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Alaska News Nightly: September 6, 2011

September 6, 2011

Individual news stories are posted in the Alaska News category and you can subscribe to APRN’s news feeds via email, podcast and RSS.

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Legislators Investigate North Slope Employment Report Discrepancy

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau

Tuesday, legislators began looking at the discrepancy between Department of Labor reports of high employment on the North Slope and high unemployment among Alaskans qualified to work there.

Kara Moriarty, the Deputy Director of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, an industry support group, presented the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee with an early release of a study done by the McDowell Group indicating there had been little change in the ratio between resident and non-resident employees. She said the study shows that jobs usually rise and fall together. However, she pointed to numbers indicating the state’s entire economy relies on non-resident employees.

“Statewide, 22 percent of the private workforce was defined as non-resident in 2009.  Sectors with higher non-resident participation include seafood processing, scenic and sightseeing transportation, accommodation and metal-mining.  Non-resident hire is part of what allows the Alaska economy to grow, which in turn generates greater opportunities for residents,” Moriarty said.

The McDowell Group that prepared the Association’s study is now working on a more-detailed study of the North Slope workforce for the Senate Finance Committee.

Fairbanks Senator Joe Thomas cited the classification of a resident as a person who qualifies for a Permanent Fund Dividend.  He said that allows a non-resident to accept a job in Alaska and – in future years – to be qualified as a resident.

“It seems to me that is the crux of the problem.  What are we not doing to create the skill-set that would allow residents to be hired rather than. Because theoretically if you carry that out, we could at some point in time have a hundred percent of the people working on the North Slope that were at one time non-residents, and none of them, prior to receiving their jobs, had been an Alaska resident,” Thomas said.

The committee will hear from the public tonight in Fairbanks and will hold another set of hearings in Anchorage on Thursday. Governor Parnell has used low employment as a reason for promoting tax cuts to the oil industry. That issue will be back before the legislature in next year’s session.

Parnell, Tuesday afternoon, send an e-mail message to his supporters reminding them of his position on the issue and asked them to participate in the committee hearings.

Bokan Part 1: UCore Eyes Mine on Prince of Wales

Deanna Garrison, KRBD – Ketchikan

With rare earth prices skyrocketing, a Canadian company has rolled out an aggressive schedule to begin mining the coveted minerals on Prince of Wales Island within four years.

Cleveland Volcano Alert Level Raised

Associated Press

The lava dome at a remote Alaska volcano has resumed growing, prompting officials to raise its alert level.

The dome now fills the floor of the crater at Cleveland Volcano, 940 miles southwest of Anchorage.

The Alaska Volcano Observatory Tuesday raised the volcano’s alert level to watch status.

The dome is now about 394 feet in diameter.

Officials say if that continues, lava flows could start on the flanks of the volcano. The growing dome also increases the possibility – but doesn’t ensure – an explosive eruption.

Postal Service Might Lose $10 Billion This Fiscal Year

Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC

Tuesday, the U.S. Postal Service warned Congress it could lose $10 billion in the fiscal year that ends this month. That puts the Postal Service in danger of defaulting as it reaches its borrowing limit.  The Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe is asking Congress to let it break union contracts to fire employees, change retirees’ health benefits, and end mail delivery on Saturdays.

He testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, where Alaska Senator Mark Begich questioned the plan to cut Saturday service.

Begich says he’s especially concerned about very small businesses, those with 15 employees and fewer. Post Master General Donahoe says of all the possible places to cut, Saturday service makes the most sense.

Senator Begich’s office said after Tuesday’s hearing that he remains concerned about the impacts of cuts on rural Alaska.

Thousands of post offices throughout the country are being studied for closure, but Alaskans got the news last month that 25 of its 36 post offices being considered for shuttering are safe for now. Senator Begich said that news came in a meeting with Postal Service officials and rural community groups concerned about the harm closures in remote communities could bring. 11 Alaskan post offices are still being eyed for closure.  Exactly which ones are being spared remains to be seen – release of the list was delayed because postal officials said they had

to focus on problems in the wake of Hurricane Irene on the East Coast, but that was more than a week ago and the Alaska Congressional delegation hopes to receive the list soon.

New Autism School Slated to Open Next Year

Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage

About 480 Anchorage School District students are currently certified as autistic or having asperger syndrome. Most take the programs offered within the district.  But next year, a few parents could choose a new alternative.

Fort Wainwright Soldier Dies in IED Attack

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

A Ft. Wainwright based soldier has died of injuries suffered in an IED. attack in Afghanistan.  An Army statement says Specialist Christophe J. Marquis of Tampa Florida was guarding an entry when a vehicle carrying an improvised explosive device blew up.  The incident happened Aug. 27 in Kandahar province.  Marquis died Sunday at an Army Hospital in Germany.  He was 40-years old.  Marquis joined the Army in 2010 and arrived in Alaska last winter. He’s the 11th Ft. Wainwright soldier killed in Afghanistan since the 4,000 member First Stryker Brigade deployed in April.

Military Revises Training Airspace Proposals

Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks

Military officials have revised a set of proposals to expand airspace used for training exercises and lengthen the time those exercises take place in several areas around the Interior.
OCS Says No Plan to Cut Petersburg Social Worker

Matt Lichtenstein, KFSK – Petersburg

The Alaska Office of Children’s Services is regionalizing its call-in process for reports of child abuse and neglect. That’s prompted concerns among child welfare advocates in Petersburg who fear it’s part of an effort to shut down the local field office. The agency says that’s not the case.

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