Alaska News Nightly: July 8, 2010

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Coast Guard Releases Names of Crew Members in Fatal Crash
Ed Ronco, KCAW – Sitka
The U.S. Coast Guard has released the names of the Sitka crew members aboard a helicopter that went down in the waters off La Push, Washington yesterday. The survivor of the crash is 29-year-old Lieutenant Lance Leone. He’s recovering from non-life-threatening injuries at a Seattle hospital.  Killed in Wednesday’s accident were Lieutenant Sean Krueger, Petty Officer First Class Adam Hoke, and Petty Officer Second Class Brett Banks.

Alaskans Bring Ideas to Oil Spill Commission
Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage
Last night a trickle of highly motivated Alaskans brought their ideas to Presidential Oil Spill Commission member Fran Ulmer at the first of a series of listening sessions at the University of Alaska.  Many of those commenting had experience stretching back to the Exxon Valdez spill, and they said it appears that the nation has yet to learn all the lessons from that spill, even though more than 20 years have passed.

ConocoPhillips Seeks Export Permit Extension
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
On Thursday, Legislators encouraged Southcentral residents to have a say in their future energy needs.   Seven members of the State House and Senate said ConocoPhillips needs to assure a local supply of natural gas for the region before getting an extension of its export license.   ConocoPhillips and Marathon Oil have applied for a new permit to extend the time allowed to ship 98 billion cubic feet of gas under a permit granted in 2008 – about 40 billion cubic feet remain.

While not opposing the export permit – pointing to its value to the state and region — Anchorage Democrat Bill Wielechowski said Alaska needs to make certain it takes care of its own before shipping more gas to Japan.

Enstar is Anchorage’s local natural gas utility. Under federal law, local needs must be met before export is allowed, and Wielechowski predicts that after shortages in 2011 and 2012, more than a third of the region’s needs will be unmet in 2013.

Natalie Lowman with Conoco-Phillips says as long as the LNG plant is in operation, the company will continue to meet local needs.

The application Conoco Phillips has filed with the US Department of Energy says the new permit will not provide more gas for export than was allowed under the current permit.  The company also promises to provide a back up supply for local needs.  Without the permit, there is a risk the company would cut off year-round production because of market conditions – making the export permit the key to actual expansion of supply and future energy security.

Anchorage Republican Mike Hawker sponsored the Cook Inlet Recovery Act that was signed into law following this year’s session.  He says he recognizes the potential supply problem, but says the export license is critical to avoiding a region-wide failure.   Hawker says the wells generate excess gas when they’re not meeting peak demand.

The US Energy Department will accept public comments on the export permit until August 1.

Helicopters Assist in Medical Evacuation on Mt. McKinley
Sue Deyoe, KTNA – Talkeetna
Two Chinook helicopters from Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks assisted in a medical evacuation on Mt. McKinley yesterday.  The rescue not only involved climbing rangers, and the military, but also Fairbanks area state troopers.

“Everybody Loves Whales” Casting Heads to Northwest Alaska
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
A local film production company is heading to northwest Alaska tonight to continue auditions for the Hollywood film “Everybody Loves Whales.” The film stars Drew Barrymore and tells the story of the 1988 attempt to rescue three gray whales trapped in the sea ice near Barrow. 100 percent of the movie is being shot in the state. Deborah Schildt, with Alaska Film Services, is working to cast Alaskans in 30 speaking roles. She is traveling the state to find talent and has already been to Barrow. Tonight she’s flying to Kotzebue and from there she’s heading to Nome.

Schildt says she’s had no trouble finding people interested in stardom

Anchorage-Area Wildlife Biologist Retires
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage
Anchorage’s area wildlife biologist has retired. Rick Sinnott started with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in 1982 and has held the Anchorage position for more than 15 years. It’s been a challenging job. Anchorage is the biggest city in the world that boasts a metropolitan mix of brown and black bears, moose and other unusual urban wildlife. It’s been Sinnott’s job to preserve harmony between all of the city’s residents- wild and human.

A few years ago, APRN’s Annie Feidt produced a profile of Sinnott and his unusual work life. In honor of his retirement, we pulled the story from our archives.

That story was from the APRN archives. Rick Sinnott retired as the Anchorage area biologist at the end of June.