Alaska News Nightly: September 21, 2009

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Computer Glitch Means $2 Million in Anchorage OT
Ellen Lockyer, APRN – Anchorage
An overlooked computer glitch  in Anchorage is being blamed for about $2 million worth of overtime paid in error to city employees.

Environmentalists Gather in DC to Protest Arctic Drilling
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
Environmentalists gathered today outside the Interior Department in Washington DC to deliver a message: don’t drill in the Arctic Ocean or Bristol Bay. The group of about two-dozen people symbolically turned over a giant comment card representing more than 260-thousand comments they gathered to halt a proposed development plan. Cindy Shogan, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League, handed the comment card to the Interior Department’s Director of Alaska Affairs, Kim Elton.

Obama Sets up National Ocean Council
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
The Obama administration’s Ocean Policy Task Force has just released its ocean management plan that among other things sets up a National Ocean Council.

Health Care Dominates DC Activity
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
Health care legislation continues to dominate the work in Congress this week. On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee starts marking-up a bill proposed by Democratic Senator Max Baucus of Montana. So far it does not have the support of committee Republicans, and many Democrats’ reaction is lukewarm. Both of Alaska’s Senators say they’ll carefully watch this week’s
mark-up to see how the bill shapes up.

Health Care Premiums Increase in Alaska
Mike Mason, KDLG – Dillingham
Health care insurance premiums in Alaska have increased by more than 90-percent according to a ne w report from a national health care organization.

Alaska AG Says State Has Right to Tax Cruise Ship Passengers
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
The state’s top lawyer says Alaska has every right to tax cruise ship passengers. The industry filed a lawsuit last week challenging $46 of the $50 head tax. Attorney General Dan Sullivan says the Department of Law will fight the suit.

Several Cruise Ship Companies Receive Below-Average Grades on Pollution Compliance
Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
An environmental group and the state of Alaska would give several cruise ship companies below-average grades on pollution compliance. Friends of the Earth has released a cruise ship report card for companies operating in the United States. It shows the highest grade – a “B” – goes to Holland America Line, and the lowest – an “F” – to Royal Caribbean. The organization grades the cruise lines on three categories: sewage treatment and air pollution reduction applies to ships’ operating in all U.S. waters. The third category — water quality compliance — is Alaska-specific: The degree to which ships violated 2008 water pollutions standards in Alaska.

Ft. Wainright Soldier Dies in Iraq
The Associated Press
An Alaska-based soldier from Louisiana has died of injuries sustained in a helicopter crash in Iraq. 20-year-old Spc. Michael S. Cote worked on UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, and he was in one that went down Saturday in Balad. Army officials say Cote of Denham Springs, La., was based at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks. Cote joined the Army and moved to Alaska in March 2008. He was assigned to A Company, 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment, Task Force 49.

Canada Agrees to BC Power Line Plan
Tony Gorman, KSTK – Wrangell
Canada is officially on board with a plan for a power line in northwest British Columbia.  Canadian Prime Minster Stephen Harper announced, last week, from Washington, DC that the federal government will invest in a transmission line project that will run along Highway 37 in northern BC.  The announcement is not only a big win for Canadian development proponents, but also for the city and borough of Wrangell and other supporters who have long pushed for an electrical intertie from Alaska to British Columbia.