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Thursday, November 16, 2006  15TH EDITION

Murkowski says gasline contract ready for new governor to sign
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Governor Murkowski today (Thursday) presented what he said were all the tools necessary for a new governor and Legislature to complete a natural gas pipeline contract with three major oil companies.

The governor says the fiscal analysis shows it's in the best interest of the state to move forward with the agreement he negotiated with B-P, Exxon Mobil Corporation and Conoco-Phillips.

The governor displayed four large binders of information as he stood before a painting of the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline at the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation.

Murkowski said alternative plans for developing Alaska's gas reserves fall short and further delays would only cost the state.

Murkowski declined to say if he would sign the contract himself.

He has appealed a Fairbanks judge's ruling that blocks him from doing so.

But he says he can't sign the contract without authorization from the Legislature: the same body that sued to prevent him from completing the deal.

Governor elect Sarah Palin also has called on the governor not to sign the deal.

The contract would set fiscal terms for the 25 billion dollar North Slope pipeline.

Palin critical of Murkowski gasline contract
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Governor-elect Sarah Palin says her administration will conduct its own fiscal analysis of a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope.

Palin is criticizing Governor Murkowski's decision to release interim fiscal interest findings today (Thursday) on his plan to tap the state's gas reserves.

Palin says it could be seen as a last ditch effort to push through his contract with oil producers over the objections of lawmakers and the general public.

Palin says she will be meeting with potential gasline sponsors on December fifth, the day after she is sworn in.

She says she will present a gasline plan to the new Legislature in January

Murkowski waiting for judge's ruling on signing gasline contract 
Will the legislature's special session be expanded beyond the subject of benefits for domestic partners to include a gas line contract?

Governor Murkowski won't say, until he finds out if he can sign the contract without legislative approval.

The governor has appealed a court order barring him from executing the contract.

The injunction came in a lawsuit filed by several house and senate members.

He expects a ruling on the appeal soon.

At a press conference today (Thursday), Governor Murkowski unveiled the "interim fiscal interest finding," which concludes that his proposed contract is the only viable alternative for a gas line project.

Governor-elect Sarah Palin last month asked Murkowski to hold off and leave the fiscal interest finding to the next administration.

The fiscal interest finding and a final draft of the contract were supposed to be completed by the end of August, according to the Stranded Gas Development Act.

Administration officials have said they expect the legislature will change that deadline.
(KENI)

Legislature asks court for delay on same sex benefits
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - The Alaska Legislature has asked the state Supreme court to push back the January first deadline to offer benefits to same-sex partners of state employees.

The House, like the Senate on Sunday, passed a resolution urging the court to allow a new legislature time to consider if, and how, the health and retirement benefits should be granted.

The vote was nine to 22 with Democrats voting no.

Two other measures are up for a House vote tomorrow (Friday). They would prohibit the commissioner of administration from putting the benefits in place until voters weigh in on a constitutional amendment overturning the court's ruling.

The department has drawn up regulations outlining how the benefits plan will work but Lieutenant Governor Loren Leman questioned the commissioner's authority to do so. Leman refused to sign the regulations, precipitating the special session.

The legislature so far has ignored the governor's proposed legislation which would give the commissioner statutory authority to grant the benefits.

Judge says state can intervene in Juneau Road lawsuit
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Alaska Attorney General David Marquez says a U-S District Court judge has granted the state's request to intervene in a federal lawsuit aiming to block construction of a 50-mile road leading out of Juneau.

The lawsuit was filed in August by six environmental and public interest groups seeking an injunction.

The plaintiffs say the road would run through old-growth trees in the Tongass National Forest and could disturb bald eagle and sea lion habitats.

Plaintiffs say the plan to build the road does not comply with the Tongass National Forest's land management plan and alternative plans were not considered.

Officials say the state has an interest in the case because the Alaska transportation department took a lead role in the environmental work being challenged.

Officials say the Department of Law moved to intervene in the lawsuit as a full-party defendant to protect the state's interests.

Department spokesman Mark Morones says U-S District Judge John Sedwick granted the request yesterday (Wednesday) in Anchorage.

Nearly 700 ballots scheduled for count Friday in District 4 House race
The first count of outstanding ballots is planned tomorrow (Friday) in the Mendenhall Valley House District 4 race.

Democrat Andrea Doll led Republican Randy Wanamaker after all the ballots cast election day were tallied.

Right now there are 668 more to count between absentee and questioned, according to Pam Crowe, the Region One Elections Supervisor in Juneau.

She says 443 of the 481 absentee ballots received apply to the District 4 race and 125 of the 248 questioned.

Crowe says they'll start counting ballots Friday at 1 p.m. She figures it will take an hour or so.

Additional absentees could come in between now and Friday's deadline for votes cast within the United States.

The deadline for absentees cast outside of the country is November22, next Wednesday. A final count will be held that day.

Airport records nearly two feet of snow in three day period
There's probably over two feet of snow at the airport now since Monday.

Meteorologist Nathan Foster says there has been anywhere from 16 inches up to two feet from Monday through midnight Wednesday.

There was 6 point 2 inches at the airport Wednesday, making it 22 point 9 inches from Monday through midnight last night.

Foster says a snow advisory is in effect today until 6 p.m. He says there will be snow showers, heavy at times, especially this morning. He says they're calling for three to five additional inches this morning and into the afternoon.

Another one to two inches are possible overnight tonight, he says.

The wind advisory has been cancelled. Foster says they recorded some gusts over 50 miles per hour in downtown Juneau and Douglas.

There was a 64 mile per hour gust at the studios of KINY and KSUP Radio last evening at about 7:45.

Snow removal operation to begin, vehicles will be towed and ticketed 
CBJ Road crews hope to begin snow removing operations today or tomorrow.

CBJ Street Superintendent Mike Scott says those operations will be predominately in the downtown area, although crews will be working on major arterials in the Valley. They'll get roadways such as Tongass and Riverside and sidewalks clear.

Given the amount of snow in the downtown area, vehicles will be towed and ticketed and taken to the Yacht Club.

That hasn't been done for the past several years, but Scott says it will this year.

Avalanche danger in back country around Juneau could be high
With the large amount of snow received in the Juneau area this week, we inquired about the danger of avalanches.

We talked to Bill Glude of the Southeast Alaska Avalanche Center in Juneau. He says they aren't out doing fieldwork or forecasting, but he was out in the back country Tuesday.

He says he found "flour over sugar" and there was lots of flour in the new snow. He says the snow underneath it was quite weak.

Since there he says there has been quite a bit of new snow and some wind. Glude thinks back country travelers would stand a pretty good chance of triggering some slides if they were not careful.

He recommends staying off steep slopes of any size.

Glude doesn't feel the danger for a large avalanche in the urban area is very high. He expects if slides release they would be pretty fast but the volume would be fairly small.  

Man arrested in case of murdered woman
DILLINGHAM, Alaska (AP) - Officials say they've arrested a Dillingham man in connection with the murder of a 42-year-old woman.

Public safety officials say Cress Carney is in custody.

They say Natalia Timurphy had been reported missing on September 12th.

Her body was found by a ground search party in an abandoned gravel pit in Dillingham on September 28th.

Carney was arrested after an investigation by Alaska State Troopers and the State of Alaska Crime Lab.

The arrest warrant for Carney alleges one count of first-degree murder.

Officials say Carney, who is 43, was arrested without incident in Dillingham.

The Dillingham District Court set his bail at 750-thousand dollars.

Eaglecrest to open on a limited basis Saturday 
Juneau's Eaglecrest Ski Area will open on a limited basis this weekend.

Manager Kirk Duncan said on KINY's Capital Chat this morning that they plan to open the Hooter Chair Lift only from 9 to 3 both Saturday and Sunday.

If the snow holds, the ski area will also be open over the long Thanksgiving weekend, Thursday through Sunday, and the following weekend, December 1 and 2.

The budgeted opening is Friday, December 8.  It will be open every day from December 13 through January 1.

The ski area will have a new schedule once it opens full time this year. It will be closed Mondays and Tuesdays except for holiday Mondays.

For more information go to  www.skijuneau.com 

Trans-Alaska pipeline shut down temporarily
VALDEZ, Alaska (AP) - Alyeska Pipeline Service Company says it has shut down the trans-Alaska pipeline for about ten hours today (Thursday).

Spokesman Mike Heatwole says high winds and high stores of oil at the Port of Valdez prompted the decision.

Heatwole says the fourteen 500-thousand-barrel oil storage tanks at the port are more than 90 percent full.

He says the company needed to slow the flow of oil from the North Slope into the tanks.

In addition, the high winds made loading oil tankers unsafe.

The shutdown occurred at 11 a-m today.

Alyeska officials say several oil tankers are scheduled to arrive in Valdez over the next few days and will free up some space in the storage facilities.

Last month, bad weather at both ends of the pipeline caused a temporary shutdown.

Heatwole says such unplanned shutdowns are uncommon at the port.

He says the company does one or two planned shutdowns each year for maintenance purposes.

Sen. Stevens to run in 2008
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Senator Ted Stevens has made it official.

Stevens announced yesterday that he will run for re-election in 2008.

Stevens -- whose 83rd birthday is Saturday -- says he has more work to do -- citing health care, education, fisheries and Alaska infrastructure to strengthen the state's economy.

Stevens has held the job for 37 years. But changes are in hand.

With the Democrats taking control of Congress, Stevens will lose his chairmanship of the Commerce Committee. He also will no longer be third in line to the president, and he will have to give up the fancy president pro tem office suite.
(Anchorage Daily News)

Enstar says gas prices going higher
KENAI, Alaska (AP) - Enstar officials say prices for natural gas are going higher.

Enstar has filed a tariff revision request with the Regulatory Commission of Alaska proposing to increase its rate from five dollars per thousand cubic feet of gas to more than seven dollars per thousand. The rate increase would be effective on or after January 3rd.

Curtis Thayer, Enstar director of government and public affairs, says the price hike is directly related to the supply of gas Enstar buys from gas producers, primarily Marathon and Chevron.

What the proposed rate hike means to the average residential customer is a 30-dollar per month jump in their gas bill next year.

Next year's price increase is tied to Enstar's gas supply, 45 percent of which will come from older contracts priced in relation to crude-oil market prices.
(Peninsula Clarion)

Beginning today, no smoking at Native hospital
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Beginning today, there will be no smoking at the Native hospital in Anchorage.

The Alaska Native Medical Center has gone tobacco-free beginning today which is the Great American Smoke Out.

That means there will be no smoking or chewing on any hospital property, and that includes inside cars.

The ban at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and Southcentral Foundation covers more than 33-hundred employees in 22 buildings in Anchorage and across the state.

The hospital and clinics get some 600-thousand patient visits a year.
(Anchorage Daily News)

PD gets mobile command post
The Juneau Police Department took delivery of a 41 foot mobile command post Tuesday.

Police Chief Greg Browning says the primary source of funding was Homeland Security grants.

He says the unit is very well equipped and will provide the department the capability to respond to major natural disaster, emergency, or crime incidents.

Browning says with its extensive array of communications capabilities, it can also be used as an alternate dispatch center.

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