Alaska News Nightly: October 28, 2010

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North Slope Borough Announces Agreement With Shell Oil
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
The North Slope Borough has announced an agreement with Shell Oil that could ease the way for Arctic oil development. The plan calls for a long term scientific research agreement between the two entities.

North Slope Bids Dominated by Great Bear Petroleum
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
The state received approximately $9.5 million in bonus bids for its competitive oil and gas lease sales in the Beaufort Sea and North Slope on Wednesday.   North Slope bids on 129 tracts brought in close to $9 million in bonus bids.  21 Beaufort Sea tracts brought in more than $702,000 in bonus bids.

The North Slope sale was dominated by Great Bear Petroleum, a new player in Alaska.  The company won all of the 105 tracts it bid on.

“We’re pleased to see that there’s continued industry interest in the exploration potential of the North Slope ,” Kevin Banks, director of the division of oil and gas, said.

Democrats Take Write-In Case to Supreme Court
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
The Alaska Democratic Party is taking its fight with the state division of elections to the Alaska Supreme Court.

The Democrats filed suit this week against the state and elections division director Gail Fenumiai for allowing lists of write-in candidates to be viewed on request at early voting polling places.

The Republican Party of Alaska joined the suit with the Democrats, and the Lisa Murkowski campaign joined the suit on the side of the state.  A lower court ruled the lists at polling places a violation of the state’s election laws.  The state then appealed the matter to the Supreme Court.

The state’s highest court decided late Wednesday to stay a Superior Court decision that would have blocked the lists from being available to voters wanting assistance on a write in vote.

The Supreme Court gave the plaintiffs until Wednesday to file a response.  The Democrats filed for a review of the Superior Court decision late this afternoon.

Patti Higgins is chair of the Alaska Democratic Party.  She says the party will continue to fight against having the lists at polling places.

Plaintiffs in the case say the lists give write in candidate Lisa Murkowski an unfair advantage.

The state has filed for expedited review of the case, and has asked the Supreme Court justices to hear the case before the close of business on Friday.

Election Officials Mail More than 30,000 Absentee Ballots
Associated Press
Alaska election officials mailed more than 30,000 absentee ballots to voters for next week’s election.

This surpasses the roughly 26,460 absentee ballots mailed for the 2006 general election.

The state Division of Elections also reports faxing about 860 ballots. The deadline to receive application by fax is Monday.

Absentee ballots could play a major role in the hotly contested U.S. Senate race.

They did in the August GOP primary, which was too close to call on election night. After the first big batch of absentee ballots was counted a week later, Sen. Lisa Murkowski conceded the race to Joe Miller.

Murkowski is running in the general election as a write-in candidate.

U.S. House Candidates Meet in Debate for the State
Ed Ronco, KCAW – Sitka
Wednesday’s Debate for the State series kicked off on Alaska public broadcasting stations with the candidates for U.S. House.  The hour-long debate saw some agreement between Republican Congressman Don Young and Democratic state Representative Harry Crawford, but also plenty of areas where their positions couldn’t have been more different.

Senate Candidates Discuss Lesser-Known Issues
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The three front-running candidates in Alaska’s contentious U.S. Senate race also answered questions during last night’s debate.  Democrat Scott McAdams, and Republicans Joe Miller and Lisa Murkowski covered well-worn campaign issues like natural resource development and health care but as KUAC’s Dan Bross reports, also provided perspectives on issues that haven’t received as much press.

Former Fairbanks Accountant Pleads Guilty of Embezzlement
Associated Press
The former district accounting supervisor at the Fairbanks courthouse has pleaded guilty to embezzling $237,000 worth of bail money.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported that 39-year-old Katherine L. Turner pleaded guilty Tuesday to a single count of first-degree theft, a class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

A judge will decide the sentence at a hearing scheduled for Feb. 25.

Turner worked at the courthouse for 11 years until the area court administrator discovered accounting irregularities last July that showed bail money being deposited weeks or months late.

VPSOs Converge on Bethel for Training
Shane Iverson, KYUK – Bethel
Peace officers from small communities all over Alaska were in Bethel for an intense two weeks of training. Village Police and Public Safety Officers often work alone. Leaders of the training say it will give them the skills they need to keep their village, and themselves, safe.

Scientists, Hunters Receive Conservation Award for Tracking Whales
Adam Kane, KDLG – Dillingham
An international group of scientists and traditional native hunters have received a special conservation award for work done in tracking whales in the Arctic region and the Bering Sea.