Alaska Digest

Posted: Friday, April 13, 2007

Juneau man arrested for drugs; attempted break-in alleged

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JUNEAU - Thomas Evan, 33, was arrested on felony and misdemeanor drug charges while he was attempting to break into a house on Distin Avenue shortly after 5:12 p.m. Wednesday, according to police.

Evan, a Juneau resident, possessed less than a gram of cocaine and less than a gram of marijuana, police Sgt. Paul Hatch said. Police arrested Evan on a charge of misconduct involving a controlled substance in the fourth and sixth degrees.

Evan was held at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center without bail, police said.

Dividend check amount expected to grow

JUNEAU - The number of Alaskans applying for a slice of Alaska's $38 billion oil wealth account hasn't changed much this year but the amount of the dividend is expected to grow.

The state estimates it received 630,000 applications for the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend, an increase of about 1 percent over last year.

Of those, more than two-thirds, or 420,596 applications, were filed online, amounting to an 18 percent increase in electronic applications over last year, according to Permanent Fund Dividend Division spokeswoman Karen Lechner.

Lechner attributes the increase to the division's advertising push and an early bird incentive that will allow those who applied online in January to be first to receive a direct deposit.

"We are very interested in encouraging all Alaskans to apply online. It saves time to get immediate confirmation that we have received their PFD application," Lechner said.

Permanent fund managers have said the payout will likely be even larger than last year as the state's nest egg rebounds from a series of bad stock market years.

Payouts are calculated from a five-year average of investment income from bonds, stock dividends and sales, and other investments. Weak market years now are being dropped from the equation while profits in recent years have grown.

Last year's dividend check was $1,106.96. The amount of this year's dividend will be announced on Sept. 24 at the annual meeting of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp.

Early bird payments will be made on Oct. 3, the rest of the direct deposits will be made Oct. 17 and printed checks will be mailed Nov. 13.

State scrutinizes Alyeska safety after tank farm fire

ANCHORAGE - The company that operates one of the world's longest oil pipelines must revamp several of its safety standards following a fire near a crude oil storage facility, according to the state and federal Joint Pipeline Office.

No one was injured by the fire in January at a tank farm run by the Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., but the company has been told to provide pipeline safety officials with plans to prevent future accidents by early May.

The fire started when flames from a portable heater ignited crude oil vapors seeping from the vents of a storage tank, said Ray Elleven, who wrote the report, on Thursday. Crude from the trans-Alaska oil pipeline is sometimes diverted into the tanks to relieve pressure on the 800-mile line.

The most alarming safety deficiencies included "unreliable" evacuation procedures, such as the lack of an alarm system, and the practice of doing welding and electrical work near vents that were releasing flammable gases, said Elleven, the state Department of Labor's liaison to the Joint Pipeline Office.

Alyeska opened its own investigation into the cause of the fire and will start outfitting the tank farms with a system of audible alarms, among other improvements, said spokesman Curtis Thomas, who is based in Fairbanks.

Anchorage company announces oil discovery

ANCHORAGE - A small Anchorage exploration company announced this week it has struck oil on the North Slope, northwest of the Prudhoe Bay oil field.

Brooks Range Petroleum Corp. said Wednesday that its North Shore No. 1 well hit a layer of oil-bearing sandstone during drilling this winter.

A second exploratory well, the Sak River No. 1 well, came up dry, the company said.

The North Shore well is about 1,100 feet west of a test well drilled into the same formation in 1974. The earlier well tested at an average flow rate of 2,263 barrels per day, according to Brooks Range.

The company plans to review seismic data and mount a "full testing program" of the well next winter to assess the size of the discovery and determine if it should be produced.

Brooks Range Petroleum Corp. is a subsidiary of Wichita, Kan.-based Alaska Venture Capital Group. Brooks Range has a number of partners in the exploratory drilling.

Manslaughter trial begins in Fairbanks

FAIRBANKS - A trial began this week for a Fairbanks man charged with manslaughter in the traffic death of a Maryland tourist.

Byron Geisinger, 46, also is charged with driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident in connection with the Sept. 9 death of Yong-Ki Kim, 74, of Germantown, Md. Other charges include driving with a suspended license and possessing a forged insurance card.

Yong-Ki Kim was sightseeing along Chena Hot Springs Road with his wife and son when Geisinger's pickup truck slammed into the back of the Kim family's rented sedan.

Geisinger had too much to drink before the crash, the prosecutor said Wednesday at the opening of the trial. The defense said Kim's car was haphazardly parked on the side of the road.

Kim's wife of 44 years, Younghee Kim, testified that she suffers from motion sickness. She said her husband insisted she sit in front seat because it would make her less carsick.

The couple's son, Edward, was driving.

The three were headed for Chena Hot Springs resort when they caught a glimpse of the Alaska Range. They stopped the car on the shoulder at Mile 8 and turned on the hazard lights.

"We stopped where we thought the view was the best," Edward Kim said on the stand. "I would not have stopped where I thought it was unsafe."

Witnesses said Geisinger had been swerving wildly shortly before his truck rammed the car.

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