Alaska News Nightly: June 24, 2010

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Palin to Return Legal Defense Fund Donations
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Former Governor Sarah Palin has agreed to return all of the donations to her legal defense fund that were paid into it while she was still governor. The settlement agreement was announced today in Anchorage. Palin will return $387,000 that was collected while she was still governor. The complaint was filed in April 2009, soon after the Alaska Fund Trust was set up by Palin seeking donations to help her pay legal fees to fight the numerous other ethics complaints that had been filed against her.

Petumenos says another troubling aspect was the Trustee who managed the fund. Kristan Cole was a public official who had been appointed by Palin to various boards and positions. This was problematic because Cole had authority to name other beneficiaries, which could have included other public officials. Petumenos says there is no evidence of attempts at influencing other public figures, but he says the law requires a reasoned decision under the Ethics Act.

Case Against Weyhrauch Takes Major Hit
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
The government’s case against former state legislator Bruce Weyhrauch took a major hit today with a Supreme Court decision.  It vacated a lower court ruling that said Weyhrauch can be tried for “honest services fraud,” and has sent the case back to the Court of Appeals.

FAA Launching Satellite-Based Radar System
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage
GPS may be standard these days in cars and cell phones. But the aviation industry still largely relies on outdated radar technology. Alaska is one of the first sites in the nation to change that.  The Federal Aviation Administration announced today air traffic control is officially launching the satellite-based system in the state, after a long testing period.

CDC Keeps Tabs on Bacterial Invaders
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Alaska is home to some unusual bacteria, and, when conditions are right, the little bugs can sometimes cause flare-ups of unusual maladies. The Federal Center for Disease Control research facility in Anchorage keeps tabs on known, and sometimes little known, invaders.

ANGDA Drops Beluga to Fairbanks Natural Gas Line Project
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority is backing away from the Beluga to Fairbanks gas line pipeline project it’s been pursuing for the last year and a half. The ANGDA Board, meeting yesterday in Fairbanks, voted to stop work.

The decision to drop the B2F project reflects the state legislature’s creating and funding a new group charged with developing a plan for an in-state North Slope to Fairbanks and South-Central gas line by next summer.

Kenai Peninsula Residents Install Electric Fences for Bear Protection
Ben Stanton, KDLL – Kenai
A new program will help property owners on the Kenai Peninsula install electric fences to keep bears from getting into chicken coops and other attractants.  The program is funded through the federal agency Natural Resources Conservation Service, a division of the US Department of Agriculture.