Alaska News Nightly: February 2, 2011

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Man Files Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Against Former Boy Scout Leader
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage
An Anchorage man filed a lawsuit today alleging he was sexually abused by his former Boy Scout leader. The plaintiff, identified only as Barry Doe, says volunteer scout leader Dean Wendall You molested him in the 1970’s. You is a registered sex offender in Alaska. The plantiff’s lawyers are Ken Roosa and Kelly Clark, both well known for their work prosecuting sex abuse cases against the Catholic Church. Roosa says the abuse took place when his client was 10 or 11 years old.

Clark was lead counsel in a trial last year in Portland that resulted in a $20 million verdict against the Boy Scouts of America.  Clark says the facts in this case will be largely the same.

Clark says there have been child sex abuse cases against the Boy Scouts for decades, but they have not had a very high profile. He calls the Portland trial the “watershed case,” because it’s the first time the so called “perversion files” were made public. He says it was a system the organization used for keeping track of bad scout leaders. The perversion files included information on leaders who were gay or child molesters.

During and after the seven week trial, Clark says his office received over 600 calls from people who told stories of being abused as kids by the Boy Scouts. He says the lawsuit filed in Anchorage today is the result of one of those calls. Attorney Ken Roosa says the abuse claims against the Boy Scouts have a lot in common with those against the Catholic Church.

The Great Alaska Council of the Boy Scouts released a statement this afternoon saying they couldn’t comment on the litigation. But the statement goes on to say “Youth protection has always been of paramount importance to the Boy Scouts of America, and we continue to enhance our youth protection programs.”

State Awards Grants to Build Violence-Free Communities
Angela Denning-Barnes, KYUK – Bethel
The State of Alaska has awarded four grants to build violence-free communities in rural areas. The awards were presented Friday to Dillingham, the Association of Village Council Presidents, Kodiak, and Sitka. They range from $200,000 to over $370,000.

Former Sitka Teacher Opts to Remain in Cairo
Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka
A former Sitka math teacher and his family have chosen to remain in their home in Cairo, despite a frightening night as political protest spilled into the suburbs over the weekend.

Dan Langbauer lives with his wife, Sandra, and son Seth in Maadi about 12 kilometers from Tahrir Square. Langbauer is in his third year teaching math at Cairo American College, a K-12 international school.

Prior to moving to Cairo, Langbauer taught for many years at Sitka High School. KCAW’s Robert Woolsey was able to connect with him this morning after the Egyptian government restored internet service. Thanks to the generosity and support of his Egyptian neighbors, Langbauer has felt safe as the political unrest has grown, except for a few harrowing hours when armed men entered his Maadi neighborhood.

New Bill Encourages Independent Oil Exploration
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
A bill introduced Wednesday morning in the state House would give independent oil exploration companies more direct access to the facilities they need to ship their oil through the TransAlaska Pipeline system.   Those facilities are covered by Unit Agreements and are controlled by the existing producers.

Sponsor David Guttenberg says the goal is to get more companies producing more oil on the North Slope.  His bill would let those pre-shipment facilities be controlled as a utility by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska.

“RCA will determine what needs to be done to get facilities access, whether it’s taking gas out of oil or water out of oil or whether they need to expand an existing facility and who needs to pay for that,” Guttenberg said. “Is it rolled in rates or is the new developer responsible for all of it?   Is there displaced oil?  There are lots of questions.”

“To get into the finite of the minutia of it would be something I think only the governor can do of the RCA can do because they have the agencies at their beck and call. We want to tell them this is one of the ways that will get us more oil.”

Guttenberg says there are plenty of tax incentives available to those already producing oil, but those are meaningless to new producers who cannot ship their resource.   He sees the most effective solution to declining production is to have more companies at work in existing fields that are now closed to them.

Opposition to the idea is developing.   Anchorage Republican Mike Hawker – who has introduced a bill offering the oil industry lower taxes – says legislators have considered and rejected such regulation within the past few years.

“I don’t know where one can point at any proven reserve of oil that has not been produced on the account of not having access to these facilities that this bill proposed to regulate,” Hawker said. “It’s a solution looking for a problem.”

Guttenberg acknowledges that smaller companies have gained access to the Pipeline through “partnership” arrangements by offering to share profits with the larger, existing producers.  However, he says more companies have kept away from Alaska because of the absence of being able to get their product to market.

“When you realize why that doesn’t happen, you realize you need to have a regulatory process in place that allows them to have that access, and you have to give the owners of those facilities a reasonable return on their investment,” Guttenberg said. “But I think that is clearly one of the biggest obstacles I can see that’s in the way.”

Hawker points out that ancillary facilities are included in the state’s incentives for both their construction and their operations.

The bill was referred to the Labor and Commerce Committee, but it hasn’t been scheduled for hearing.

North Slope Voters Approve Bond Financing New Gas Wells
Jake Neher, KBRW – Barrow
North Slope Borough officials are moving forward with a plan to drill six new wells in the Barrow gas fields. North Slope voters approved a $35-million bond proposal Tuesday, allowing the Borough to finance the project.

Jury Reviews Arrant’s Letters to Waterman
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Cross examination of witnesses continued Wednesday in the state’s trial against Rachelle Waterman.   Alaska State Trooper Sergeant Randel McPherron was questioned by Waterman’s defense attorney Steven Wells.  Wells read highlighted portions of letters from convicted murderer Jason Arrant to Rachelle Waterman in the weeks before the abduction and murder of her mother, Lauri Waterman.

The letters, which have been submitted as evidence, indicate Jason Arrant’s passionate feelings for Rachelle Waterman.

Defense attorney Wells is trying to portray Arrant as an emotionally imbalanced older man who manipulated a much younger girl into a murder plot.  Rachelle Waterman was 16 when her mother was murdered, Arrant was 24.  Arrant has been convicted of the murder of Lauri Waterman, a crime which he planned along with Brian Radel, who is also serving time for the murder. But it is not clear if Rachelle Waterman returned Arrant’s ardor.  Wells questioned McPherron about sex as a motive for murder.

Prosecutors say Rachelle Waterman had knowledge of the murder plot, and did nothing to alert authorities to stop it.  Attorneys for both sides in the case are expected to finish their arguments by Friday afternoon.

Miller’s Future Remains Undecided
Associated Press
Failed U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller ended 2010 with about $825,000 in the bank – more than twice that of his Republican rival, Sen. Lisa Murkowski.Federal financial disclosures show Murkowski had about 321-thousand dollars. Miller has not said whether he’ll seek another political office, possibly challenging Alaska Democratic Senator Mark Begich in 2014 or Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young in 2012. Miller has said he wants to remain a part of the political debate. An aide said Monday that Miller hadn’t decided his future plans.

Ambler Man Convicted of Manslaughter
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
A Kotzebue jury convicted an Ambler man Tuesday of manslaughter for the death of an Anchorage pediatrician. 22-year-old Patrick Tickett was snowmachining in November 2008 when he slammed into a dog sled doctor Roger Gollub was driving. The owner of the dog team, Tracey Schaeffer was sitting in the sled at the time. She was severely injured.

Alex Demarban covered the closing arguments in the case yesterday for the Arctic Sounder. He says Gollub had always wanted to try dog sledding.

NANA Partnering with Ruralcap for Energy Wise Program
Susan Bucknell, KOTZ – Kotzebue
Kotzebue-based NANA Regional Corporation announced Monday it will be partnering with Ruralcap to bring Ruralcap’s Energy Wise program to the NANA region. NANA is contributing $860,000 to roll out the three-phase project.