Alaska News Nightly: February 26, 2008

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the Exxon Valdez lawsuit tomorrow. Plus, California takes a look at Alaska’s Ocean Ranger program. And the U.S. Senate approves the Indian Health Care Act. Those stories and more on tonight’s Alaska News Nightly, broadcast statewide on APRN stations.

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Supreme Court ready for Exxon Valdez arguments
Joel Southern, APRN – Washington, DC
Tomorrow, lawyers for ExxonMobil and Exxon Valdez oil spill claimants go before the U.S. Supreme Court to argue whether the $2.5 billion punitive damages award by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ought to stand.

California considers Alaska’s Ocean Ranger program
John Hunt, KHNS – Haines
California state Senator Joe Simitian introduced Senate Bill 1582 last week to create the California Ocean Rangers. The program is modeled after Alaska’s Ocean Rangers, part of an initiative passed in 2006 that taxes cruise ship companies doing business in Alaskan waters.

House laments lack of leadership on new energy resources
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Alaska House members say they are frustrated in watching Alaska miss the opportunity to become a leader in new energy resources. Bethel’s Mary Nelson says 600 rural families this year simply moved away because they could not afford home energy. And Anchorage Representative Harry Crawford says people are freezing in their homes.

U.S. Senate approves Indian Health Care Improvement Act
Joel Southern, APRN – Washington, DC
Legislation to renew the Indian Health Care Improvement Act crossed a big hurdle today when it was overwhelmingly approved by the U.S. Senate. Efforts to reauthorize and expand programs offered by the Indian Health Service have gotten snarled up in the Senate for more than a decade. But Senator Lisa Murkowski, a main co-sponsor of the health bill passed today, says the 83-to-10 vote bodes well for the steps ahead. She says the bill’s emphasis on wellness and prevention would benefit Alaska Natives.

Senator Stevens to make earmark requests public
Joel Southern, APRN – Washington, DC
There’s been a lot of debate recently about the Congressional practice of earmarking federal funds for programs and projects — the Alaska delegation in particular has gotten a lot of flak from earmarking critics. Last year Congress initiated some reforms to make the earmarking process more transparent. Now Senator Ted Stevens has decided to post earmark requests that have come in for Fiscal Year 2009 on his website. The first batch from state, borough and local governments should start appearing by the end of the week. About halfway down on the right side of Stevens’ site, you’ll be able to click a link and see who’s asking for what.

Rockfish Pilot Program still controversial
Casey Kelly, KMXT – Kodiak
Supporters of the Rockfish Pilot Program, a controversial rationalization plan for Gulf of Alaska groundfish species, have been trumpeting the successes during the first year of fishing under the system. But some critics still call into question the program’s fairness and some of the ways in which it achieves its goals.

Electric cars nothing new to Sitka
Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka
History has just turned a corner in Southeast. A little over a month after two electric ZENN cars debuted in Kodiak, one of the “Zero Emmission No Noise” vehicles has appeared in Sitka. But the new ZENN is not the first electric car in Sitka. That prize was awarded over 30 years ago.

Dog teams not the only racers on the Iditarod Trail
Lacie Grosvold, KUAC – Fairbanks
The world’s longest human-powered winter race is underway in Alaska. The Iditarod Invitational started on Sunday at Knik Lake. 46 competitors are skiing, biking or walking the trail this year.