Alaska News Nightly: November 4, 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.

Download Audio

Woman, Two Children Die in Car Accident Near Long Lake

Tony Gorman, KCHU – Valdez

Alaska State Troopers have confirmed that a woman and her two children died when a car ran off the Glenn Highway north of Palmer and ended up in a pond next to Long Lake.

Chenault Pushes to Increase Profile of In-State Gas Line

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau

House Speaker Mike Chenault is calling for the House and Senate to increase the profile of an in-state natural gas line dedicated to providing energy to Alaskans.

In 2010, Chenault sponsored a bill setting up the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation – or AGDC. Friday, he said that it’s time for the work of that group to be expanded.

Chenault says the project to build a gas line through Canada for North American Markets – known as AGIA – appears to be stalled.  And Governor Parnell has only just recently called for more consideration of a line that would provide liquefied national gas for export to Pacific Rim countries.  Either of those projects would have provided access to gas for use in Alaska.

“I don’t want to call it a backup line because I think it might be the only viable option we have to bring gas to the citizens of Alaska.  Some people might call it a backup line, they might call it a Plan B,    But I think the project is moving forward.  And at the end of the day,  this might be the only project that is viable that actually pencils out that we can build,” Chenault said.

Chenault says there are three House bills in the Senate right now relating to the in-state gas line.  And he is working on a fourth measure to introduce next year.  That bill currently under discussion would allow AGDC to take steps to determine ownership of the line, avoid some technical requirements of the Regulatory Commission, and speed up the right of way process.   Anchorage Republican Mike Hawker, who has been working with Chenault on the plans, says there is nothing yet fixed in the project or in the legislation they will introduce.

“I know everything we’ve been working on is about removing government impediments to letting the marketplace, letting commercial interests work to bring together a project that actually gets the gas to consumers.  We’re not doing anything here that dictates any kind of organization, any kind of final structure, any kind of ownership structure.  But we want to remove impediments to letting the market determine those things as a market most effectively and efficiently can,” Hawker said.

The House bills that Chenault says are in the Senate all passed near the end of the session and are waiting for hearings in various committees.   One would establish a set-aside fund to cover the expenses of AGDC.  Another would exempt some of the Corporation’s work from the Public Records Act.  And the final one would limit judicial review for the pipeline’s right of way or construction of a project.

The bill Chenault and Hawker are working on is expected to be ready for introduction at the start of next year’s session.

UAF Nome Campus Director Resigns Amid Pot Charges

Laureli Kinneen, KNOM – Nome

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Northwest Campus in Nome now has an interim director. Last Friday, Lee Haugen resigned and later this month, she will go to court, having admitted to sending marijuana to herself back in October.

Court Upholds Cynthia Lord’s Murder Convictions

Associated Press

The Alaska appeals court has upheld the murder convictions against an Anchorage woman in the death of her three sons.

Cynthia Lord was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder in the 2004 shooting deaths of sons Christopher, Michael and Joseph. A judge in the non-jury trial found her guilty but mentally ill. Lord’s attorney argued she was not guilty by reason of insanity, and in her appeal said Judge Philip Volland erred in his verdict.

The Legislature in the early 1980s limited the circumstances under which a defendant could be acquitted using an insanity defense.

Lord also argued state laws related to the defense of insanity are unconstitutional.

Friday, the appeals court said Volland’s findings are supported by the case record, and it upheld the constitutionality of the laws.

Dropping of State’s Militia Charges Raises Questions

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

It’s been a week since the state dropped charges against members of Fairbanks militia group accused of plotting against the government.  The failed prosecution has raised questions about what went wrong in the joint federal state investigation. As KUAC’s Dan Bross reports the collapse of the state’s case revolved around search warrants and secret recordings.

Fairbanks to Stay Involved in Redistricting Case

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The legal saga involving the Fairbanks North Star Borough’s involvement in the case challenging the state’s new redistricting plan continues.  Thursday, State Superior Court Judge Michael McConahy allowed the borough to drop its claim in the multi party challenge. The borough petitioned the court to dismiss following an assembly vote to get out last month, when panel members cited concern about mounting legal costs.

The borough still believes in the case, which challenges the inclusion of some Fairbanks residents in rural voting districts. The borough will remain involved as a friend of the court, and possibly spend more money with two local voters, who are the only remaining official complainants challenging the state redistricting board plan.

The redistricting case is scheduled for trial in January.

‘SOS’ Initiative Heading Back to Court

Daysha Eaton, KDLG – Dillingham

The ‘Save Our Salmon’ Initiative is back in court Monday. Lake and Peninsula Borough voters passed the Initiative, which aims to stop the development of the Pebble Mine, by a narrow margin last month. Now a judge will hold a hearing on whether the ordinance is constitutional.     KDLG’s Daysha Eaton has this review of what’s happened with the initiative and what will be next.

AK: Caring for Elders

Shaleece Haas, APRN  Contributor

This week on AK: caring for elders in remote villages.

For Native elders who grew up in rural Alaska, the desire to die at home runs deep.

But taking care of elders in rugged and isolated villages is a complicated task. And for many, aging in place is not an option.

Reporter Shaleece Haas traveled to Eagle on the Upper Yukon to find out what’s at stake for Native elders in need of long-term care.

This story was produced with support from the MetLife Foundation Journalism in Aging Fellowship, a program of New America Media and the Gerontological Society of America.

300 Villages: Aniak

This week, we’re going to Aniak, on the Kuskokwim River. Our tour guide is Gwendolyn Brock, the preschool teacher in town. She’s lived there 32 years with her husband, Thomas, who is the kindergarten teacher and the mayor.