Alaska News Nightly: October 16, 2007

BP experiences a methane spill on the North Slope while Don Young and Ted Stevens pay legal bills and raise money. Plus, the feds ask the state to stay out of their corruption investigations, Lisa Murkowski and Sarah Palin disagree over the use of Gravina bridge money and high school kids in Valdez take a dangerous dip in Prince William Sound. Those stories and more on tonight’s Alaska News Nightly, broadcast statewide on APRN stations.

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DEC reports 2,000-gallon methanol spill on North Slope
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
The state Department of Environmental Conservation reported today that 2,000 gallons of methanol was spilled onto the tundra near Pump Station 2 on the eastern side of the Prudhoe Bay oil field.

Don Young’s legal expenses outpacing campaign income
Joel Southern, APRN – Washington, DC
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Congressman Don Young paid out more in legal fees than his campaign raised during the past three months, according to a federal campaign finance report filed late yesterday. The report says the campaign paid more than $184,000 to two Washington, DC law firms helping Young sort through issues stemming from the VECO scandal and other investigations into his activities when he was chairman of the House Transportation Committee. That puts the overall total in legal fees paid out this year at nearly $447,000. By contrast, the campaign netted just under $143,000 in contributions in the third quarter. Nevertheless, Young’s cash-on-hand at the end of September was nearly $1.5 million.

Stevens pleased with fundraising efforts following record quarter
Joel Southern, APRN – Washington, DC
Despite the ongoing federal investigations of Senator Ted Stevens, he had a big take of campaign contributions during the third quarter. As we reported yesterday, the Stevens campaign raised just over $463,000 between July and September. That was more than Stevens raised in any quarter since 2002.

Nearly $304,000 came from individuals, more than $142,000 from Political Action Committees (PACs), and some $16,000 came from joint fundraising committees. The Stevens campaign returned $5,700 in contributions, most of that to PACs. The quarter left Stevens with a campaign war chest of nearly $1.1 million.

Feds to State: Thanks, but we’ve got these investigations covered
David Shurtleff, APRN – Anchorage
The United States Department of Justice is asking Alaska officials to stay out of the way of their investigation of corruption in the state. The federal investigation has already netted several former lawmakers, but the state had hoped to investigate a few issues as well. In a letter addressed to State Attorney General Talis Colberg, the government writes, “we believe that the concurrent state investigative activity will have the effect of compromising certain aspects of the ongoing federal public corruption investigation.” It’s not yet known whether the government’s opinion will limit or halt the ongoing investigation being carried out by the Alaska Public Offices Commission. Attorney General Colberg was unavailable for comment.

Valdez teens dumped into Prince William Sound; they asked for it
Amy Braken, KCHU – Valdez
Last Friday, 25 Valdez high school students took a swim in the frigid waters of Prince William Sound. The students are part of a Marine Technology class and they’ve been preparing for this sea and land adventure for weeks.

Marine Highway’s ‘Columbia’ engines in worse shape than expected
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
The Columbia’s engines are in worse shape than officials thought when they pulled the ferry out of service. The 625-passenger ship was tied up in August after a starboard engine piston rod failed. Detailed inspections have since found two additional damaged rods, and there may be more. Failed rods can cause extensive engine damage.

Murkowski wants money from cancelled bridge project spent in Southeast
Deanna Garrison, KRBD – Ketchikan
Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski says she hopes any money left over for the Gravina Island bridge project will be spent in Ketchikan, not dispersed to other transportation projects throughout the state. Murkowski was critical of governor Palin’s recent decision to drop the project and also defended the use of congressional earmarks during a visit to Ketchikan last week.

Travel association details $10 million Alaska tourism campaign
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
A moose is the poster child for this year’s Alaska’s tourism marketing effort. The guide was unveiled at this year’s Alaska Travel Industry Association (ATIA) convention in Juneau. It’s part of a $10 million marketing plan including advertisements, travel agent education programs and trade shows. But industry leaders say they need to do more. And they want to tap into some of the cruise ship tax income being collected by the state.