Alaska News Nightly: April 17, 2012

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Gov. Parnell Makes Sexual Anti Abuse, Domestic Violence Bill A Special Session Priority

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

The Parnell administration has waged a fight against sexual abuse and domestic violence in Alaska. His bill HB 359 – making human trafficking a serious felony offense failed to pass during the regular session. But the governor has made it a special session priority.

FAA Reauthorization Could Enable UAV Expansion

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Alaska is playing a role in the growing field of unmanned aviation, and provisions in a recently passed Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization Act could expand it.

Bill Give Incentives To Military Base-Area Businesses

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

A bill that passed the legislature will benefit businesses that operate around military installations. Businesses inside state designated Military Facility Zones would have access to tax breaks and low interest loans.  Sponsor Representative Steve Thompson, of Fairbanks, says the change could attract new companies to meet specific military needs in Alaska.  As an example, Thompson says there’s opportunity around Eielson Air Force base related to unmanned aerial vehicles.

The legislature appropriated $5 million to the University of Alaska Fairbanks to collaborate with the Federal Aviation Administration on a UAV research and development program and a possible FAA national test center.

Report Says More Needs To Be Done To Make Offshore Drilling Safer

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

The former members of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Commission aren’t handing out any “A’s” as they grade the progress industry, Congress and the Interior Department have made since the accident two years ago. In a new report, the members reserve their harshest criticism for Congress, which they say hasn’t done enough to make offshore oil drilling safer. Former Lt. Governor Fran Ulmer was a member of the commission. She says it’s not all bad news, some good changes have been made.

Fran Ulmer is Chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission and a former member of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Commission. She is speaking about the new report in a presentation at the University of Anchorage Bookstore tomorrow at 5pm.

Legislature Funds Education For The Short Term

Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage

In a last minute push, the Alaska Legislature passed funding for schools over the weekend. They passed SB 182 — an education package — and SB 160 — the capital budget. Together, they provide more than $100 million in funding for districts across the state.

Polar Bear Conservation Proposal Won’t Address Greenhouse Gas

The Associated Press

A proposed federal rule for managing America’s polar bears will look a lot like previous policy that did not address the effects of greenhouse gases on sea ice.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday the polar bear proposal will not change management and conservation efforts.

Polar bears were listed as threatened in 2008 because of losses to sea ice habitat. Former Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said the Endangered Species Act would not be used to limit greenhouse gases blamed for Arctic warming.

Brendan Cummings of the Center for Biological Diversity says President Obama is duplicating the ineffective measures of his predecessor.

He says polar bear conservation measures that don’t mention greenhouse gases are like discussing the Titanic without mentioning icebergs.

NOAA To Prepare Right Whale Recovery Plan

The Associated Press

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will prepare a recovery plan for the North Pacific right whale, according to a notice published Tuesday in the Federal Register.

The Center for Biological Diversity last month gave 60-day notice that it intended to sue over the agency’s failure to update its recovery plan for the highly endangered whale. Spokeswoman Rebecca Noblin says only a few dozen remain and they need the full protection of the Endangered Species Act.

There may have been as many as 20,000 right whales in the early 1800s but whalers decimated them. The survivors most years can be found in the Gulf of Alaska or the Bering Sea during summer feeding months.

NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service also will update a recovery plan for endangered blue whales.

PenAir Requests $3.4 Million Subsidy For Adak Flights

Stephanie Joyce, KUCB – Unalaska

Last month, Alaska-based PenAir landed the country’s most expensive Essential Air Service contract for a flight from Presque Isle, Maine to Boston. Now, PenAir is on track to receive the second most expensive EAS subsidy in the nation as well, for flight service between Anchorage and Adak.

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