Stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via email, podcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn.Download AudioWalker Denies Request To Move Special Session To AnchorageAlexandra Gutierrez, APRN – JuneauFor days, the executive and legislative branches have been stuck on education funding, Medicaid, and the fundamental responsibility of paying for government. Now, they are disagreeing on where they want to disagree.As PAC Money Pours Into Runoff, Some Numbers Still MissingZachariah Hughes, KSKA – AnchorageCandidate Ethan Berkowitz has an overwhelming lead in terms of donors and funds, but with no polling data released by either campaign, the results are difficult to predict.EPA Head: Alaska ‘Uniqueness’ Could Mean Immunity From CO2 RuleLiz Ruskin, APRN – AnchorageThe White House is reviewing a highly controversial EPA rule on streams and wetlands. Sen. Lisa Murkowski pressed the EPA boss on it, saying it has Alaskans from all sectors worried.Bethel City Council Votes To Deny Liquor LicensesBen Matheson, KYUK – BethelIt’s been four decades since Bethel had a liquor store, and for now, that status will continue. The Bethel City Council voted Tuesday to protest two liquor store license applications.A Moving Target: Postal Inspectors Root Out Liquor By MailBen Matheson, KYUK – BethelA small team of federal law enforcement agents with the United States Postal Inspection Service is working to keep alcohol out of the mail. It’s one of the oldest law enforcement agencies in the country, a group with a unique mission that chases after each suspicious package.Kick The Bucket: Lack Of Funding Hampers Development Of Modern Sanitation In Rural AlaskaJoaqlin Estus, KNBA – AnchorageMost of us have never lived with without running water at home. Today, we’ll learn about some people who are just getting used to it, and others who would like to get used to having running water.Anchorage Men Arrested For Stabbing Moose To DeathEllen Lockyer, KSKA – AnchorageThree Anchorage men are under arrest and charged with cruelty to animals, wanton waste and tampering with evidence in a bizarre moose killing in a city park‘Story Map’ Reveals Hidden Lives Of Anchorage BearsLori Townsend, APRN – AnchorageA new map from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game offers a bear’s eye view of Anchorage. The “story map” draws on data and video collected from nine bears- six black and three brown- who wore cameras on special collars
Gov. Bill Walker’s plan to solve the $4 billion deficit has cuts, taxes, and a lower Permanent fund payment. He is also not without his critics. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)Governor Bill Walker’s plan to solve the state’s 4 billion dollar budget deficit has it all- budget cuts, new taxes and lower Permanent Fund Dividend payments in the years ahead. But his approach has plenty of critics in the legislature. What do you think? Join host Lori Townsend for a discussion on the state budget on the next Talk of Alaska statewide.Download AudioHOST: Lori TownsendGUESTS:Alaska Governor Bill WalkerAlaska Lt. Governor Byron MallottStatewide callersParticipate:Call 550-8422 (Anchorage) or 1-800-478-8255 (statewide) during the live broadcastPost your comment before, during or after the live broadcast (comments may be read on air).Send email to talk [at] alaskapublic [dot] org (comments may be read on air)LIVE Broadcast: Tuesday, April 5, 2016 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.SUBSCRIBE: Get Talk of Alaska updates automatically by email, RSS or podcast.
The U.S. Coast Guard has called off the search for two people who went missing Tuesday after their ship sank north of Unalaska.Listen NowCoast Guard officials made the announcement Thursday after a cutter, a helicopter crew, and several volunteer vessels spent more than 40 hours looking for the crew members of the sunken boat Exito.The ship went down late Tuesday night with five people on-board. Within an hour, three were rescued by a Good Samaritan vessel. But there’s been no sign of the two remaining crew members, whose identities have not been made public.The Coast Guard is now investigating why the Exito began taking on water before it sank.Officials say there’s no indication of pollution as result of the sinking.
Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan introduced legislation that would authorize construction of the single lane, non-commercial, gravel road between King Cove and the all-weather airstrip in Cold Bay.Listen nowThe bill would allow for an equal value land exchange between the state and federal governments to build the road within the 206-acre corridor. The Department of Interior under the Obama administration blocked the road’s construction, citing the sensitive habitat protected in that wilderness-designated section of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.Governor Bill Walker applauded the Senators for their efforts, saying he would support the land swap and will encourage the Congress and the incoming administration to move quickly on what he called a “life saving proposal.”
Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, , during discussions about the state operating budget shortly before it was passed out of the House Finance Committee, March 9, 2016. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)A state House lawmaker has released another bill proposing changes to the state’s oil and gas tax credit regime. Anchorage Democrat Les Gara debuted his bill, called the “Fair Share for Alaska’s Oil Act,” on Wednesday (Feb. 15).Listen nowAmong the changes proposed in the bill is an increase in the state’s current minimum tax, from 4 percent up to 10 percent, as oil prices rise.“We can’t afford to run a state when Prudhoe Bay is only paying a 4 percent tax; that’s tiny. So, as prices go up and companies get more profitable we say the tax should go up fairly,” Gara said.Other members of the House Majority coalition released another bill last week that would also make major changes to the current oil tax credit structure. Gara said his bill is intended to supplement that one.“They’re focusing mostly on tax credits and we’ve all decided that we should throw out the best ideas that we have and then see which ones we can get support for and pass,” Gara said.Representatives from the oil and gas industry have repeatedly told lawmakers this session that they want the tax structure to remain stable. Gara said he’s aiming for an equitable split of profits from oil production in his bill, but thinks there will be push-back from the industry.“I think industry has its duty to protect its shareholders and I have a duty to protect my voters, who are my shareholders,” Gara said. “They’re going to say a penny in taxes will drive them off the edge.”The bill hasn’t yet been scheduled for committee hearings.
Mugshot of 40-year-old James Dale Ritchie. Ritchie was posthumously determined by police to be responsible for five killings over the course of last summer. (Photo courtesy of Anchorage Police Department)Police in Anchorage say they’ve determined that a single person was responsible for a wave of killings over the summer.Listen nowIn a statement today, the department said homicide detectives have “sufficient probable cause” to conclude James Dale Ritchie murdered five people picked largely at random with the same gun. Ritchie died during an early morning shoot out with an APD officer in November after a routine stop on a downtown street.APD says Ritchie is suspected in the homicides because of his ownership of a Colt .357 Python revolver used in all five murders.Both the APD and FBI refused to comment further today on the case. Neither agency will say whether Richie is thought to have committed other homicides, specifically how they reached the conclusion that he committed all five homicides and whether there will be any follow up.In a statement, APD spokesperson Renee Oistad said APD and the FBI do not want to discuss or compromise their investigative techniques.The investigation involved multiple law enforcement agencies as well as a huge effort to gather information from the public.For months, police and elected officials in Anchorage declined to say whether a rash of random overnight killings were connected. Two victims were found by a trail near Post Road. One young man was shot riding his bike on the East side of town. And in August, another two victims were discovered near one another on a popular stretch of trail in Valley of the Moon park.
Pebble Partnership proposes to build a mine in Southwest Alaska. Opponents say it would threaten salmon streams. Photo by Jason Sear, KDLG – DillinghamUPDATE: 4:45 p.m. by Dave Bendinger, KDLG – DillinghamThe Environmental Protection Agency and the Pebble Limited Partnership announced this morning they have reached an agreement out of court to settle a lawsuit. Tom Collier is Pebble’s CEO.Listen now“What we were after in this settlement was a return to normalized permitting,” Collier said.Under the terms of the agreement, EPA will no longer pursue the preemptive Clean Water Act restrictions proposed under the Obama Administration. Pebble will dismiss its lawsuits against the agency, and will prepare a mine plan and Environmental Impact Statement. The settlement said Pebble needs to begin the permit application within the next two and a half years, a timeline Collier said the company will meet.“My goal is that we meet it by a long shot,” Collier said. “And then, the EPA cannot do anything under the Clean Water Act with respect to the project, until there’s a final EIS or until 48 months to the date of the settlement, whichever occurs first.”In a written statement, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt said the decision does not guarantee or prejudge any outcome on Pebble.Many of Pebble’s opponents had long backed the EPA and its unique effort to block large scale mining in the Bristol Bay watershed. United Tribes of Bristol Bay director Alannah Hurley gathered regional leaders to speak out against the deal Thursday, even before it was made public.“We’re here today to express our great sense of betrayal and outrage as it appears that the Pebble Limited Partnership and EPA are set to announce a settlement concerning the proposed Clean Water Act protections our people have fought so hard for,” Hurley said.Pebble’s many opponents, from environmentalists, to tribes, to commercial and sport fishing groups were swift to voice similar disappointment Friday. Many accused Pebble and EPA of using a backroom deal to undo the years of work that had been done with a lot of public input.Collier said Pebble has a “progressive” mine plan to unveil soon that is smaller than many people will expect. He says the next goal is to line up a partner to financially back the project, then begin the permit process.ORIGINAL POST: By Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media – Washington D.C.The EPA has announced a new process that could let the Pebble Partnership develop a controversial mine at the headwaters of Bristol Bay.The agency said Friday it will freeze an effort begun under the Obama Administration to pre-emptively block the mine. Pebble would have two and a half years to apply for a Clean Water Act permit. In return, Pebble has agreed to dismiss its lawsuits against the government.EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a written statement the settlement provides a fair process for Pebble but does not guarantee the outcome. Pruitt also said the EPA understands “how much the community cares about this issue.”The mine has passionate opponents, especially in Dillingham, where many see the project as a threat to salmon. Thursday, Bristol Bay leaders pledged to stop the mine wherever possible, in court or in the field, by lying in front of bulldozers.
Educators from across the nation are currently meeting in Boston for the annual meeting of the National Education Association, the largest teacher’s union in the country.Listen nowAlaska NEA president Tim Parker is attending along with 64 other state members to learn about education initiatives around the country and to discuss how to improve education in Alaska.Parker said that his biggest concern is the uncertain future of the state’s education budget.“We’re going to be in exactly the same spot next year,” Parker said. “Teacher lay-offs and program cuts continue.”Among the topics discussed at the meeting was this year’s roll out of the Every Student Succeeds Act or ESSA. ESSA replaces the No Child Left Behind Act and gives states more power over setting standards for their schools and for evaluating teachers.Parker said he has been speaking with educators from other states about how to improve methods for evaluating student progress.“Some of them are super creative,” Parker said. “They actually have to investigate an oil spill.”The NEA annual meeting ends on July 5.
Ryan Binkley following the court hearing on the sale of the Alaska Dispatch News in September. The Binkley company recently announced it is purchasing three other Alaska publications. (Photo By Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)The owner of Alaska’s largest newspaper, the Anchorage Daily News, is purchasing three other publications.Listen nowIn a Monday announcement, the Binkley Company says it is buying two weeklies – the Alaska Journal of Commerce and Chugiak-Eagle River Star – and the monthly Alaskan Equipment Trader. All three are currently owned by Morris Communications.The Binkley Company bought the former Alaska Dispatch News in bankruptcy court last summer. To cut costs, it outsourced printing and laid off some staff. It also returned the newspaper’s name to the Anchorage Daily News.Daily News co-publisher Ryan Binkley said in the statement that the company is excited to add “new areas of coverage and new audiences” and plans to increase efficiency by adding the smaller publications to the larger group.Binkley said Tuesday he was traveling and unavailable for comment.The Binkley Company did not disclose the purchase price. The sale is expected to be finalized Friday.Morris Communications announced in August it was selling three other Alaska newspapers: the Juneau Empire, the Peninsula Clarion and the Homer News.
“Agencies in the state of Alaska are very permissive when it comes to mine development, so this is what we expected. However, it does represent a step toward a very real hazard in our watershed,” Plachta said. “There were some minor tweaks to some different monitoring levels and some flows and things, but in general it’s mostly the same as what was initially drafted and allows us to do all of the work we were initially planning to do,” Cornejo said. Constantine developed a plan to treat and discharge the wastewater using a diffuser system. Cornejo estimates once they have secured the funding it will take about a year to construct the tunnel. It’s unclear how long the tunnel would stay in place, but she says that if a mine were developed in the future, the tunnel could be used as a secondary access point. Jessica Plachta is the Executive Director of Lynn Canal Conservation, one of the groups involved in the lawsuit. She says the permit decision is disappointing but not surprising. A few years ago, Constantine’s permits for mineral exploration at the Palmer Project faced a lawsuit filed by the Chilkat Indian Village of Klukwan and several conservation groups. The plaintiffs say that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) did not take into account the environmental impact of future mine development when it approved permits for the first phase of exploration. A federal court upheld BLM’s decision, but an appeal has been filed since then. “This is a major investment in the property and it’s going to require a lot of capital,” Cornejo said. “So we’ll be working toward putting that plan together, the budget and the contractors and the financing for that to hopefully get started next spring.” A Constantine employee examines an area of the AG zone. (Photo courtesy of Constantine Metal Resources) “With excavating a tunnel, you’re taking rock out of the mountain and then there is water that will flow through the cracks and come out of the mountain as well,” Cornejo said. “This permit allows us to have a plan in place that is pre-approved as a contingency plan if we do encounter potential acid generating rocks.” The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has approved a waste management permit for a controversial mineral exploration project near the communities of Klukwan and Haines. Constantine Metal Resources plans to excavate a mile-long underground ramp at the Palmer Project in order to carry out more exploratory drilling. Others raised concerns about water quality testing and the risk of avalanches dismantling the diffuser system in the winter. Constantine’s Vice President of External Affairs, Liz Cornejo, says that a waste management permit was required in order to move on to the next phase of exploration at the Palmer Project. Shannon Donahue is the Chilkat Watershed Organizer for Southeast Alaska Conservation Council. She is worried about where the water coming out of the tunnel would ultimately end up once discharged through the diffuser system. Although Constantine has secured a waste management permit, there are a few more steps before excavation can begin. The Alaska Mental Health Trust owns the land where the proposed tunnel’s entrance is located and will need to approve a final plan of operations. But Cornejo says that the biggest missing piece is funding. “There was no dye testing or anything done to determine whether the surface water and the groundwater are connected,” Donahue said. “When you are looking at discharging wastewater into the ground through the diffusers, we don’t know whether that’s going to wind up in the surface water or not.” ADEC did issue the waste management permit in the end. The agency altered the final permit based on some of the comments received, but Cornejo says that the changes are minimal and won’t affect the company’s plans. The public had 45 days to review the plan and submit comments to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) before the agency made a final decision on the waste management permit.