Gov.'s chief of staff to be gas negotiator
JUNEAU - Gov. Frank Murkowski confirmed Wednesday that his chief of staff, Jim Clark, will also be the lead negotiator in the state's talks with oil producers to develop and transport natural gas from the North Slope.
Clark will still serve as chief of staff but devote most of his time to the negotiations, Murkowski said.
"We have 14 commissioners capable of running the state," said Murkowski, adding that they will take on some of Clark's duties.
A lawyer, legislative negotiator and the governor's top adviser, Clark has already spent a significant amount of time on the negotiations, which is why the governor said he chose him. Clark has served as chief of staff since Murkowski took office in 2002.
So far, the state is reviewing proposals from a consortium of North Slope developers - BP Alaska, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil - and from TransCanada to transport the gas to Midwestern states.
Murkowski said earlier he expects to have one or two contracts by the fall for the Legislature to approve.
"We are closer every week to the development of a contract to present to the Legislature," he said.
Ex-Fairbanks banker pays $453,808
ANCHORAGE - A former pharmacist and banker from Fairbanks paid close to a half million dollars in restitution and interest to help satisfy his sentence for bank fraud, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Thomas Miklautsch paid $453,808 in restitution to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the entity which insures deposits in banks.
Miklautsch, a former director of the defunct Alaska Statebank, was sentenced to five months in prison after pleading guilty to bank fraud. Miklautsch was director of Alaska Statebank from 1964 until its collapse in 1989. He was indicted by a federal grand jury in 1994.
He already had served that much since his arrest after nearly 10 years as a fugitive.
Miklautsch fled the country before facing charges and was a fugitive until his arrest in 2003. He pleaded guilty last August to one count of bank fraud and was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison, with just over two years suspended. He also was ordered to pay restitution.
Miklautsch had faced 15 felony counts stemming from a 1995 indictment of five Alaska Statebank executives. They were accused of fraud and conspiracy charges for using insider loans to take over rival Alaska National Bank of the North in the 1980s, and for issuing inflated dividend payments when the bank was losing money.
According to court documents, by the time Alaska Statebank closed in 1989, the five directors owed nearly $2.5 million. Miklautsch owed more than $1 million, according to court documents.
Bear acts up in Glacier Bay
JUNEAU - The National Park Service is advising kayakers to avoid part of Glacier Bay National Park after a brown bear entered a party's camp and would not be deterred from eating camping gear.
Park officials say the bear entered the camp of 12 guided people in the Ptarmigan Creek area and became interested in the gear. The campers stood together and defended their gear by yelling, but the bear stayed and chewed some sleeping pads and personal items.
After a half hour the campers started throwing rocks at the bear, which walked away slowly when it was struck, according to the Park Service. The group packed up and moved further up the bay and across the inlet from Ptarmigan Creek.
Park officials advise against camping between the Ibach Cabin in Reid Inlet and Lamplugh Glacier while staff members monitor bear activity.
Doyon joint venture gets military contract
FAIRBANKS - Doyon Ltd. has entered into a joint venture with another company to secure another local military contract, this time a multimillion dollar contract to prepare a site for portable buildings on the Fort Wainwright Army Post.
Doyon and American Mechanical received the $9.84 million contract from the U.S. Army without competitive bidding, according to an announcement from the Department of Defense last week.
The site the companies are developing will include utilities, lighting, paving, phones, landscaping and anti-terrorism measures, according to information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Anchorage, which is handling the contract.
The work is to be done by the end of January.
The sole-source contract was awarded under the federal government's small, minority-owned business preference rules, according to the Defense Department. Doyon is an Alaska Native regional corporation, and like other Alaska Native companies and Native American tribal companies is exempt from a $5 million cap on sole-source contracts that applies to other small, minority-owned businesses.
Appeals court upholds ban on pesticides
SEATTLE - A federal appeals court has upheld a ban on the use of pesticides near streams in Washington, Oregon and California until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determines the chemicals won't harm salmon.
U.S. District Judge John Coughenour in Seattle ruled in January 2004 that no-spray buffer zones be put in place near rivers where there are threatened and endangered salmon.
The EPA, pesticide makers and farming groups appealed, arguing, among other things, that a coalition of environmental groups had not proved that dozens of pesticides in question would cause irreparable harm.
On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected that argument. It also dismissed the EPA's contention that it shouldn't have to comply with the Endangered Species Act because it was already working to comply with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.
"An agency cannot escape its obligation to comply with the ESA merely because it is bound to comply with another statute that has consistent, complementary objectives," the court said.