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Alaska News Nightly: March 6, 2014

March 6, 2014

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 alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn.

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Governor’s Mansion On List For EPA Intervention

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

Throughout his administration, Gov. Sean Parnell has accused the Environmental Protection Agency of “overreaching” on Alaska affairs. Now, it looks like the EPA may have reached into Parnell’s own home. The Governor’s Mansion appears on a list of construction projects requiring EPA intervention for lead violations.

Former Crime Lab Employee Charged With 6 Felonies

The Associated Press

A former employee of the State Crime Lab in Anchorage has been charged with six felonies, including drug misconduct and tampering with evidence.

The Department of Law in says 53-year-old Stephen Palmer was arrested today.

He’s charged with scheme to defraud, drug misconduct and four counts of evidence tampering. He’s also charged with four misdemeanor counts of official misconduct.

Alaska State Troopers launched an investigation seven months ago after detecting irregularities in lab reference standards, the controlled samples of illegal drugs kept at the state crime lab.

Prosecutors say investigators also determined drug evidence was missing in cases worked by Palmer.

Prosecutors say they don’t believe the irregularities discovered in reference standards affected the validity of testing performed by other analysts.

Mayors Seek Assurances On Gas Line Project

The Associated Press

Borough mayors are asking to be part of the discussions on terms related to a mega-liquefied natural gas project that will affect local communities.

An agreement signed by the state and companies pursuing the project says subject to consultation between the state and local governments, payments in lieu of property taxes would be paid by the companies.

The mayor of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, Mike Navarre, told the Senate Finance Committee that consultation is not a strong word.

The mayors are seeking greater assurances for the level of input they will have as the process moves forward.

The committee is weighing a bill that would make the state an equity partner and allow for the project to move into a phase of preliminary engineering and design.

King Resting At Ruby, Competitors Close In

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

Jeff King is resting at the Yukon river checkpoint of Ruby. The four time Iditarod champion is technically in the lead at this point, but Martin Buser, Aliy Zirkle and Robert Sorlie are closing in, and they’ve already completed their 24 hour layovers. Once teams leave Ruby, they’ll have a chance to take advantage of any remaining speed they have on the flat river miles ahead.

Five Nations Tentatively Agree To Arctic Fishing Ban

Lauren Rosenthal, KUCB – Unalaska

The United States and four other Arctic nations have tentatively agreed to prevent commercial fishing in the high Arctic.

The Canadian Press reports that Canada, Denmark, Norway, and Russia signed on to the ban after three days of meetings in Greenland last week. The measure was originally pitched by the United States, and it didn’t have support from Norway or Russia until now.

The details of the ban are still being worked out. But the basics are clear: The countries have to do more scientific research on Arctic fish stocks. In the meantime, they will not engage in commercial fishing in the Arctic Ocean outside their 200-mile exclusive economic zones.

In the United States, that area begins at the northern edge of Alaska. Fishing has already been banned within the American Arctic since 2009.

Because this new moratorium applies to international waters in the Arctic Ocean, there’s no guarantee that other countries will choose to honor it.

The next step is to get more nations on board beyond these five Arctic states. In a statement, the Arctic group said they plan to spend the rest of the year lobbying for broader support.

Dipnets May Be Allowed On Kuskokwim

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Kuskowkim fisherman are expected to face serious restrictions on subsistence salmon fishing this summer in efforts to bring more king salmon to the spawning grounds. With fishing closed possibly all of June, the working group is asking that dipnets be used selectively to harvest non-Chinook salmon.

Delta Western’s Pro-Union Fuelers Strike Again

Lauren Rosenthal, KUCB – Unalaska

For the past month, a group of fuel supply workers in Unalaska have been trying to unionize. And they’ve also accused their employer, Delta Western, of mistreating them for it. The workers took to the picket line on Tuesday to protest.

State Bans Importation, Sale Of Certain Elodea Plants

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

The state has taken steps to ban the importation and sale of some aquatic plants that are commonly found in aquariums.  Elodea is a plant used in fishbowls that has become a big problem in Alaska, and is considered an invasive species.  Last year, the state began working to eradicate the plant from areas in Fairbanks and in Anchorage.

Kikkan Randall Secures World Cup Sprint Title

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Kikkan Randall has a lock on her 3rd straight World Cup sprint title. Randall did not make the finals in a classic technique sprint in Drammen Norway Wednesday, but her seventh place finish there mathematically clinches the season title. Just one sprint race remains. Retaining the title as the world’s top woman sprinter is some consolation for Randall who struggled at last month’s Sochi Olympics, where she’s d hoped to medal.

Cyclist Obliterates Iditarod Trail Invitational Record

Anna Rose MacArthur, KNOM – Nome

Most speed records are broken by seconds or minutes. Wednesday, a Fairbanks cyclist demolished the Iditarod Trail Invitational record by almost a full week.

Dogs Fare Better Than Mushers Over Rough Trail

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

In the sled dog version of the Iditarod, teams remain large.  Most mushers are still running with 14 or more dogs. Mushers are surprised at how many dogs fared through the rough trail early on:

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