Alaska News Nightly: December 14, 2010

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Parnell Taking Action Against Feds on Fishing Restrictions
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
A National Marine Fisheries Service decision to restrict fishing in certain areas of the western Aleutian Islands has drawn the ire of Governor Sean Parnell. Parnell is taking legal action against the federal agency, saying that there is not enough scientific evidence that the fishing closures will help endangered marine mammals.

Conservation Groups Expected to Oppose State in Sea Lion Battle
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Conservation groups may take sides in the state suit filed today against the National Marine Fisheries Service. Mike Levine Pacific senior counsel for Juneau based Oceana, says 15 years of studies show that trawl fisheries are hurting Stellar sea lions

Shell Working to Convince State it Can Handle a Potential Spill
Alexander Gutierrez, KUCB – Unalaska
After spending years trying to develop a drilling program in the Arctic, it looks like Shell might be able to drill in an exploratory well in the Beaufort Sea. But before it does, the company is working to convince the region’s community leaders that they are prepared to handle a potential spill.

Federal Judge Says Alaska Should Have a Second Senator in January
The Associated Press
A federal judge says Alaska should have a senator in place by the time Congress convenes in early January. Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, has already declared victory in her write-in bid to win back her seat on Capitol Hill, despite rival Joe Miller’s court challenges claiming the state mishandled the ballot count. U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline said today that the state’s certification of the race between the Republicans likely won’t settle their dispute over the ballot count.

Federal Judge Refuses to Block New Parental Notification Law
The Associated Press
A judge has denied a request to block a new state law requiring parents be notified before a girl younger than 18 can get an abortion. Superior Court Judge John Suddock refused the request from Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, but made some changes in the law that was approved by voters in August. The law takes effect on Tuesday. The judge removed provisions calling for a fine of up to $1,000 and imprisonment of up to five years for people who knowingly violate the law. He also struck a section allowing physicians to be liable for damages. And he made some other changes, including making notification easier. Planned Parenthood says it will continue to challenge the parental notification law in court.

Colder Bering Sean Good News for Zooplankton
Mike Mason, KDLG – Dillingham
New research points to colder Bering Sea temperatures as good for zooplankton. This can lead to better health for valuable fish species like Pollock and salmon.

Sitka Priest Leaves for Evaluation
Ed Ronco, KCAW – Sitka
The priest removed from his post at St. Gregory Catholic Church in Sitka has left for evaluation at a location in the Lower 48. Father Edmund Penisten resigned the pastorship of St. Gregory shortly after he was suspended by Bishop Edward Burns, leader of the Juneau Diocese, which oversees the Sitka parish. The move came after church leaders received notice that pornographic material might have been accessed on parish computers.

Cold, Winds Causing Power and Commuter Problems in Mat-Su
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Wintery weather is causing concern in the Mat-Su valley as cold temperatures combined with high winds could create problems for commuters and home power supplies. Mat-Su Borough public affairs director Patty Sullivan says the National Weather Service has issued a high wind warning for the Mat Su valley, with gusts projected to reach 75 miles per hour.

Fairbanks Bracing for Coldest Temps of the Year
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The coldest temperatures so far this season in Fairbanks are forecast for the next few days.  National Weather service meteorologist intern Julie Malingowski says temperatures will fall as skies clear. Malingowski says the coldest official temperature registered at the Fairbanks airport so far this winter was -33 on Sunday.  She says December has been on the cold side over the first half of the month. Malingwoski says normal temperatures in Fairbanks this time of year are a low of -16, and a high of 0.

Fairbanks Lowers Air Quality Threshold for Kids Playing Outside
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The Fairbanks School District has lowered the air quality threshold when kids are allowed to play and exercise outside.  The North Star Borough School District has dropped the fine particulate pollution concentration level at which activities are moved indoors from 200 to 176 micrograms per cubic meter. District Superintendent Pete Lewis says the move is in response to health concerns.

True Alaska Bottling Misses Another Deadline
Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka
True Alaska Bottling has missed its contractual deadline for shipping bulk water out of Sitka – again. The lapse does not have Sitka officials particularly worried. TAB missed its deadlines in 2008 and 2009, too.