Alaska News Nightly: April 11, 2011

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Senate Strengthens Opposition to Oil Tax Reduction
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Monday, the Senate leadership hardened its opposition to Governor Sean Parnell’s tax reduction for the oil industry.   In a speech from the floor of the Senate,  President Gary Stevens called for caution in moving the bill along – warning his fellow-members to be suspicious of those who promote fear that the TransAlaska Pipeline will be closed if the legislature doesn’t pass the tax break.

Stevens said the legislature needs information, data and cooperation from the administration and industry before deciding whether to cut taxes.  He reminded supporters of the tax bill that rushing to a conclusion will not work.

Stevens also pointed out production estimates – in legal proceedings last year – show the pipeline to be still operational until 2047,and will be viable with only a third of the production it now carries. Stevens said the TAPS line will not close – in fact, if it were not there, it would be built now.

The governor’s response came in an e-mail from Press Secretary Sharon Leighow who pointed to statements made by Conoco-Phillips CEO Jim Mulva last week that the company has $5 billion  in projects ready to go if the tax regime were changed.   Stevens asked in his speech why Mulva through his employees and lobbyists had not made the same commitment before the legislature during House hearings.

Leighow said the Senate cannot dispute that oil production is down – and that effects Alaska’s economy.

Finance Committee Releases Version of Capital Project Budget
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
The legislature at last has a capital projects budget to look at.    The Senate Finance committee released its own version of the plan this afternoon.

Committee Co-chair Bert Stedman described a substitute for the governor’s bill that was introduced at the start of the session.  He compared the plan to last year’s capital budget, which would have spent $3 billion when it passed, and ended up spending $2.75 billion after the governor vetoed parts of it.  He said the current budget spends $2.9 billion – and it saves money, too.

The committee will begin hearing details of the new bill tomorrow.

House Passes Bill Loosening Self Defense Laws
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
The State House on Saturday passed a bill that loosens the state’s “self defense” laws.   The measure by Big Lake Republican Mark Neuman says deadly force is allowed by a person who feels unsafe or threatened if he is any place he has a right to be.

Neuman said there has been a lot of misconception about the changes he wants.

Anchorage Democrat Les Gara, an attorney, argued that what Neuman wants is already covered under state law.

The Senate still has to pass the bill if it is to become law.

UCIDA Plans Lawsuit Over Latest Cook Inlet Salmon Restrictions
Aaron Selbig, KBBI – Homer
In the wake of new restrictions for the commercial salmon fishery in upper Cook Inlet, one organization is prepared to fight back against the Alaska Board of Fisheries – with a lawsuit, if necessary.

Regulation Makes Tasers Illegal When Hunting
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The State has made it illegal to use tasers on wildlife, in most circumstances, including hunting. The proposal approved by the game board late last month was put forward by Larry Lewis, a Department of Fish and Game biologist in Soldotna.  Lewis says the regulation is straight forward.

Lewis says he forwarded the proposal to stop the potential miss-use of tasers, because the devices have become more common place.   He says tasers do have role in wildlife management.  Lewis and a State Trooper successfully used one to control an angry mother moose while they freed her calves from a foundation hole.  Lewis says tasers pose less risk to animals than sedation, but he still doesn’t recommend people carry them as a defense against large animals.

Lewis says most tasers require you to be within 35 feet of the target, and you have to get the probes to stick into the animal to shock it.  Department of Fish and Game staff and others trained and permitted by the state, will be able to use tasers for wildlife management.

Sitka Sac Roe Herring Fishery Wraps Up
Ed Ronco, KCAW – Sitka
The Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery wrapped up over the weekend with an opening Saturday that pulled in 3,200 tons of the small silver fish.

The opening started at 4:10 p.m. and lasted 2 hours and 45 minutes. It was the fifth opening of the season. Preliminary numbers from all five openings show a total harvest of 19,636 tons. That’s about 150 tons over this year’s guideline harvest limit.

Dave Gordon is the area management biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game.

On Sunday, about eight nautical miles of active spawn were seen in Sitka Sound, along with another 0.7 nautical miles in the Goddard area. The total cumulative spawn is about 18 nautical miles.

Updates will continue to be posted on the herring hotline, at 747-1009.

Herring Fishery Focus of New Reality Show
Ed Ronco, KCAW – Sitka
Sitka’s herring fishery has long been the focus of documentaries and nature TV specials. Now, the fishery is slated to be the subject of a TV reality show.

Fish and Game Opens Herring Sac Roe Fishery Near Ketchikan
Deanna Garrison, KRBD – Ketchikan
For the first time in 35 years, the State Department of Fish and Game today opened a commercial herring sac roe fishery in West Behm Canal near Ketchikan. The commercial gillnet fishery opened at 10:30 a.m., but as of Monday afternoon no boats were fishing.

TSA Issues Mail Waiver for Adak
Jacob Resneck, KMXT – Kodiak
The mail is again flowing to the island community of Adak after an apparent dispute between Alaska Airlines and the Transportation Security Administration caused the airline to suspend carrying larger parcels on its passenger flights.

In most cases parcels have been rerouted on other airlines. But Adak’s only scheduled connection is a twice-weekly Alaska Airlines flights that is subsidized by the federal government.

People in Adak were informed April 1st that priority parcels greater than 16 ounces could no longer be delivered; this was a concern as prescription medication is often shipped priority and alternatives are more expensive.

U.S. Senators. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich intervened last week.

Murkowski that Alaska Airlines has been out of compliance with a new TSA requirement.

Both senators say they have been given assurances that a temporary waiver for Adak has been issued.

State Looking at Further Dust Measures
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The state is looking at whether additional measures are needed to keep dust out of the air.  The fine particulate matter is typically blown up from road surfaces during dry windy weather, but that there are also issues with sand blasting, material transport and storage. Department of Environmental Conservation permit manager Tom Turner says dust is becoming a bigger issue as the state’s urbanized areas grow.

Coal ash is of special concern because it contains toxic heavy metals scrubbed from power plant emissions.  The ash is considered inert and not a threat to leach into water and soil, but many tons of it are produced daily at Fairbanks area power plants.

‘ANCSA at 40’ Committee Describes Far Reaching Effects of Law
Joaqlin Estus, KNBA – Anchorage
Friday, the “ANCSA at 40” committee hosted a panel on the Transalaska Pipeline and the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, or ANCSA. They described the far-reaching effects of the law, and how it didn’t live up to everyone’s expectations.