Alaska Digest

Posted: Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Eaglecrest buses on regular schedule

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JUNEAU - Eaglecrest Ski Area buses will run their regular schedule from today through Friday.

Eaglecrest buses run two routes, a Mendenhall Valley route and a downtown route, on weekends and Juneau School District holidays.

Daily bus fare is $5. A complete schedule is available online at

Game board rejects bear hunt proposal

ANCHORAGE - The Alaska Board of Game on Tuesday turned down a proposal to allow hunting of the famous McNeil River bears on land next to their sanctuary.

The decision followed strong public opposition to allow hunting on 95,000 acres next to the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary, home to the largest congregation of brown bears in the world.

The game board reversed its earlier decision to open up the proposed area to hunting for the first time since statehood. That regulation was to take effect July 1, opening the way for an October hunt.

The board's unanimous vote Tuesday came after it received thousands of e-mails and letters protesting the hunt.

Some hunters said the area should have never been closed in the first place. Animal advocates said the decision was a step in the right direction to protect bears and the public's ability to see the animals in the wild.

Pipeline operator launches inspection

ANCHORAGE - The operator of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline launched an intensive inspection of the line Monday with a tool known as a smart pig.

The device put into the line uses powerful magnets to check for anomalies such as corrosion. It's a concept similar to magnetic resonance imaging equipment used on humans, said Mike Heatwole, a spokesman for Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., operator of the 800-mile pipeline.

"Really, we're looking at the condition of the pipe wall to help us intervene before it can become a problem," he said.

Smart pigs usually are run through the pipeline every three years. But the schedule was moved up by a year after oil spilled in March 2006 from a leaking feeder line at Prudhoe Bay.

Alyeska began the smart pig run last August just before more leaks were discovered at Prudhoe, prompting a partial shutdown of the field. The inspection was later put on hold because data collected was compromised by excessive wax buildup south of a pump station about 200 miles from the north end of the line, Heatwole said.

The job resumed Monday, starting about 144 miles from the Prudhoe Bay end. The pig is expected to take 10 days to reach the southern end at Valdez on Prince William Sound. This is where oil tankers collect crude oil for delivery to West Coast refineries.

BP outgoing CEO's 2006 bonus slashed

LONDON - BP cut outgoing Chief Executive John Browne's bonus almost in half last year as oil spills and safety lapses in the United States overshadowed record profits for the oil company.

Browne's annual performance bonus for 2006 was cut to 900,000 pounds ($1.74 million), from 1.75 million pounds the year before, according to BP's annual report released Tuesday.

The details of Browne's salary were released as BP revealed in a separate filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that the Department of Justice has issued grand jury subpoenas for documents and testimony related to a March 2005 explosion at its plant in Texas City, Texas, that killed 15 people.

The justice department is investigating whether the Texas City incident involved any criminal conduct.

It is the second set of subpoenas issued on BP by a U.S. grand jury - the company received the first set of papers last year from a jury investigating a massive March 2006 oil leak at its Prudhoe Bay field in Alaska. BP has blamed the incident, the largest ever spill on Alaska's North Slope region, on a small hole caused by corrosion in a pipeline.

With its reputation in the United States tarnished, BP announced earlier this year that Browne would step down by the end of July, more than a year ahead of the previously announced schedule.

Man brandishing torch robs bank

ANCHORAGE - Authorities on Tuesday were looking for a man who robbed a bank in Anchorage while swinging a flaming torch fashioned from a burning T-shirt and a yard-long metal pole.

On Monday, the masked robber threatened to set fire to people, including the teller, and burn down the bank building in Fairview if his demands weren't met.

The man stormed the Alaska USA Federal Credit Union branch at about 3:45 p.m., said FBI spokesman Eric Gonzalez. He yelled at customers to get down on the floor.

He fled on foot with an undisclosed amount of money, authorities said. All customers managed to flee the bank, authorities said.

Police later recovered the still smoldering shirt outside the bank.

The robber is described as a black man in his late 20s, about 5-foot, 7-inches tall with a medium build. He was wearing a mask covering part of his face, a tan Carhartt jacket and gray sweatshirt, the FBI said.

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