Alaska News Nightly: April 23, 2014

Individual news stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via emailpodcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at and on Twitter @aprn.

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What Needs To Be Done To Respond To An Arctic Oil Spill?

Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage

Today the National Research Council released a report on what needs to be done in order to respond to oil spills in Arctic waters. Environmental groups were quick to counter that so much needs to be done, it would be better to not drill at all.

Report Not Anticipating Near-Term Arctic Increase In Commercial Shipping

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

Despite reports of a boom in Arctic ship traffic, a recent report by the Government Accountability Office concludes commercial industries aren’t planning to boost shipping through the Bering Strait or elsewhere in the U.S. Arctic over the next decade.

While some federal policymakers say now is the time to start building infrastructure to take advantage of shrinking sea ice, the GAO says deep-water ports, mapping and other infrastructure improvements will only go so far in attracting more ships.

For the container ship companies, one problem is that Arctic routes would be seasonal, while that industry needs steady year-round schedules. And the cruise industry says mainstream cruise lines aren’t drawn to the Arctic because, according to the GAO report, the 10-day journey is too long, the scenery unvarying and interesting ports too scarce.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski issued a statement disagreeing with the main message in the report, saying she believes Arctic maritime activity is on the rise and the U.S. needs to think long-term.

No End In Sight For Alaska Lawmakers

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

It’s day 93 of the 90-day legislative session, and there’s still not an end in sight. A deal has not yet been made on Gov. Sean Parnell’s education bill. The committee tasked with brokering a compromise has not met at all today, after a series of delays.

All this has resulted in canceled plans, canceled plane tickets, and a lot of frustration in the Capitol. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez talked with people still working there to see how they feel about the hold-up.

Legislature Passes Bill With Aid For State Refineries

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The legislature has passed a bill containing aid for in state oil refineries.

The package, which includes state income tax credits and other provisions, was forwarded by Governor Sean Parnell as a means to ensure Alaska retains its refining industry as cheaper Lower 48 oil makes shipping fuel into the state an option.

HB287 also includes a provision that would allow state oil lease holders, who sell crude to an Alaska refiner, to use the agreed to contract price for calculating state royalty payments, a change aimed at making selling oil to Alaska refiners more attractive. The incentives in HB287 would be in effect for five years, and could provide up to $20 million annually to an individual in-state refiner.

In an announcement about the bill’s passage, Governor Parnell says healthy in state refineries support a strong military presence in Alaska and jobs. Critics of the bill characterize it as an industry bail out.

YK Delta VPSOs Prepare For Firearms

Daysha Eaton, KYUK – Bethel

When Governor Sean Parnell signs House Bill 199, approved earlier this month by the Alaska Senate, Village Public Safety Officers can legally carry firearms. The Yukon Kuskokwim region has the largest number of VPSO’s in the state.

Survey Finds Mat-Su Residents Want To Maintain Rural Profile

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

A survey sponsored by the Nature Conservancy indicates that Matanuska-Susitna Borough residents want to maintain a rural profile a quarter of a century from now. The Institute of Social and Economic Research collected the data used in the survey.  The results were released last week.

Fairbanks Hatchery Opening Doors To Public

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The Ruth Burnett Sport Fish Hatchery in Fairbanks will open its doors to the public during this weekend’s Outdoors Show.  Public outreach and education are part of the $46 million state hatchery’s mission, and a visitor’s center is required by its borough land lease. The hatchery has been operating for more than 2 years but the visitor’s center hasn’t opened.

Moviegoers Get Glimpse Of Katmai Grizzlies In Disney’s ‘Bears’

Aaron Selbig, KBBI – Homer

Moviegoers across the country got an up-close look at the wild Grizzly bears of Katmai National Park over the weekend. After a two-year shoot at Hallo Bay Bear Camp, Disney’s wilderness feature “Bears” opened Friday.