Alaska Digest

Posted: Thursday, October 11, 2007

Mike Chambers leaves post as transportation spokesman for state

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JUNEAU - Mike Chambers, spokesman for the Department of Transportation & Public Facilities, has left that position, according to the department.

That will enable Gov. Sarah Palin's new Transportation Commissioner Leo von Scheben to appoint a new spokesman.

Chambers, husband of Juneau Assembly member Sara Chambers, was formerly spokesman for former Gov. Frank Murkowski, who was defeated by Palin in his re-election bid. Chambers also worked as a reporter for The Associated Press.

Public affairs duties will be handled temporarily by Mary Siroky, an assistant to the commissioner, until a new chief communications officer is hired. She was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

After fire, BP may cut oil production by 30,000 barrels a day

ANCHORAGE - Oil company BP PLC has reported the fifth fire in two months in North Slope fields it is in charge of managing.

The latest fire was small and extinguished quickly, but will likely cut production from the Prudhoe Bay field by about 30,000 barrels a day as workers conduct repairs, the company said. The Prudhoe Bay field is the largest in the U.S. and averaged 300,000 barrels per day over the summer.

The fire involved a turbine engine inside a huge oil processing plant that separates oil from water and gas. The extra substances come up through the pipes along with new crude.

The fire broke out Saturday evening, BP spokesman Daren Beaudo told the Anchorage Daily News on Tuesday.

The fire apparently started after lubrication oil leaked into an exhaust duct, he said.

Repair work could keep the huge engine shut down for up to two weeks, Beaudo said.

Two fires in August also involved leaking lube oil and turbines at different oil production centers at Prudhoe Bay. Two other fires this summer occurred in Lisburne and Badami, smaller North Slope oil fields run by BP.

The state fire marshal's office last week issued reports on the fires showing that BP needs to upgrade its fire detection systems. The report cited operator error and equipment malfunctions as causes for the fires.

Jonne Slemons, coordinator of the state Petroleum Systems Integrity Office, said her agency is aware of the latest fire and has tentative plans to issue a report by the end of the week on the four prior blazes.

BP operates Prudhoe Bay on behalf of itself and other owners including Exxon Mobil, Conoco Phillips and Chevron.

Lawmakers to talk about erosion at fieldhearing in Anchorage

ANCHORAGE - Erosion associated with climate change will be discussed during a congressional field hearing today in Anchorage.

U.S. Sens. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, are scheduled to attend the session at the Loussac Library.

Several representatives from Alaska coastal villages like Newtok, Shishmaref and Kivalina will attend and testify during a public testimony portion.

The Alaskans are witnessing first-hand effects of melting permafrost and lack of sea ice that once protected their villages from winter storms.

School goes into 'stay put' mode after security finds BB gun

ANCHORAGE - The doors at Romig Middle School in Anchorage were locked Wednesday after officials received a report that a student had a gun.

School district spokeswoman Heidi Embley says school resource officers and security - including some from the adjoining West High School - immediately began a search and found a disassembled BB gun.

At least one student has been kept after school, but all others were dismissed as normal at the end of the school day. After-school activities have been canceled.

The school was put into "stay put" mode, meaning the doors were locked but it was business as usual inside the school.

Embley says officials were alerted after the student with BB gun was seen showing it off.

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