Northwest Digest

Posted: Monday, December 24, 2007

Red Cross of Alaska seeks donations

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ANCHORAGE - The Red Cross of Alaska is seeking public donations to help maintain its services.

The organization says its resources were tapped by a recent surge in people displaced by fires.

Red Cross spokeswoman Kelly Hurd says the organization has helped more than 100 people displaced by fires across the state since Nov. 1.

She says the average cost of a Red Cross response is about $2,400.

Anchorage manager takes a new job

ANCHORAGE - Anchorage city manager Denis LeBlanc is stepping down next month to take a new job as operations and maintenance director for the Anchorage office of CH2M Hill, an engineering, construction, management and design firm.

Earlier this year, CH2M Hill purchased Anchorage-based oil field services company VECO Corp.

LeBlanc has been city manager since 2003. He formerly was an executive at Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., the Anchorage-based operator of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.

He says his last day as city manager will be Jan. 18.

His replacement is deputy city manager Mike Abbott.

Woman sentenced in dragging death

ANCHORAGE - A 20-year-old woman convicted of driving drunk and dragging her boyfriend to his death was sentenced to five years in prison with three suspended.

At her sentencing hearing Friday, Adrienne Oney wept, barely able to get out an apology to the family of Michael Fitka.

He died one year ago when she hit him with her car after a night of drinking, then dragged his body 100 feet on an Anchorage street.

"Due to my poor choices of drinking and driving, the Fitka family has lost a son and I have lost the love of my life," Oney said.

Oney was originally charged with manslaughter for the death of Fitka, 22. Charges were reduced in a plea agreement to criminally negligent homicide.

Judge John Suddock said the incident was an example of how alcohol has had a "scarring influence" on the community.

Gas line bidders give more information

ANCHORAGE - Gov. Sarah Palin says five entities that submitted natural gas pipeline applications last month have submitted additional data.

Clarifications or more information were requested by Palin's gas pipeline team.

When reviews of the applications are complete, letters will be issued advising whether an applicant has met statutory requirements for completeness.

An evaluation phase would follow.

Palin says a "completeness" review will not occur until after Jan. 1.

All applications will be made public for comment after the review.

After public comment, an application could be forwarded to the Legislature for approval.

Cuddy says he'll challenge Stevens

ANCHORAGE - An Anchorage developer plans to take another shot at replacing U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens.

Former state Rep. David Cuddy said Friday he will file a letter of intent after New Year's to run in the 2008 Republican primary for Senate.

Cuddy, 55, comes from one of Alaska's most prominent banking families and formerly was president of First National Bank of Anchorage. He spent time earlier this decade living in Los Angeles, consulting for the entertainment industry.

Cuddy spent about $1 million, much of it his own money, in an unsuccessful attempt to defeat Stevens in the 1996 Republican primary. Cuddy received just 27 percent of the primary vote.

In that race, he ran as a conservative who wanted to shrink government and cut taxes.

Congressman seeks BP records after fire

LONDON - A U.S. congressman said late Thursday he wants to obtain BP's incident log book concerning a fire at its Alaska operation, after a critic of the company said subsequent repairs were more extensive than publicly disclosed.

BP critic Charles Hamel said in a letter that members of a BP external board were steered away from the damaged area - even though the board was specifically hired to oversee the way BP deals with operational challenges.

In a letter sent this week to George Miller, D.-Calif., chairman of the U.S. House of Representative's Education and Labor Committee, Hamel said repairs made following an Aug. 6 fire at BP's Alaska operations were more extensive than publicly disclosed.

A spokesman for Miller said, "We continue to be concerned with safety issues at BP's Prudhoe Bay facility. We are preparing a request for the daily log" of operations at the facility.

A BP spokesman refused to comment on the assertions contained in the letter, but said the fire was investigated.

Group seeks listing for ribbon seals

ANCHORAGE - Frustrated by a lack of regulations limiting global warming, a conservation group wants ribbon seals listed as threatened or endangered because their habitat - sea ice - is disappearing amid climate change.

The Center for Biological Diversity on Thursday filed a 91-page petition with the National Marine Fisheries Service seeking to list ribbon seals as threatened or endangered. The group says the classification is needed because sea ice is disappearing due to climate change brought on by humans.

"The Arctic is in crisis state from global warming," said biologist Shaye Wolf, lead author of the petition. "An entire ecosystem is rapidly melting away and the ribbon seal is poised to become the first victim of our failure to address global warming."

A message left by The Associated Press on Thursday with the federal fisheries service was not immediately returned.

The petition marks the center's second attempt to use the Endangered Species Act to force action on global warming. Within weeks, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will decide whether to list polar bears as threatened because of habitat loss from global warming.

World climate experts who made up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported in February that global warming "very likely" is caused by human use of fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal.

The Endangered Species Act requires animals to be categorized as endangered if they risk extinction due to destruction of their habitat. A species is threatened if it is likely to become endangered.

Either listing would require federal wildlife managers to create a recovery plan that could address U.S. causes of global warming. When considering permits for development, other federal agencies could be required to take action to avoid harm to threatened animals.

Attorney Brendan Cummings, ocean program director for the Center for Biological Diversity, said that without a national legal mechanism regulating greenhouse gases, his organization has turned to the Endangered Species Act.

"Absent action by Congress and this administration, it's perhaps the best law on the books to gain some benefits," he said.

Officials endorse wolf hunt proposal

HELENA, Mont. - State wildlife commissioners Thursday approved the tentative framework for a wolf-hunting season they expect to establish if federal protection for wolves in the Northern Rockies ends in 2008.

Commissioners largely endorsed a proposal presented by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks staff, but sidelined a plan to allow trapping of wolves the first year the plan is in effect.

Wildlife officials in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming expect the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to end the protected status of Northern Rockies wolves early in 2008, with management of the animals then shifting to the states. Wolves received Endangered Species Act protection in 1973, were reintroduced to the three states in 1995 and have multiplied to more than 1,500 animals in the region.

Montana has about 400 wolves in 85 packs, and there are about 37 breeding pairs, state wildlife manager Ken McDonald told the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission. Most of the wolves are in the western third of the state.

The proposal that advanced Thursday is intended to maintain at least 15 breeding pairs, five more than specified in a federal plan for wolves' "delisting," or removal from the list of protected species, McDonald said.

The hunting season would be from Sept. 15-Nov. 30. The number of licenses issued would be unlimited, but the state would have a quota for the number of animals that could be killed.

The tentative plan does not include the quota. Officials said they want to address that later and likely will recommend a quota of about 130 wolves. The plan calls for an annual limit of one wolf per hunter.

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