – Kopp police drama continues this week as Alaska legislators agree to start an independent investigation into why Monegan was fired in the first place. The excitement in Juneau continues as two former governors advise Senators to vote down Palin’s gas line plan, recommending an all-Alaska gas line plan as a substitute. Meanwhile an Army study recommends 2,200 more soldiers come to Alaska and neither soldiers nor civilians will be able to use Alaska Airlines frequent flyer miles so freely as the airline raises requirements in the face of rising fuel costs. Those stories and more on tonight’s Alaska News Nightly, broadcast statewide on APRN stations.

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Legislature opens investigation into Monegan firing
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
The Legislative council today ordered an outside investigation into the firing of former Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan and the possible abuse of administrative authority that led to his dismissal. The Council will have to decide whether to refer the report of the investigation to other legislative committees if any action is needed.

FAA report details why LAB Flying Service was grounded
Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
A Federal Aviation Administration report says LAB Flying Service lacks the care, judgment and responsibility required to hold an air carrier certificate. The 28-page report released after the FAA grounded the Southeast air carrier last week indicates all LAB planes were in deplorable condition.

Air Force General dies at Elmendorf AFB
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Brigadier General Thomas Tinsley was declared dead last night at 10:30 p.m. following an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound to his chest. It’s unclear whether the shooting was accidental or a suicide. Tinsley was the 3rd Wing Commander at Elmendorf Air Force Base since May 2007. Air Force Institute of Pathology investigators are in route to Alaska and will make the final determination about his death. General Tinsley is survived by his wife and daughter, both of whom were in the home at the time of his death. He was also the legal guardian of his teenage nephew.

Former governors tell Senators to vote down gas line plan
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Former governors Wally Hickel and Tony Knowles today told the state Senate the same thing: “Vote No” on Governor Palin’s proposal to allow TransCanada to develop the natural gas pipeline to North American markets. Hickel has taken the lead on support for an All-Alaska gas line to Valdez where it would be liquefied for transport to markets by ship. The Alaska House has already authorized the license, and under the statute enabling the project, the Senate must ratify it by Saturday night or it will be considered disapproved.

Mining and water quality advocates spending on ads in 8:1 ratio
Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage
Spending is skyrocketing on the campaign over Ballot Measure 4 — the water-quality initiative that would set tougher pollution standards for large new mines. Prior to the 30-day deadline, opponents reported about $8 million in contributions, while advocates had raised less than $1 million.

Nikolski air service returns as Okmok volcano calms
Anne Hillman, KIAL – Unalaska
The Aleutian village of Nikolski is just west of Okmok volcano, which has been erupting for more than two weeks. Ash from the volcano has prevented any planes from reaching the village, leaving many stranded. Until now.

Army study recommends 2,200 soldier boost in Alaska
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
A social, economic and environmental impact statement says the Army favors a troop increase for Alaska. U.S. Army Environmental Command spokesman Bob DeMichele says the study looked at ways of growing and realigning forces and associated impacts in the Pacific Theater, which includes Hawaii and Alaska.

Alaska Airlines raising frequent flyer mile award requirements
Deanna Garrison, KRBD – Ketchikan
Alaska Airlines customers will soon have to burn more miles in order to qualify for free tickets offered through the airline’s “Frequent Flyer” program. Alaska Airlines says high fuel prices are behind the change.

Mat-Su emergency medevac staff refining in-flight care skills
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Matanuska-Susitna Borough
Matanuska Valley emergency medical services folks got a shot at the big time last week when a National Guard Pavehawk rescue helicopter dropped in on their training class. It’s all part of a rigorous schedule for those who provide emergency care on the ground and in the air.

Alaska’s wildfire season: Not bad at all
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
This year’s wildfire season in Alaska is so far one of the mellowest on record. 79,000 acres have burned — the lowest total through the month of July for the last 10 years. The second-lowest was in 1998, when 120,000 acres burned. Division of Forestry spokeswoman Maggie Rogers says conditions just haven’t been conducive to burning this summer.