Alaska News Nightly: January 11, 2013

Individual news stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via emailpodcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at and on Twitter @aprn.

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Judge Vacates Polar Bear Habitat Designation

The Associated Press

A federal judge in Alaska has set aside a plan designating more than 187,000 square miles as habitat for threatened polar bears.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline said in a written order that the purpose behind the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designation was admirable, because it is important to protect the polar bear. But he said such protection must be done correctly, and found the current designation went too far and was “too extensive.”

Beistline sent the matter back to the agency to correct what he called “substantive and procedural deficiencies.”

A coalition of Alaska Native groups, the state and oil and gas interests sued over the rule, which they saw as an overreach. The federal government argued, in part, that the designation provided conservation benefits for the species.

EPA Issues Shell Violation Notices

The Associated Press

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued Shell notices of air quality violations for emissions involving its Arctic drilling operation in 2012.

The EPA late Thursday issued the notices saying Shell violated permits for nitrous oxide emissions coming from its drill rig and drill ship.  The federal agency says Shell had multiple permit violations for each vessel.

The two ships are the drill rig Kulluk, which recently grounded near Kodiak Island when it was being towed to Seattle for maintenance and broke free in a storm. The damaged drill rig has been refloated and taken to a sheltered harbor. The drill ship Noble Discoverer remains in Seward after the Coast Guard found safety problems.

Legislature Releases Nearly 20 New Prefiled Bills

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

The legislature released a new set of bills this morning, in advance of the upcoming session.

Report Questions Whether Alaska Native Corporations Share Enough Info With Shareholders

Peter Granitz, APRN – Washington DC

A recent report from the Government Accountability Office questions whether Alaska Native Corporations reveal enough information with their shareholders.

The GAO report does not make any recommendations, but it is generating a lot of buzz.

100 Turn Out For ‘Idle No More’ Rally In Anchorage

Joaqlin Estus, KNBA – Anchorage

About a hundred people turned out for a rally in support of tribal sovereignty and environmental conservation held in downtown Anchorage today. The rally was organized to coincide with others being held in Canada, other states, and other countries in support of the “Idle No More” movement in Canada, in which First Nations have been protesting legislation that removes environmental protections on tribal lands.

District Braces For $14 In Cuts

Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage

The Anchorage School District is about ready to roll out its final phase of budget cuts. Administrators need to cut 14 million more to reach $25 million in cuts needed to balance the budget. Early rounds of cuts eliminated unfilled positions, but the new superintendent says the next phase will involve layoffs.

Government Hill Apartment Fire Under Investigation

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

The fire that swept through an Anchorage apartment complex on Thursday left forty people without homes, although no injuries were reported in the blaze. The fire is under investigation, and so far, no cause has been determined.  Fire officials were alerted in mid-afternoon by 911 calls coming from within the building of 22 apartments.

Burning Death Prompts Questions And Concerns

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The Fairbanks Native community and local officials came together Thursday to share information about the recent fire death of a homeless man.  Johnny Wallis, a long time Fairbanks resident who lived on the streets, was found burning in the downtown post office on New Year’s Day. Thursday’s press conference provided a range of views, but little clarity on the disturbing incident.

AK: Recovering

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

It’s been almost four years since the largest flood in the history of the city of Eagle and Eagle Village devastated both communities.

In the spring of 2009, a series of extremely warm days melted a higher than normal snowpack. When a massive ice jam broke free, a deluge of water surged toward the city and the nearby native village. KUAC’s Emily Schwing visited both communities last summer to find out how locals have fared since the flood.

300 Villages: Atqasuk

This week, we’re heading to Atqasuk, a small Inupiaq community south of Barrow on the Meade River. Sherlene Kagak is the city clerk in Atqasuk.