Alaska News Nightly: March 9, 2009

Exxon Valdez captain Joe Hazelwood is apologizing to Alaska. He reluctantly granted an interview on the incident for a new book marking the 20th anniversary of the spill. Plus, two-time defending champion Lance Mackey led the Iditarod into the Rainy Pass checkpoint. But a large group of top-level mushers are vying for the lead, including Sebastian Schnuelle, who led the group out of Rainy Pass at 3:35 this afternoon.

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Exxon ‘Valdez’ Captain Hazelwood to Alaska: I’m sorry
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Twenty years after the Exxon Valdez disaster, the ship’s captain is apologizing to Alaska. In a new book — The Spill: Personal Stories From the Exxon ‘Valdez’ Disaster — Joe Hazelwood says, “I would like to offer an apology, a very heartfelt apology, to the people of Alaska.”

Homer art gallery hosts ‘Valdez’ anniversary exhibit
Casey Kelly, KBBI – Homer
A giant rosary made of gillnet floats, a sea-foam green dress that looks like it’s been splotched with oil and a pirate flag adorned with a middle finger and the word Exxon down the side. These pieces and more are part of an exhibit commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez spill, which opened at a gallery in Homer Friday.

Schnuelle first out of Rainy Pass in tight Iditarod leadership pack
Annie Feidt and David Shurtleff, APRN – Anchorage
Two-time defending Iditarod champion Lance Mackey led the way into the Rainy Pass checkpoint at 11:34 this morning. Norwegian Bjornar Anderson followed more than an hour behind. Ramey Smyth, Aliy Zirkle, Hans Gatt and Jeff King all arrived into the same checkpoint in a tightly packed group around 1:00 p.m. this afternoon. At the time of recording, Sebastian Schnuelle had taken the lead out of Rainy Pass, closely followed by Paul Gebhardt, Rick Swenson and Aaron Burmeister.

Oceans summit addresses Arctic melting
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington, DC
Hundreds of environmentalists and advocates for the oceans are gathered in Washington, DC this week at the Blue Vision Summit — a conference focused on the future health of the world’s seas. Some of the conversation has centered around the Arctic and sea ice melt. At a panel discussion today, an expert on the Arctic environment warned it’s time to come up with management plans addressing rapid and dramatic melt.

Alaska releases grants to southeast power projects
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Energy grants recently approved by the Alaska Legislature will advance about 15 southeast Alaska power projects. They include power lines, hydro plants and heat pumps from Metlakatla to Yakutat.

State operating budget may get votes by Friday
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
The Alaska House finance committee is getting a State operating budget ready for floor debate and a vote by the end of the week. Today members opened consideration of amendments from the results of subcommittee reports and two days of public testimony.

Ninth Circuit rescinds decision against Beaufort and Chukchi oil exploration
The Associated Press
Last November, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded the federal Minerals Management Service (MMS) improperly granted oil company Shell permission for exploratory drilling in the Beaufort Sea. But this past Friday, the Court rescinded that decision following a review requested by the corporation. A revised ruling will be issued by the court, but no deadline for the report has been offered, and judges offered no indication as to the content of a new ruling.

Fort Richardson soldier dies in Afghanistan
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
An infantryman from Fort Richardson was killed in Afghanistan Sunday morning (Afghanistan time). Private First Class Patrick A. Devoe, II, 27, from Auburn, NY died from injuries sustained when an improvised bomb hit the vehicle he was driving while on a mounted patrol. Devoe was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division. Devoe joined the Army in January 2008 and arrived in the 1-40th Cavalry Regiment in July 2008. Next of kin have been notified.

Electric low-speed cars may be approved for smaller Alaska towns
Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka
The Alaska Senate transportation committee has signed off on a bill that would allow the operation of low-speed electric vehicles in some Alaskan communities.