Alaska News Nightly: March 1, 2012

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Oil Processing Building Being Brought Back Online After Fire

Associated Press

A North Slope building that processes oil for shipment in the trans-Alaska pipeline was being brought back online Thursday after a fire.

BP Alaska spokesman Steve Rinehart said in an email that employees noticed a flame in an unoccupied low-pressure gas-handling building and heard a loud noise Wednesday at Prudhoe Bay Gathering Center 2. He says the fire extinguished itself, and responding crews found no apparent damage. A full inspection will be conducted.

He says no oil spill or loss of containment has been noticed.

There were no injuries, and the plant was shut down as a precaution. He says impact to production hasn’t been determined by the one-day shutdown.

Rinehart says the gathering center is one of about 12 on the North Slope that process oil for shipment.

Shell Requests Declaratory Judgment On Arctic Spill Response Plan

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

Shell Alaska has taken an unusual step in asking a federal court Wednesday for a declaratory judgment on their Arctic spill response plan that was approved by the department of Interior in February. Shell is seeking this judgment against a number of environmental and conservation groups in an effort to end run the litigation that will likely challenge the process that was used to approve their plan. Shell Alaska spokesman Curtis Smith says the company wants a judge to consider sooner rather than later the merits of the spill response plan approval process.

Smith says if a federal judge agrees to review the plan and issue a decision, it has the potential to bind future litigation in that court.

Shell’s court filing names several organizations including the Sierra Club, Green Peace and The Alaska Wilderness League.

Smith says Shell’s preemptive move does not prohibit challenges to the permits, but may limit the company’s exposure to last minute injunctions and 11th hour challenges he says, is what they want to avoid.

The petition was filed in U.S District court in Anchorage. A call to Alaska Wilderness League attorney Peter Van Tuyn was not returned by air time.

New USCG Cutter Will Be In The Arctic This Summer

Ben Matheson, KNOM – Nome

The U.S. Coast Guard will send its newest national security cutter – the 420 foot Bertholf –to the Arctic for this summer’s open water season.  That’s in addition to a buoy tender and 2 helicopters. The Guard is preparing for more traffic and anticipated offshore oil drilling through their Arctic Shield effort.    If Shell moves ahead with exploratory drilling this summer, the company expects to have 22 vessels in the region and six aircraft. They plan to fly more than 300 trips from land to the drilling rigs to ferry 400 employees around.

Rear Admiral Thomas P Ostebo, the commander of District 17 was in Nome yesterday to speak with native corporation and city leaders.

The guard is adding a temporary air base and communication station in Barrow.  They also plan to do their first ever oil spill response drill in Arctic waters. No oil will actually be spilled, but they will test their ability to deploy and operate skimming equipment.

Traffic through the Bering Strait is again expected to break records with upwards of 1000 vessels transiting the strait.  Ostebo says in preparing for Shell’s drilling program, people should step back and take a holistic view of growth in the Arctic.

Ostebo points to massive Russian tankers carrying Norwegian gas condensate that made it through the strait this past summer.

Ostebo says the country should be looking at ways to organize vessel traffic lanes and improve communication among those navigating through the area.

Ostebo was asked about anti-whaling protesters and the guard’s ability to respond if subsistence hunters are harassed.  Ostebeo says the Guard’s jurisdiction is limited beyond 12 miles offshore.  He will be sending Nome residents a legal analysis of what the guard can do in different areas.

Shell is planning on using Dutch Harbor as its logistics hub for the drilling season.  Nome’s port will see some action: the cutter Alex Haley is expected to make port calls in Nome a of couple times, along with the buoy tender.

Shell still must secure individual well permits order to go ahead with this summer’s program. If Shell is successful, Conoco Phillips and Statoil hope to drill in the next two summers.

Arguments Increase Over Tax Reform Bills

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau

Friction continues in the Capitol surrounding those “action alerts” – emailed messages inviting people to give their opinions on the Senate’s oil tax bill that’s being written this week.  The governor, the Alaska Oil and Gas Association and Chamber of Commerce all announced the teleconference hearings to encourage participation by their members and supporters.   Senate Resource Committee co-chairman Joe Paskvan  — when asked about the alerts at a press conference on Tuesday – said the public could find them misleading.  Along with his response to the emails, he said the governor’s message specifically cast doubts on the Department of Revenue.

Washington Man Beaten To Death In Unalaska

Alexandra Gutierrez, KUCB – Unalaska

A 55-year-old man was reportedly beaten to death on Tuesday night in Unalaska.

Jonathan Adams, of Washington, suffered fatal injuries after allegedly being assaulted by co-workers at a local seafood processing plant. Denison Soria, 41, and 35 year old Leonardo Bongolto, Jr., both face charges of murder in the first degree for the crime. The state has set bail for each of them at $250,000.

Father, Son Plead Guilty To Hunting Crimes

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

Two Fairbanks residents pleaded guilty Tuesday to multiple hunting crimes. The father/son duo illegally shot a moose on the same day they were airborne.

Providence Hospital Expanding Electronic ICU

Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

Providence hospital in Anchorage is expanding a system that’s helping nurses and doctors deliver better care to critically ill patients. It’s called the Electronic Intensive Care Unit, or eICU. It adds an extra layer of care for patients in the Anchorage ICU. And even allows staff in Anchorage to help treat patients in rural hospitals around the state and the Pacific Northwest.

World Ice Art Championships Underway In Fairbanks

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The World Ice Art Championships are underway in Fairbanks.  It’s the first year at a new home for the annual carving competition and kid’s fun park.  As KUAC’s Dan Bross reports, like the sculptures it’s venue for, the Ice Park is a work a progress.

Identical Twins Taking On The Iditarod Trail

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets underway this weekend. The race has had its share of unusual mushers over the years.  There have been blind mushers, one legged mushers, a musher in kilts, even three generations of one family all running in the same race.  But this year, race viewers may do a double take when identical twins Kristy and Anna Berington take to the runners.