Northwest Digest

Posted: Monday, October 22, 2007

State sets new rules for trash haulers

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FAIRBANKS - State regulators have approved rules that deregulate the commercial refuse hauling industry in six Alaska communities but requires trash companies to follow rules designed to protect consumers.

Under the deal approved last week by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska, trash hauling companies will be allowed to adjust rates at will for commercial customers. However, companies must apply rates evenly to all customers and cannot refuse to provide service to anyone.

The companies also will be required to publicly notify customers of any changes to rates.

The deal ends months of complicated regulatory maneuvering that started in May when Anchorage-based Alaska Pacific Environmental Services, LLC, which does business under the name Alaska Waste, asked state regulators to economically deregulate the industry in Anchorage, Girdwood and Whittier, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, the Kenai Peninsula Borough and Fairbanks.

Alaska Waste made the request because it intended to purchase most of the assets of University Refuse, LLC, the primary garbage company in Fairbanks. State regulators approved that sale in September.

The deal leaves Fairbanks with an unregulated monopoly for commercial trash hauling.

Commercial status is determined by the amount of trash being hauled.

Agrium employees attract job offers

KENAI - BP Alaska and other companies are making jobs available to employees losing work at a Nikiski fertilizer production plant.

Lisa Parker, spokeswoman for Agrium USA, said BP has reopened five job categories and invited ex-Agrium workers to apply.

Parker said BP would fill 20 to 25 positions and is looking for facility operators, well-site operators, mechanics, instrument technicians and electricians, and gas-to-liquids facility operators. All the jobs are in Alaska.

"That's really someone going above and beyond," Parker said of BP.

Home Depot also is offering jobs, Parker said. Piper Morgan Associates and Source-Solutions, job-search firms, had inquired about available workers. Also offering possible jobs was the city of Unalaska, Parker said.

Agrium USA's parent company, Agrium Inc., headquartered in Canada, in September announced its decision to close the Nikiski complex. Agrium cited continuing difficulty in finding sufficient supplies of natural gas feedstock at competitive prices as the reason for the closure.

The plant will be mothballed. During the shutdown process, Agrium employees will see staggered layoffs.

Agrium announced its gas-supply shortage two years ago and the company has been working with the Alaska Department of Labor to ease the job transition Agrium employees will face, Parker said.

"This is the first year where we put out the number of positions and dates when terminations would occurring," she said.

Food drops for bears prompts debate

RENO, Nev. - For years, people have been urged not to feed bears. Now, some experts think backcountry food drops being made by dozens of residents at Lake Tahoe might just be what hungry black bears need to survive.

Those dropping food by air and foot in remote locations are defying Nevada and California wildlife officials, who have branded their actions as "misplaced kindness." Feeding wild bears is prohibited in California; Nevada has no such law.

The feeding effort comes amid a record number of bear complaints around Lake Tahoe this year, when a drought has drastically reduced their natural fare of berries and nuts. A record 75 bears also have been struck and killed by vehicles around the lake this year, according to the Lake Tahoe-based BEAR League.

"We certainly respect people's intentions, but biologists and managers from all involved agencies in this situation agree that feeding bears is contrary to the goal of keeping bears wild," said Russ Mason, game division chief with the Nevada Department of Wildlife.

State wildlife officials said feeding bears could make them more closely associate humans with food.

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