Alaska News Nightly: March 19, 2010

Individual news stories are posted in the Alaska News category and you can subscribe to APRN’s news feeds via email, podcast and RSS

Download Audio (MP3)

Congress Moves Towards Health Care Vote
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
As US House Democrats whip up support for Sunday’s vote on health care legislation, Alaska’s delegation has not shifted its position.

Parnell Wants to Cut Cruise Ship Tax
The Associated Press
Governor Sean Parnell is proposing a state tax on cruise ship passengers be cut to help an industry that says the cost of doing business in Alaska is too high. Governor Sean Parnell is proposing a cut to the state tax on cruise ship passengers to help an industry that says the cost of doing business in Alaska is too high. During a speech in Anchorage today, Parnell said he wants to cut the $46 dollar head tax for cruise ship passengers to $34.50. He says he’ll also seek offsets for passenger taxes paid in some ports. Parnell says he’ll ask lawmakers to tack the tax reduction proposal to a tourism marketing bill. That measure has so far garnered little traction in the Legislature, which is currently set to end its session next month.The proposal follows Parnell’s trip to a cruise industry convention in Florida.

Governor Backs Railroad’s Developing Gas Line to North Slope
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Governor Sean Parnell said on Thursday he supports a bill that would make the Alaska Railroad responsible for developing an in-stategas line from the North Slope. In a letter to Senate Resources Co-Chair Anchorage Republican Lesil McGuire Parnell said he supports the gasline project that TransCanada and Exxon are working on under a state license.   But he also says the state should not limit its “options by picking only one path that may or may not lead to a project.”  McGuire told the Resources committee that the Railroad has the people and the ability to take over the job – and something needs to be done quickly to provide gas to the railbelt.

ConocoPhillips Chooses New President
The Associated Press
ConocoPhillips has named a new president of its Alaska operations. Trond-Erik Johansen, who currently heads the company’s southeast Asia exploration and production group in Singapore, will take over Alaska operations on April 1. Johansen’s predecessor  Jim Bowles died in an avalanche in Alaska last month. Houston-based ConocoPhillips is Alaska’s largest oil and gas producer; it’s also a major lease holder. The company’s interests also include running a liquefied natural gas facility on the Kenai Peninsula. Johansen has been with ConocoPhillips for more than 2 decades in various positions around the world.

Bill Would OK Snowmachines Along Dalton Highway
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
A bill in the state legislature would open the corridor of state land along the Dalton Highway to snow machining. A bill in the state legislature would open the corridor of state land along the Dalton Highway to snow machining. House Bill 267 would allow snow machines within a 5 mile strip along the right of way from October 1st through April 30th.  Fairbanks Game Board member Al Barrette is behind the bill. He says the Dalton was only closed to snow machining out of concern for caribou back when the road first opened to the public.

Democrats Ask About Fish-Game Job Relocating to Anchorage
Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau
Juneau lawmakers say they want a better explanation for relocating a high profile fish and game position to Anchorage. Sen. Dennis Egan and Rep. Beth Kertulla – both Democrats – have sent a letter to Commissioner Denby Lloyd asking why the wildlife conservation director has been relocated. Lloyd last week appointed Corey Rossi, who says he probably wouldn’t have taken the job if he had to move to the Capital City. Rossi has also drawn criticism for his close ties to big game hunting groups pushing for more predator control programs.

Construction Starts on VA Clinic in SE Alaska
Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
Construction has begun on the first Veterans Administration
health clinic in Southeast Alaska. Construction has begun on the first Veterans Administration health clinic in Southeast Alaska. Contractors started the work Monday on the first floor of the Juneau Federal Building.  Marcia Hoffman-DeVoe, of the Alaska Regional VA office says the Juneau clinic will offer primary care – everything from flu shots to diagnostic services – to mental health.

Legislation Calls for Comprehensive Examination of Pebble’s Plans
Mike Mason, KDLG – Dillingham
For the last few years many opponents of the proposed Pebble Mine have called for a comprehensive examination of the potential impacts of a large scale mineral extraction project in the Bristol Bay watershed. Just such an examination is in legislation introduced in the Alaska Legislature.

UAF Prof Says Asteroid Led to Dinosaurs Disappearing
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
A professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks is adding new fuel to a long-established theory on what caused the dinosaurs to go extinct. Michael Whalen is a contributing author to a study published in the journal “Science” earlier this month that argues a massive asteroid slamming into the Yucatan Peninsula eventually led to the mass extinction event. The article is in part a response to another theory- that the extinction was caused by long term volcanic activity in India.