Alaska Digest

Staff and Wire reports

Posted: Thursday, January 26, 2006

Eaglecrest Ski Area opens today

JUNEAU - Eaglecrest Ski Area opens today with chair lift service for the first time this season, area managers announced Wednesday.

The area was to open at 9 a.m., with the Hooter and Ptarmigan lifts operating. Some trails off the Ptarmigan lift were to remain closed at least in the morning for avalanche control, officials said. The lifts are open until 4 p.m.

Food service will operate, but the tubing hill will not open today.

Skiers are urged to use caution because obstacles may be buried under a light layer of snow.

Ski bus service will operate Friday, Saturday and Sunday under a new schedule, stopping at all Capital Transit bus stops. Times and routes are posted on the Web site

The rental and repair shop opens daily at 8:30 a.m. The Snowsports School offers lessons at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Defendant takes stand in murder trial

KENAI - A Kasilof woman charged with murder testified at her trial that she still has nightmares of her boyfriend chasing her while stabbing into walls and furniture with a knife.

Betsy Hester, 53, is charged with one count of second-degree murder for allegedly killing John Clark in 2003. She took the stand Tuesday.

Hester told jurors that on the night of the shooting, Clark had become worked up into a rage and was slapping and hitting her in the face. It got to the point that she feared that her life was in danger, she said.

On the night of the shooting at the mobile home the two shared, Hester said she was uncertain about what Clark had been doing in the kitchen when he picked up a knife.

Earlier in the evening, Clark and Hester had been drinking and arguing at the Decanter Inn. When they returned home, the altercation between the two got worse, Hester said.

She said when they returned home, she sat in a living room chair where Clark began shouting at her and slapping and hitting her.

"I started feeling afraid," Hester said. "I was pushing myself against the chair as far as I could go."

Eventually, Clark stopped hitting her and retreated to the kitchen, but threatened more bodily harm, she said.

"He said he would hit me whenever he wanted. And he said he would teach me a lesson I would never forget," she said.

It was as Clark began to advance in her direction that she grabbed a loaded gun resting on a table in the living room and fired at Clark, she said.

Ex-admiral to be nominated for oversight

FAIRBANKS - The Bush administration will nominate a retired Coast Guard vice admiral with strong ties to Alaska to run the federal government's oversight of pipelines.

Thomas J. Barrett, former commander of the Coast Guard in Alaska and of the agency's base in Kodiak, currently is working for a Virginia think tank.

The Bush administration expects to nominate Barrett as administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The agency has frequent interactions with Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., Alaska's North Slope oil producers and companies seeking to transport hazardous materials in the state.

Barrett in January 2005 joined the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies in Arlington, Va. The think tank focuses on technology and defense issues.

In the new job, Barrett likely would deal regularly with Alaska issues, especially if a natural gas pipeline is built.

Oil pipeline overcharged, judge says

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - The owners of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline overcharged for carrying oil used by in-state refineries, an Anchorage judge has ruled.

The decision could result in the pipeline owners owing $125 million or more in refunds to the refiners.

It's a major defeat for the owners, who sued after a 2002 landmark order by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska saying they had collected excessive shipping fees, known as tariffs.

"This court affirms the decision of RCA in all respects," state Superior Court Judge John Suddock said in a Jan. 18 ruling.

"It's a well-reasoned decision that's well-supported. The judge got it right," said Robin O. Brena, an attorney for Tesoro, which operates a refinery in Nikiski.

The pipeline owners can appeal to the state Supreme Court.

"We're disappointed in the ruling, and we're looking at our options," BP spokesman Daren Beaudo said Tuesday.

BP owns the largest share of the 800-mile pipeline at nearly 47 percent. ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Koch are the other owners.

The RCA order has implications beyond refunds. Pipeline transportation costs are subtracted from oil prices to determine revenue received by the state for production from state-owned North Slope land. Lower pipeline costs potentially boost state oil revenue by millions of dollars.

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