Alaska News Nightly: August 3, 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)

Oil Spill Bill Gets Shelved
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
Alaska’s Democratic Senator Mark Begich’s decision to vote “no” on his party’s oil spill bill contributed to the legislation getting shelved on Tuesday.

The Senate Majority Leader, Nevada Democrat Harry Reid, pulled the plug on the bill he had crafted and hoped to bring to the floor this week.  Instead it will wait until after the August recess, which starts this weekend and lasts a month.

Reid blamed Republicans for not getting on board, but Senator Begich and his fellow Democrat, Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu, were also opposed.

Begich disliked the Democrats’ plan to do away with a cap on the amount of liability money oil companies are responsible for in the case of a spill.  He also disagreed with their model for revenue sharing.

But Begich said with some tweaks, he would have crossed party lines and voted for a Republican version of a spill bill.

Begich wanted the Republicans to hammer out their liability cap details to make sure taxpayers aren’t the stop-gap in a worst-case spill.

ACLU Fighting for Equal Property Tax Exemption Rights
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage
The ACLU of Alaska says the state is discriminating against same sex couples when it applies a property tax exemption for seniors and disabled veterans. The organization filed suit in Superior Court in Anchorage Tuesday to force the state to give the full exemption allowed for married couples, to same sex couples as well.

UA to Establish Emergency Response Teams Statewide
Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
The University of Alaska plans to establish emergency response teams on all campuses statewide.

A mock shooting last week on the Juneau campus of the University of Alaska Southeast was the first test of the university emergency response squad, and coordination with local police and medical professionals.

Cargo Plane Crash Victims Identified
Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks
The victims of Sunday’s cargo plane crash in Denali National Park have been identified.  They include Allwest Air Freight owner and pilot Bill Michel, of Delta Junction, and Wasilla residents John Eschleman, and Paul Quartly.

The three were killed when the Fairchild C-123 Michel was flying crashed into Mount Healy near park headquarters in good weather mid-afternoon Sunday.  Federal investigators say Michel was flying a load of construction equipment from Palmer to Unalakleet. Michel operated All West from an airfield near Delta, and as KUAC’s Tim Ellis reports, he was an experienced flyer.

DOT Will Lead Convoys Out of Eagle
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The Department of Transportation will lead convoys in and out of Eagle over a damaged stretch of the Taylor Highway.  The convoys, which will run Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week, leave Eagle at 8:00 a.m., and head back in from the Jack Wade Junction at 1:00 p.m. each afternoon.  There’s been no road access to Eagle since heavy rains caused washouts and slides along the 65 miles of road between the junction and Eagle back on July 10.  D.O.T. spokeswoman Meadow Bailey says convoys were set up in response to local requests.

Bailey says there are restrictions on the size and weight of vehicles being allowed in the convoys. No buses, motor homes, trailers, overloads or wide loads will be permitted. She says future convoys may be scheduled if necessary, but that additional contractors are being called in to beef up the force working to fix the road to Eagle.

Ferry Terminal Improvements Coming to Some Southeast Communities
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
Four Southeast communities are getting new or substantially upgraded ferry terminals in the next year or so. Some of the money is coming from the federal stimulus program.

One construction project will bring regular ferry service to one town for the first time in years.

Four Fallen Airmen Honored at Elmendorf Memorial Ceremony
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Four Airmen were remembered Monday in an emotional memorial ceremony at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage.  The four were killed in the crash of a C-17 cargo jet plane at the base last week, as it made a training run.  This week, the men posthumously received military and state honors.

Colleague Remembers Major Malone
Rex Gray – Contributor
One of the airmen who died in the crash last week – Major Aaron Malone – was also an Alaska Airlines pilot. Rex Gray was a colleague of his at the airline. He remembers Malone as a young, highly skilled pilot who had a good sense of humor. Gray attended yesterday’s memorial service and came away with these thoughts:

Rex Gray is an Alaska Airlines pilot who worked with Major Aaron Malone.