Alaska News Nightly: July 20, 2010

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BP Sale Doesn’t Include Alaska Holdings
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
BP announced today that it’s selling $7 billion in oil field assets to Houston based Apache Corporation. But the sale doesn’t include any holdings in Alaska. The two companies had reportedly been in talks for more than a week to sell part of BP’s stake in Prudhoe Bay. According to media reports, those talks began breaking down last weekend.

Wesley Loy is a contributor to Petroleum News. He says the deal may have been too complicated for Apache.

Open Season Results Won’t Be Known Immediately
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Alaskans will not immediately know the extent of industry interest in either of Alaska’s natural gas pipelines until this year’s gubernatorial elections are over.  Both the state-licensed TransCanada proposal and the BP/ConocoPhillips’ Denali projects are currently being considered by possible gas shippers during the Open Season process. But the results of that bidding process will be confidential.

Federal Gas Transportation Coordinator Larry Persily says no state or federal law gives any government agency – or the public – access to the proprietary, commercial documents that comprise an Open Season bid.

The subject has become a political issue in this year’s gubernatorial season.

Republican Candidate Ralph Samuels says on his website that Governor Sean Parnell will withhold the results of any responses to the two formal proposals – hiding them until after the election. On Tuesday morning’s Talk of Alaska,  Samuels says Alaskans are paying part of TransCanada’s expenses and should have the information.

And Bill Walker, also running against Parnell in the primary election, agrees.   He believes the administration will have information from the Open Season and says the Governor should make it all available:

Open Season for the TransCanada proposal is set to close for bids on July 30, Denali’s on October 4. Persily says the public – himself included – will not likely receive any new information for several months as work continues behind the scenes.

Miller and Murkowski Race Heats Up
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
The primary campaign between Republican challenger Joe Miller and incumbent Lisa Murkowski for a place on the Republican ticket this fall is heating up, with allegations of smear tactics coming from the Miller camp.

Portion of Taylor Highway Reopens
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The state has re-opened a flood damaged stretch of Taylor Highway.  The Department of Transportation reports emergency repairs have made the 30 mile stretch from Chicken to the Top of the World Highway passable, meaning you can drive from road’s start at Tok all the way to Dawson City, Yukon.  The Taylor was closed past mile 67 at Chicken for a week due to heavy rains that caused slides and washouts at several spots.  State Department of Transportation spokeswoman Meadow Bailey says major repairs are underway.

A pilot car is being used to get motorists over a heavily damaged 10 mile stretch of road between Chicken and the Top of the World junction.  The Taylor remains closed north of the Junction, where the road spurs to Eagle.

Bailey says the goal to get that section road, a popular tourist route, open as soon as possible.

Holland America has had to cancel tour boat runs on the Yukon River from Dawson to Eagle, because there’s no way to get buses into Eagle to pick up passengers.

Karluk Manor Debate Packs Commission Meeting
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
Anchorage residents packed a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting last night to testify on an issue that has divided the city’s Fairview neighborhood.  The debate is whether the commission should recommend the Anchorage Assembly allow a former motel to become a housing facility for homeless alcoholics.

Regulatory Commission Approves Electricity Price Increase
Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
Electricity rates in Juneau are 20 percent higher as of Monday.

The Regulatory Commission of Alaska late Friday approved Alaska Electric Light and Power’s request for an interim rate increase.

Climate Tool Notes Arctic Anomalies
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Climate warming is shrinking the amount of sea ice in the arctic, but there are localized anomalies.  That was one of the messages during the roll out of new web-based climate tool last week.

The quarterly Alaska Climate Dispatch includes seasonal weather, climate, wild fire and sea ice information. It’s put together by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, and includes input from a number of university and agency partners.  UAF International Arctic research Center Director John Walsh said arctic wide sea ice coverage has continued at record low levels for the third-straight year.

Walsh said that while arctic wide sea ice is well below the 30 year average, winter ice coverage has actually been increasing on the Bering Sea.

Walsh tempered the news by noting that the broader coverage in the Bering Sea is mostly due to an increase in thinner seasonal ice that melts during the summer.

Sitka Museum Shows New, Old Painting
Ed Ronco, KCAW – Sitka
Sitka’s historical museum is preparing to display a new painting – or, rather, an old painting. It’s about 130 years old, was donated to the museum sometime in 1984, and then sat in storage until last year.  KCAW’s Ed Ronco has this story about canvas, paint, and the woman who came to Sitka and brought it all back to life.