Home-heating assistance left out
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JUNEAU - Senate Democrats on Wednesday tried unsuccessfully to put back into a spending bill $8.8 million that would have helped poor Alaskans pay for their home-heating energy costs.
The money would have gone to supplement the federal Low-Income Housing Energy Assistance Program, which has given the state $12.8 million each of the last two years to mitigate the effects of rising fuel costs on the poorest residents of Alaska.
Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, said other states have used their own money to supplement the federal program, and Alaska, being the coldest state in the nation, should be among them.
"These are one-time funds and if the price (of oil) goes down, we don't have to worry about it in the future," said Hoffman, who sponsored the amendment.
The rest of the Senate's Democratic members, who are the minority party, also argued for returning the money to this year's supplemental budget bill.
But Senate Finance Co-Chairman Gary Wilken, R-Fairbanks, said the spending request was cut because it would have contributed to a bloated budget that would be unsustainable if the price of oil falls.
The low-income heating program has always been funded with federal money and to put state money in it now would basically create a new state program, he said.
U.S. Forest Service to review Mitkof sale
JUNEAU - The U.S. Forest Service is temporarily withdrawing its November approval for a 4 million-board-foot timber sale on Mitkof Island, called the Overlook sale, Tongass National Forest officials said Wednesday.
Petersburg District Ranger Patty Grantham said an administrative appeal - filed by Petersburg resident Glen Ith and the Eugene, Ore.-based group Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics - showed that the approval documents needed clarification.
"It's very important to accurately describe our projects so that the public has a clear picture of what is being proposed," Grantham said. A revised decision will be issued later this year, she said.
"It appears to me that we have just held them up temporarily," Ith said Wednesday.
The Overlook sale area encompasses about 190 acres. It is in the central portion of Mitkof Island, about 15 miles south of Petersburg.
To access the area, the Forest Service planned to build about 1.2 miles of new roads.
Agency releases names of deputy marshals
ANCHORAGE - The U.S. Marshal's Service on Wednesday released the names of the deputies involved in a deadly shootout with a Minnesota fugitive in a parking lot at the Homer airport earlier this month.
Marshals and members of the Homer Police Department were trying to serve a federal arrest warrant on Jason Karlo Anderson, 31, when witnesses say the man wanted on drug charges started shooting. Anderson was hit nine times by bullets before shooting himself in the head March 1, according to the state medical examiner.
Anderson's two young children were in the car at the time. His 2-year-old son, Jason, was wounded in the head and remains in critical condition at an Anchorage hospital, officials said. A 6-month-old girl also in the vehicle was not wounded.
Homer police chief Mark Robl has said his officers did not see the children in the car when the shooting occurred.
The two federal deputies at the airport were John Olson, 36, and Kevin Guinn, 40, Alaska State Trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson said. Only one of the deputies was involved in the shootout, but Wilkinson said they would not immediately identity that officer.