Alaska News Nightly: October 11, 2010

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Miller Refuses to Answer Any More Personal Questions
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
It was a day of waiting for the Alaska Press Corp. in Anchorage. The campaign for Joe Miller had originally scheduled a press conference with Miller for 11 a.m. today, but it was canceled and re-scheduled to follow the Senate candidate debate sponsored by the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce at noon. All three candidates, Republican primary winner, Joe Miller, write-in candidate, Senator Lisa Murkowski and the Democrat nominee, Scott McAdams were present and fielded questions from the moderator, from each other and from the audience. But the main story came after the conclusion of the debates. Fox News personality Greta Van Sustern was granted an interview with Joe Miller and although the Alaska Press Corp. was present, a question from an Anchorage Daily News reporter was brushed off. After Van Sustern concluded her questioning of Miller, the press corp. waited, and finally Miller approached a microphone to assail the press for an alleged leak of information out of his personnel file from the time he was employed as an attorney with the Fairbanks Borough. Miller said it was illegal.

Miller said it highlights what he sees as viciousness in the campaign.

Miller has not held elected office before and scrutiny has increased as information has surfaced that some of the federal programs he has denounced have in the past, benefited his family. His wife received unemployment benefits, Miller has called them unconstitutional.  they applied for and received low income hunting and fishing licenses when they first moved to the state, his children benefited from Denali kid care, the low income, state run health program that includes federal Medicaid money. Miller has criticized his opponent Senator Lisa Murkowski for supporting Denali Kid care because funds can be used for abortions.  Miller was also seven months late in filing his required Senate candidate financial disclosure forms.

Miller’s opponents have accused him and his Tea Party Express supporters of setting a negative tone in the race. But Miller told the press today, the campaign has been hard on him.

He then told the press that he was making a new commitment today.

Candidate Miller then stepped away from the microphone, refusing any questions from the Alaska press, as did his campaign spokesman Randy Desoto.

Board of Game Gives Community Hunt the Green Light
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Alaska’s game board has given the green light to a community hunt plan to start in 2011, despite grumblings from the state.

Calista President Terminated
Angela Denning-Barnes, KYUK – Bethel
The President and CEO of one of the State’s largest Native Corporations was terminated on Sunday amid a sexual harassment lawsuit.

New Presidents for ANB, ANS Grand Camps
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
A husband and wife living in Ketchikan are the new presidents of Southeast Alaska’s oldest Native organizations.

Richard and Janice Jackson were elected to head up the grand camps of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood. The Jacksons were elected during the organizations’ Grand Camp Convention, held this week in Saxman, near Ketchikan.

Richard Jackson takes over the post from Willard Jackson of Ketchikan. Janice Jackson succeeds Micalyne Kunz McGhee of Juneau.

Delegates also voted to endorse Lisa Murkowski in her race for the U.S. Senate. And they chose Klawock, on Prince of Wales Island, for their next Grand Camp convention.

The grand camp is the umbrella organization for the ANB and ANS’ local chapters, which are also called camps. ANB was founded in 1912 and was a key organization in land claims fights that resulted in passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. The groups represent mostly Southeast Alaskans, but there have been chapters in Anchorage, Seattle and California.

In other grand camp elections, Ray Dennis of Haines was chosen as ANB first vice president. Seattle’s Cecelia Tavoliero won the same post in the ANS. Kake’s Jeff Jackson and Seattle’s Johanna Cabaug are second vice presidents.

Ketchikan’s Bill Bird and Juneau’s Beverly Russell are the ANB and ANS secretaries. Bradley Fluetsch and Marietta Hopkins of Juneau are treasurers. And Juneau’s Doug Chilton and Wrangell’s Rhonda Lofftus are sergeants at arms.

(Part 1 of 2) Retreating Sea Ice Brings Arctic Oil Production Safety into Question
Johanna Eurich, APRN Contributor
This year, the sea ice in the Arctic Ocean retreated, opening up routes for shipping along almost its entire coast. That could lead to less expensive offshore oil development in the Arctic and shorter, cheaper shipping routes. In this first of a two part series, Johanna Eurich looks at the safety of oil production in icy waters.

Agreement Reached in Kincaid Park Hazardous Waste Case
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
A consent agreement between the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the city of Anchorage and three other entities was reached last Thursday in a hazardous waste case in the city’s Kincaid Park.   The city, Kincaid Project Group, Land Design North and Roger Hickel Contracting, Inc., have agreed to complete the cleanup of lead-contaminated soil at Kincaid and must submit a cleanup plan to EPA within 90 days.   Kevin Schanilec is an EPA compliance officer.

According to the EPA, contractors for the soccer field moved lead contaminated soil from the site of the shooting range which operated in the park between 1988 and 2007.  The construction generated approximately 30 tons of lead contaminated hazardous waste soil and debris.  The EPA says the material was disposed of on site without treatment or proper testing. The EPA charges the shooting range was contaminated with lead from bullets, with lead soil levels ranging as high as 68,000 parts per million.  Lead contamination was  disturbed and spread over approximately four-acres without prior testing to determine whether the lead levels would be classified as hazardous waste.

Shanilec says the state Department of Environmental Conservation alerted the EPA to the fact that construction was underway without determining the level of contamination

Under the Thursday’s settlement, the parties agreed to pay a penalty of over $63,000 for violations of federal hazardous waste management rules also known as Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

Peter Van Tuyn, an attorney representing the Kincaid Project Group, says the group is committed to the cleanup under today’s settlement.

Van Tuyn says it will be some time before a final decision is made on who pays the additional costs of cleanup and waste removal.

Absentee Voters Close Gap in Sitka Mayoral Race
Ed Ronco, KCAW – Sitka
John Stein is no stranger to close elections. When he became mayor of Wasilla in 1987, he won by just 19 votes. But his race to be Sitka’s next mayor is even closer. A count today of 560 absentee ballots brought Stein to within a single vote of Cheryl Westover. As KCAW’s Ed Ronco reports, the results truly won’t be known until Tuesday night.

Pelican Officials Hope Seafood Plant Will Jumpstart City Economy
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
Pelican officials hope their takeover of a closed seafood plant will help invigorate the town’s economy. But they’ve got a long way to go before that happens.