Alaska News Nightly: December 27, 2011

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Judge Releases BP From Probation For 2009 Spill

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

A federal judge today sided with BP Exploration in a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Government alleging two probation violations stemming from a 2009 oil spill.  The Government alleged that BP violated conditions of probation stemming from a 2007 Clean Water act violation, after an oil line froze and split resulting in the spill. In his decision, Judge Ralph Beistline found that BP could not have known the pipe would freeze and break and acted responsibly in addressing and cleaning up the spill once it was discovered.

Beistline released BP from probation, but did have strong words at the end of his order, saying if a similar situation should occur in the future he would see the situation differently. He wrote “BP is now clearly on notice of the potential that a freeze up could occur within an 18 inch common line that is part of a looped line system and that a freeze up could cause the pipe to burst. It is incumbent upon BP to make sure this does not happen again.”

A BP spokesman says the company is pleased with the decision. A call to the U.S Attorney’s office was not returned by air time.

Man Faces Four Charges For Injecting Teen With Heroin

Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage

A man who injected an Anchorage teenager with heroin before Christmas now faces four charges and $90,000 bail.  Meanwhile the 14-year-old girl remains in a city hospital.

Tanacross Man Dies in Snowmachine Accident

Associated Press

Alaska State Troopers say a 42-year-old Tanacross man has died in a snowmachine accident.

Troopers identified the victim of Monday’] accident as Karl L. Martin Jr.

Troopers responded to Tanacross, about 12 miles northwest of Tok, after receiving a 911 call.

They say Martin lost control of his snowmachine and hit a telephone pole.

Part One: Health Care In Alaska

Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

Alaska’s Health Care costs are among the highest in the world. And the state chartered Alaska Health Care Commission has spent the last year trying to figure out why. It’s a complicated problem and finding answers is not easy. But a lot of dedicated people from all aspects of the industry are giving it a try. APRN’s Annie Feidt has this first report in a series on the high cost of health care in the state.

ACS Lowers Annual Shareholder Dividend By 77 Percent

Associated Press

Anchorage-based Alaska Communications Systems or ACS has lowered its annual dividend to shareholders by 77 percent.

The telecommunications company says that will make the annual dividend 20 cents per share. That compares with the prior level of 86 cents per share.

The company says for the year, this will let it keep $29.8 million in cash. Spokeswoman Heather Cavanaugh says the company expects a decline in federal support for a program that helps telecommunications firms in high-cost areas provide affordable service. It’s also preparing for Verizon’s entrance into the Alaska market and wants to pay down debt.

RuralCap Working On Rural Energy Saving Upgrades

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

RuralCap, an  organization which advocates for services for rural villages, has taken on the work of energy saving upgrades for many of Alaska’s most remote communities.

Kent Banks, a coordinator with the Energywise program for RuralCap in Anchorage, says the program has helped some of Alaska’s most economically strapped residents save on energy costs.   Currently the program is operating with funds from NANA Regional Corporation.

Banks says the program is aimed at creating an awareness among rural homeowners on how and where energy is wasted.   Energywise trained crews visit with residents to find out  where “vampire power” is sucking up energy.. and raising costs.. in both old and new appliances.

Banks says about 20 percent of utility energy costs to the homeowner can be saved by going through the Energywise proram.

Most rural villages have diesel powered electrical generation facilities.

The Energywise program creates jobs, too. Energy workers, such as the ones brought into Kotzebue by NANA, are paid.  A crew leader is hired and trained from each village.  Crew leaders return to their own villages and hire energy workers locally, who are in turn trained in energy assessment work.

Banks says information on energy loss coming back from the villages will be put into a database. One of the big energy wasting culprits.

NANA is funding the program for all villages in its region.  Banks says other Alaska Native regional corporations have expressed interest in helping with the program.

‘Community Asset Building Initiative’ Gets $2 Million For Expansion

Daysha Eaton, KDLG – Dillingham

The Rasmuson Foundation is contributing $2 million to expand their ‘Community Asset Building Initiative’ over the next three years. It’s an opportunity for communities to develop their own philanthropic organizations.

Northern Southeast’s Sea Otter Population Growing Slower Than Southern Region

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

New research shows northern Southeast Alaska’s sea otter population is growing slower than in the southern part of the region. But it’s still expanding, which continues to worry fishermen and divers.

Year In Review: Juneau, Dillingham and Fairbanks

Matt Miller, KTOO – Juneau

Daysha Eaton, KDLG – Dillingham

Lori Nuefeld, KUAC – Fairbanks

This week we’re taking a look back at some of the important, and favorite stories from 2011 from APRN and our member station reporters from across the state. Tonight we’ll start in Juneau.