Alaska News Nightly: September 17, 2008

The U.S. House has passed an energy bill that opens up more offshore drilling, but Republicans aren’t happy. Plus, the challenges of making it through the Northwest Passage in a boat under 60
feet. Those stories and more tonight on 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.

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House approves energy bill with offshore drilling
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington, DC
The U.S. House has passed an energy bill that would allow offshore oil drilling in the Atlantic and Pacific, but drilling must be at least 50 miles from shore. In a twist that would’ve seemed unlikely a year ago, Democrats mostly supported the bill — and Republicans were against it in a 236-189 vote.

Palin numbers inflate Alaska energy output
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
An inflated Alaska energy output figure touted by Governor Palin on national TV last week and since repeated by John McCain, is being widely discredited. Palin told ABC News in her first media interview since being named McCain’s running mate, that Alaska produces nearly 20% of the U.S. domestic supply of energy. Palin has since modified the claim to 20% of domestic oil and gas, but Alaska oil industry analyst Richard Fineberg says the figure is wrong no matter how you look at it.

Permanent Fund takes a bit hit as stocks tumble
Lori Townsend, ARPN – Anchorage
The stock market plunge on Monday, followed by another 450-point drop today, has Wall Street investors nervous about the possibility of other financial giants toppling. Many Americans feel disconnected from the roller coaster investment ride because they don’t own stocks directly, but all Alaskans are stock holders through the Permanent Fund. Fund CEO Michael Burns says Monday was probably the Fund’s largest one-day dollar loss. He says fluctuations both in the market and the federal government’s approach to it have varied greatly.

Begich lays out his plans for rural Alaska
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
U.S. Senate candidate Mark Begich today said government assistance for rural Alaska must be based on ideas and priorities that begin in rural communities. He told a group at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage that he has always tried to listen to people and the issues they bring up. And he says he has learned that urban and
rural Alaska need each other. He also described the state’s energy problems as “critical.”

Ancient remains to be reinterred
Jay Marble, KRBD – Prince of Wales Island
In the mid-1990s, human remains, more than 10,000 years old, were found on Prince of Wales Island. The discovery fueled scientific research about early human migration and the climate of Alaska. Now the need to keeps those human remains has ended, and they’re being returned to the ground.

Marine Transportation Advisory Board gets new blood
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
Alaska’s Marine Transportation Advisory Board is coming back to life. Governor Sarah Palin has appointed 11 people to the panel, which has been in limbo for several months. It had been dependent on executive orders from the governor. The board, which works with ferry system managers, is now written into law.

Maine boat arrives in Kodiak through Northwest Passage
Casey Kelly, KMXT – Kodiak
The past two summers have seen record-low sea ice levels in the Arctic. Scientists with NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center say that as of last Friday, sea ice covered 1.74 million square miles of the Arctic — the second lowest level on record. The melt-off means increased shipping traffic through the Northwest Passage, a route that goes over the top of the world and has long been talked about as an alternative to the Panama Canal. But it also means an increase in the number of cruise ships and recreational boaters in the region. One such boat stopped in Kodiak this week.