Alaska News Nightly: March 7, 2008

State Lawmakers are talking gasline in the nation’s capital. Meanwhile, the Palin Administration is beginning a final review of the TransAlaska proposal.  Also a rare white orca is spotted in Bering Sea and  Lance Mackey leads the Iditarod out of Ruby. Those stories and more on tonight’s Alaska News Nightly, broadcast statewide on APRN stations.

Individual news stories are posted in the Alaska News category and you can subscribe to APRN’s news feeds via e-mail, podcast and RSS.

State Leglislators grapple with gasline issues in Washington, DC
Joel Southern, APRN – Washington, DC
State lawmakers attending the Energy Council meeting in Washington, DC are mulling over potential difficulties in updating a license to export liquefied Alaska natural gas to overseas markets. Backers of an All-Alaska line acquired the license nearly 20 years ago in hopes of shipping North Slope gas to Asian markets. But in a Wednesday meeting with a top Energy Department official and staffers, Alaska lawmakers were told they should not assume it would be considered valid now.

Palin Administration begins final review of TransCanada proposal

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
While the meetings in Washington are focusing on pipeline issues, The Palin administration is beginning its final review of the proposed project that TransCanada submitted two months ago. The public comment period ended yesterday, and that input will be incorporated into the

Alaska Native Health Consortium wants more Federal support

Joel Southern, APRN – Washington, DC
An official with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium says the Indian Health Service and Congress need to focus more attention and funding on upgrading Native medical facilities around the nation. The IHS has a priority list for building and modernizing Native health facilities. It estimates that the cost of completing the 22 facilities currently on the list totals $2,600,000,000. But in testimony yesterday  to the US Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Valerie Davidson of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium said there are more than $9,000,000,000 worth of unmet needs for primary care facilities.

White Orca surfaces in Bering Sea
Charles Homans, KIAL – Unalaska
A very rare white killer whale has been seen in the Bering Sea near the Aleutian Islands. The orca was spotted by a marine mammal observer from the National Marine Mammal Lab in Seattle, working onboard the NOAA Fisheries vessel Oscar Dyson while it conducted a survey in the Bering Sea last month.

Mackey still leading Iditarod

Libby Casey, KUAC – Ruby
Defending champ Lance Mackey is still leading the Iditarod at this hour.  He’s the first, and only, musher to leave Ruby thus far, checking out just after 3:30 this afternoon. Six other mushers have checked in to Ruby.  They include frontrunners Jeff King, Kjetel Backen, Mitch Seavey and Rick Swenson.

Large crop of rookies on the Iditarod this year

David Shurtleff, APRN – McGrath
More than 20-percent of the mushers in this year’s Iditarod are running the race for the first time. Top-rookie Rohn Buser is currently in 10th place, but most first-timers find themselves towards the middle of the pack.

Russian Orthodox Bishop Nikolai ordered to take leave of absence
David Shurtleff, APRN – Anchorage
National leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church are ordering Alaska Bishop Nikolai Soraich to take a leave of absence, and say they will investigate him for improper leadership. The announcement was made this afternoon.  According to a posting on the ‘Orthodox Church of America’ website, Bishop Nikolai refused to voluntarily go on leave, which led to today’s mandatory order.

Fairbanks Roman Catholic Diocese files for bankruptcy
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The Diocese is facing 130 civil suits filed by Alaska natives who allege sexual abuse by priests, and other church employees, beginning in the 1950s.  The  Diocese made the decision to file last month and submitted the paperwork this past Saturday.

Petersburg airport to close runway for safety upgrade

Joe Viechnicki, KFSK – Petersburg
The State is planning to shutdown the runway at Petersburg’s airport this September. The shutdown  could last about one month. The closure will allow for expansion of the safety area around the landing strip.