Alaska News Nightly: June 16, 2010

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Tea Party Endorses Joe Miller for US Senate Primary
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
The national Tea Party movement has endorsed Lisa Murkowski’s opponent in the Republican Senate primary.  Fairbanks lawyer Joe Miller got the big-league endorsement Wednesday.  The “Tea Party Express” says Miller is more in-line with its conservative ideals. 

The Tea Party Express is pledging to help with funding and commercials. It also brings national attention to Miller’s candidacy. He’s only run for office once before, when he lost a Fairbanks state House race.

Public Hearing Sparks Polar Bear Debate
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage
A public hearing in Anchorage Tuesday on proposed critical habitat for the polar bear didn’t draw a big crowd. But it did set up a passionate debate on how much critical habitat the species needs. It also raised the question of whether setting aside the land and sea acreage will really make a difference for the polar bears’ survival.

Feds Approve Denali Natural Gas Pipeline Open Season Plan
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA, Anchorage
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission earlier this week gave the nod to the Denali natural gas pipeline projects’ open-season plan. The panel’s decision opens the way for backers of the joint BP – Conoco project to begin soliciting interest from shippers.  A joint House and Senate Finance Committee hearing Wednesday on the plan allowed Denali president Bud Fackrell to update state legislators on what’s in store for the project.

The Denali pipeline project competes with a similar project headed by TransCanada Corp. to bring North Slope natural gas to Lower 48 markets. TransCanada has a special license with the state under the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act.

Electricity Prices Expected to Jump in Juneau
Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
Electricity rates in the capital city could jump 24 percent. The Regulatory Commission of Alaska is considering an Alaska Electric Light and Power proposal to permanently raise rates about two cents a kilowatt hour. The RCA could take up to 15 months to decide, so in the interim, the utility company is asking for a 20 percent hike. As KTOO’s Rosemarie Alexander reports, regulatory commissioners held a consumer input hearing in Juneau Tuesday night and got an earful.

Sealaska Land-Selection Bill Could Be Changed
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
Sealaska’s controversial land-selection bill could undergo major changes soon. Amendments circulating among interest groups suggest shifts in selected timberlands and future economic-development sites. But nothing’s finalized.

Kenai River King Fishing Opened
Ben Stanton, KDLL – Kenai
Fishing for King salmon has returned to the Kenai River. And standard regulations return to the Kasilof River Thursday, lifting restrictions that were in place. But sport fishing guides in the area say even the few days of a closure hurt their business.

Number of Alaska Native Health Professionals Growing
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
A transformation is quietly taking place in rural Alaska and at Anchorage’s Native Medical campus.  More and more of the health professionals are Alaska Native.  For our series on Alaska Native Education, KSKA’s Len Anderson talked to one of the earliest–Ted Mala—who heads the Traditional Healing Clinic and Tribal Affairs office at South Central Foundation in Anchorage.