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FAIRBANKS — Organizers of the Arctic Winter Games are looking for more than 1,000 volunteers to help stage the upcoming event, set to take place in Fairbanks for the first time in more than two decades.
The games match athletes from the far north and the Arctic in a weeklong event that is expected to draw thousands of athletes and visitors.
SITKA — A Juneau commercial fisherman is accused of hitting another man, brandishing a handgun and firing a shot in a Sitka bar restroom.
Richard Davis, 55, was charged with felony assault after the incident Sunday afternoon at the busy Pioneer Bar.
Tyler Westlund, 22, of Port Townsend, Wash., a deckhand on Davis’ boat, was charged with felony evidence tampering. Police say he left the bar with a gun used in the assault.
Davis and Westlund remained jailed Wednesday at the Sitka Police Department.
ANCHORAGE — Nearly 40 Alaska fishermen protested Wednesday outside an Anchorage Wal-Mart store, upset with a decision by the company about how it buys seafood.
Holding signs like “Buy American? Start with Alaska Salmon” and “Walmart should be WILD about sustainable ALASKA SALMON,” the protesters received honks from passing motorists in south Anchorage.
The protest came a day before Alaska state and seafood industry officials were to meet with executives of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., at the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.
LOS ANGELES — If a monster earthquake struck off Alaska’s coast, tsunami waves would rush toward California, crippling the nation’s busiest port complex and flooding coastal communities, a report released Wednesday suggests.
The potential impacts, based on a hypothetical magnitude-9.1 jolt off the Alaskan peninsula, were detailed by a team led by the U.S. Geological Survey to help emergency responders prepare.
ANCHORAGE — Students and faculty are behind a push to make the University of Alaska Anchorage the first smoke-free campus in the state.
The goal is to get student support in order to get the issue before UAA Chancellor Tom Case, KTUU reported.
Smoking is currently banned within 20 feet of entrances to UAA facilities.
DETROIT — When figuring out the cost of car ownership, consider where you live along with how much you drive.
A new study by the online service Bankrate.com found that Georgia is the most costly state in the country for car owners, followed by California. Oregon and Alaska are the cheapest.
With more than 300,000 residents, St. Louis, Mo., has a lot on its mind. Local poet Henry Goldkamp hopes to find out just what makes the city tick with his new public art project. He's installed 37 typewriters city-wide, asking for answers to the question, "What The Hell Is St. Louis Thinking?"
A long-closed car dealership in Nebraska will soon auction more than 500 classic cars, many with fewer than 10 miles on the odometer. Though time has taken a toll on many on the block, in some ways the cars are brand new. Some still have plastic on the seats and the price sticker on the window.
Nationally, there is an increase in cities responding to visible poverty including homelessness by criminalizing it. In recent years, municipalities from Seattle to Tampa have cracked down on the homeless and groups that help them. Now, Raleigh, N.C., is trying to find middle ground between the homeless and business owners.
Safeway has agreed to pay a $600,000 civil penalty to the Environmental Protection Agency for violating the Clean Air Act. The EPA alleged that Safeway failed to make timely repairs on refrigeration units with cooling leaks. Safeway has agreed to repair or replace refrigeration in more than a third of its stores, including 16 locations in Alaska.
Dr. Rosita Worl has retired after 12 years of service from her post on a federal advisory committee that has been instrumental in returning cultural artifacts to Southeast Alaska. Until Friday, Worl — who is the president of the Sealaska Heritage Institute — was the sole Alaska Native on the seven-member Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Review Committee.
“I just feel like it’s time to move. It’s a lot of work and a tremendous amount of reading,” Worl said. “It was truly an honor to be on the board.”
After a bill gets signed into law, coming up with the regulations to implement it is supposed to be the boring part. But when it comes to oil taxes, the way regulations are written could mean millions of dollars for either the state, or for oil companies.
APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports that both supporters and opponents of the recently passed tax overhaul aren’t totally pleased with how the regulatory process is going.
One of the major goals of Gov. Sean Parnell’s tax package was to get new oil into the pipeline. On top of basically lowering the overall rate, the law that passed this spring also included a provision that would exempt 20 percent of new oil from taxes period.
Sounds like a major incentive, right? Except right now, the oil industry isn’t satisfied with how the state’s trying to define new oil or measure it. Here’s Michael Hurley, who handles government relations for ConocoPhillips.
“The law was designed to provide a benefit for new oil coming down the pipeline, and that is the goal of all of us. And to the extent that confusion and conflicting regulations cause a problem with that and make some things less economic of uneconomic, it’s not satisfying that goal.”
Hurley says the Department of Revenue’s proposed regulations don’t match the intent behind the new oil tax law.
“Some of the rules we couldn’t even comply with the way they’re currently written.”
Conoco’s biggest concern is over what’s known as “metering” in industry speak — basically, figuring out just how much oil is coming out of the ground and going into production. State regulators want measurements to come at the wellhead so you know you’re not accidentally counting oil from spots that have already been in production. Which would require producers to spend a lot of money on new equipment.
Other producers also want the regulatory language changed.
“It’s really cumbersome,” says Kara Moriarty, who represents the Alaska Oil and Gas Association (AOGA). “It’s a really hard read.”
In a 20-page letter to the state, AOGA even asked if the regulations could be changed so producers can opt out of the incentive for new oil — known as the “gross value reduction” — altogether.
“If the incentive is so hard and so expensive to achieve, it may not be a cost-benefit to go through the process to determine whether it’s new oil or not or whether we just want it to be treated as legacy production.”
It’s not just oil companies who are worried about how the state is defining new oil. A group of Democratic lawmakers who strongly opposed the new oil tax package when it made its way through the legislature this spring have called the regulations “problematic” in their own written testimony. While they’re on opposite sides of the issue as the oil companies, the Democratic caucus has some of the same overarching complaints about clarity.
“It is an irony,” says Rep. Beth Kerttula of Juneau.
Kerttula says that if the regulations are written too broadly, everything — even oil that’s already being produced — could count as new. At current prices, that could mean a $7 tax break on every qualifying barrel. And that money stacks up. But as far as whether it adds up to millions, tens of millions, or more …
KERTTULA: Now no one knows how much money how much money the state is going to be given away, and we don’t know why or what for because we don’t have this good definition of what really needs to be incentivized.
And she adds, if the definition’s vague, the state could also face lawsuits on top of forgoing revenue.
Kerttula says the problem isn’t with the regulators. She has nice things to say about them doing what they can with the statutes they were given, something echoed by the oil industry.
Kerttula says the issue is with the underlying law. The final exemption for new oil was decided pretty late in the legislative process, and she says it wasn’t defined narrowly enough.
“I don’t understand very well how people could have not seen this coming, when again and again and again, we put it out there and talked about it, and said, ‘Why would you be giving these incentives when we’re being unclear where they’re going to be given, how it’s going to work, and what’s going to happen to the state.”
So now, all that is in the hands of regulators. The Department of Revenue couldn’t comment on the public input they received on their rules as a policy, but Commissioner Bruce Tangeman says his agency is going through the input now. The Department of Law will go over the regulations this fall, and then the legislature will have a chance in the spring to review the rules and see if they match up with lawmaker’s intent.
The ongoing eruption of the Veniaminof Volcano on the Alaska Peninsula has increased in intensity in recent days and a weak ash plume is being produced.
Petersburg’s 6th annual Tongass Rainforest Festival gets underway Thursday. The Petersburg Community Foundation, the Alaska State Council on the Arts and a variety of other organizations and businesses are sponsoring the four-day event. The festival celebrates and explores the ecosystem, history, culture, and bounty of Southeast Alaska. This year’s activities include visiting raptors and staff from the Alaska Raptor center, a talk about the whales of Southeast, classes on scientific illustration, fly-tying, fish printing and more. Matt Lichtenstein got a preview from festival organizers Sunny Rice and Karen Dillman as well the Alaska Raptor Center’s as Jen Cedarleaf and Lacey Penven:
for mobile-friendly, downloadable audio, click here.
For a complete schedule of events, you can visit tongassrainforestfestival.org
Protestors converged on a Walmart in South Anchorage on Wednesday to demand the megastore carry Alaska Salmon.
The protest comes on the eve of a big meeting between Walmart and state officials. The company doesn’t carry frozen salmon labeled from Alaska because it doesn’t meet their certification standard.
Inside the South Anchorage Walmart there’s no salmon labeled from Alaska in the freezer section.
In the parking lot, Forrest Dunbar holds big yellow sign that reads, “Alaska Salmon Equal Alaska Jobs.”
The former fisherman from Cordova, who now lives in Anchorage, is protesting with about 50 other people. He says he’s concerned that Walmart’s recent stance that it will only carry salmon deemed sustainable by one third party organization, could hurt Alaskan fishermen.
“Alaskan fishing fleet is one of the largest employers in the state, so if a major purchaser like Walmart is no longer gonna carry our product that could seriously impact jobs in the state,” Dunbar said.
Since 2006, Walmart has required a third party sustainability certification for its seafood.
The Walmart in Anchorage is selling frozen salmon products with the Marine Stewardship Council sustainable certification label.
The protestors are mostly fisherman or processors. Protest organizers like John Renner, vice president of Cordova District Fishermen United say outside interests are trying to dictate market access. He contends that the MSC’s main offices are located outside in Europe and that the agency charges too much for the certification.
“Ten years ago, MSC came to the state of Alaska and the industry groups and asked to certify Alaska Salmon as sustainable. We looked at the issue, decided there wasn’t any downside. A few people said, ‘what if they raise their prices?’, ‘What if they dictate management?’, ‘What if they raise their prices? And we said, well we’ll just deal with it when it happens,” Renner said.
Alaska salmon was one of the first major fisheries certified as a sustainable by MSC in 2000. But Remmer says costs started rising five years ago along with demands from other agencies that are affiliated with MSC. So the major processors decided to drop MSC in favor of another third party certification called Responsible Fisheries Management. Renner says Alaska salmon is already recognized around the world as the gold-standard in responsibly and sustainably managed fisheries.
“Sustainability is what we’re all about here. We’re on abundance-based management. We don’t go fishing unless there’s fish in the creeks, fish to reproduce for the next season. We don’t want to catch the last fish. We’re out of business if we do,” Renner said.
The Protestors say given Alaska’s record of sustainable fisheries management Walmart should sell Alaska.
Sam Back, who says he buys fish at Walmart regularly, agrees.
“If I continue to buy it, I’m gonna want to pay attention to the packaging and make sure it’s coming from Alaska waters instead of Russian waters,” Back said.
Walmart is one of the largest grocery suppliers of salmon in the U.S.
A spokesman for Walmart says the grocery chain is proud of what they’ve achieved in adopting the MSC certification and they’re considering carrying Alaska Salmon.
Senior Alaska officials are meeting with Walmart executives Thursday about the issue at Walmart’s headquarters in Arkansas.
Two Petersburg students have been selected for an all-national honor choir this fall. The National Association for Music Education chose Stephanie Pfundt and Fran Abbott for the ensemble which will gather to practice and perform a concert in Nashville Tennessee this October.
The students learned they had been selected for the choir this summer. Petersburg High School Music Teacher Matt Lenhard helped them prepare their videotaped auditions.
“Fran will be an alto one and Stephanie will be a soprano two. The choir will have about 160 members which, considering its drawn from 50 states, that’s pretty good, pretty good odds. There are 14 people from the state of Alaska who made it and Stephanie and Fran are the only two from Southeast Alaska to have made the choir. They’re the first ones from Petersburg High school to have made it into National Honor Choir and I’m very proud of them,” said Lenhard.
Abbott and Pfundt also took part in the Association’s All Northwest Choir and Music Festival in Portland this past year.