Alaska News Nightly: May 17, 2011

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Officials Cite Lack of Customer Commitments for Denali Project Abandonment
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage
BP and Conoco Phillips are abandoning their joint effort to build a gas pipeline from Alaska’s North Slope to the Lower 48. Officials with the Denali Project announced this morning they did not get the customer commitments needed to continue the pipeline work. The state sponsored project led by TransCanada is still working on its plan to build a pipeline.

Interior Secretary Pushing for Quicker Oil Lease Development
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar pushed Tuesday for new laws that would encourage energy companies to develop oil leases more quickly, and yet at the same time put in place more safety and environmental protections in the drilling process.

The Secretary called on the Senate Energy Committee to shorten the amount of time companies have to start drilling on public lands, which is now a decade.  He also wants to charge fees on companies sitting on leases and not producing.  Salazar says 41 million acres are leased for oil and gas, but only 12 million acres are currently in development.

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, the top Republican on the Energy Committee, asked the Secretary if companies should get more time in Alaska, where some, like Shell, have been waiting years for permits to come through.

Salazar came out against a bill that passed the U.S. House last week which says if the Obama Administration doesn’t decide whether to approve an offshore drilling application in 30 days, it’s automatically green-lighted.  Salazar says that’s not enough time, and he wants 90 days, with the option to expand to twice that if there are lingering questions.

Counterfeiters Have Unalaska Clerks Double Checking Cash
Alexandra Gutierrez, KUCB – Unalaska
In Unalaska, bartenders, grocery clerks, and gas station attendants are all looking at their customer’s money a little more closely.

Government Changes Unclear Once Coastal Management Program Ends
Ed Ronco, KCAW – Sitka
The legislature’s failure to reauthorize the Alaska Coastal Management Program means big changes for local governments once the program ends on June 30.  But exactly what those changes will be is still unclear.

Chickaloon Files Suit Against Usibelli, Electric Power Development
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Chickaloon Native Village is taking its concerns about local coal exploration to an international audience.   Penny Westing, with the Chickaloon Village Traditional Council says the CVTC has filed a suit against Usibelli Coal Mine, Inc. and Electric Power Development, with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.  OECD is an international organization established after World War 2 with a current membership of 34 nations.

OECD promotes sustainable development and ethical practices in the activities of its members’ corporations.  OEDC’s guidelines for multi national companies established basic rules for responsible corporate conduct.

CVTC’s complaint is aimed at Usibelli’s coal exploration activity at Wishbone Hill near Sutton.  Westing says the exploration permits were based on out of date information.

Usibelli spokeswoman Lorali Carter says the company’s exploratory work has been permitted for years and is aimed largely at protecting local Moose Creek.

The Chickaloon tribe has invested one million dollars and thousands of man hours in a successful effort to restore salmon habitat in Moose Creek.

Conservation Group Adds Two Bristol Bay Rivers to Endangered List
Daysha Eaton, KDLG – Dillingham
Activists opposed to Pebble Mine delivered a one-two punch to the proposed  project Tuesday when a national conservation group added two Bristol Bay rivers to the top of their list of endangered rivers.

Mat-Su Assembly Passes Budget
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
The Matanuska Susitna Borough Assembly passed the Borough’s fiscal year budget last Monday night without raising the mill rate.   Assembly woman Cindy Bettine says the spending plan met approval around 10:30 pm.

Borough mayor Larry DeVilbiss had called for more than two million dollars in cuts to the $378.9 million budget.  The final budget figure was more like $375.4 million. That represents about $5 million for tax relief, according to Borough spokeswoman Patti Sullivan.

Assembly woman Bettine says the new budget keeps all the road service areas, and has funded an increase in highway safety personnel

The Asssembly’s move came more quickly than anticipated. Mayor DeVilbiss has until the first regularly scheduled Assembly meeting to veto the budget.  That meeting is Tuesday night.  DeVilbss was not available for comment on Tuesday.

Fish and Game Prepares for Annual Fish Count
Aaron Selbig, KBBI – Homer
It won’t be long before early-run king salmon begin making their way up Kenai Peninsula rivers and the Alaska Department Of Fish and Game is getting ready to conduct their annual fish count. KBBI’s Aaron Selbig tagged along last week as workers installed SONAR equipment on the Anchor River for just that purpose.

Aces Head to Michigan for Kelly Cup Finals
Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage
The Alaska Aces are two games away from defeating the Kalamazoo Wings and taking home the Kelly Cup – the Stanley Cup of the East Coast Hockey League.

After winning the first two games at the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage, the Aces are traveling to Michigan in hopes of finishing off the series.

The Aces shut out the Wings 5-0 on Saturday and earned a 3-2 overtime victory on Sunday.

GCI will broadcast the games live on Channel 1. Wednesday’s game starts at 3:00 p.m. and Friday’s will air at 3:30 p.m.

If necessary, game five will broadcast at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.