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Daily Sitka Sentinel Newspaper Archives Apr 6 2015, Page 1

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Daily Sitka Sentinel (Newspaper) - April 6, 2015, Sitka, Alaska 75 Cents Volume 76 No. 64 Sitka, Alaska Monday, April 6, 2015 6 Pages 7 5 Daily A h o m S e - o w n e d i n e w s t p a p e r s e k r v i n g S i t a k a s i n c e 1 9 4 S 0 • w w e w. s i t k a s n e n t i n e l . c o m t / sitk i asenti n nel el Years Sentinel Special Sitka Soccer takes 2 Sentinel Sports Continued on back page Sitka Forecast for April 7 46 º / 41 º Scattered Showers Winds: SE 10- 15 MPH Obama Fights for Iran Nuke Deal LAW ENFORCEMENT APPRECIATION – Gov. Bill Walker signs legislation proclaiming January 9 Law Enforcement Day in Alaska, Friday afternoon at Allen Hall. During his short visit to Sitka Friday Jessica Gill, Sitka Tribe of Alaska fisheries biologist, weighs herring egg branches as they’re unloaded this afternoon at the city work dock. It was the last load of branches collected by the tribe to distribute to tribal members. This year more than 10,000 pounds was collected, a record amount. The Sitka Herring Festival Community potluck will be held 6 p. m. Tuesday at Centennial Hall. ( Sentinel Photo by James Poulson) Easter Eggs Continued on back page the governor also spoke at a Chamber of Commerce meeting and at the graduation ceremony for the first village public safety officers to become certified to carry weapons on duty. ( Sentinel Photo) Continued on back page Walker Resists Cuts To Schools, Ferries BECKY BOHRER, Associated Press JUNEAU ( AP) — The Alaska Senate has approved a spending proposal that would cut education funding, reject pay raises for public employees and otherwise make deeper agency cuts than the House. The vote Friday evening was 16- 4 and followed hours of debate. Notice of reconsideration was given, meaning the bill can be voted on again before heading back to the House. If the House does not agree with the Senate version — an expected outcome — the budget will go to a conference committee, where House and Senate negotiators will work to hash out differences. The version of the operating budget that passed the Senate would not forward- fund public education for 2017 and would cut school funding by $ 47.5 million for the upcoming fiscal year. That’s on top of cuts proposed to the state education department. Minority Democrats failed in efforts to restore funds cut for next year and to add back money for pre- kindergarten. Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D- Anchorage, called the $ 47.5- million cut “ questionably constitutional” and said he doesn’t think it reflects Alaska’s values. But Senate Finance co- chairs Pete Kelly and Anna MacKinnon said these are tough times. Low oil prices have exacerbated a budget deficit projected to be in the billions of dollars, and state leaders are trying to preserve Alaska’s reserves for as long as possible. The North Slope oil price was about $ 107 a barrel when lawmakers left Juneau last April. The price on Thursday was about $ 52. Debate on the budget was underway when the Revenue department released a spring forecast that lowered by $ 400 million a prior projection for unrestricted general fund revenue for the Alaska Senate Passes Steep Spending Cuts JUNEAU ( AP) — Municipal offi cials in Juneau say they’re hoping the Alaska Legislature won’t follow the recommendation of the Senate Finance Committee to retain millions in cruise ship head tax dollars from port cities. Committee co- chair Anna MacKinnon last week said the appropriation has been overspent in recent years based on projected numbers. The intent behind the recommendation was to put the program on hold to allow for accurate accounting. Juneau officials say they might have to increase a local cruise ship visitor tax to pay for waterfront improvement projects if lawmakers retain the head tax. The Juneau Empire newspaper reports the capital city last year received about $ 5 million from the state. Port director Carl Uchytil says he’s unsure how much the potential loss could impact a planned dock project. Juneau Worries State Will Keep Cruise Ship Tax DAN JOLING, Associated Press ANCHORAGE ( AP) — Six Greenpeace activists protesting Arctic offshore drilling on Monday boarded a drill rig as it was transported across the Pacific Ocean toward Seattle, where it will be staged for drilling on Shell leases in Alaska waters. The 400- foot Polar Pioneer, owned by Transocean Ltd., was on board a heavy- lift vessel about 750 miles northwest of Hawaii when the activists approached in inflatable boats and used climbing gear to get on board, Greenpeace spokesman Travis Nichols said. They plan to unfurl a banner in protest of Arctic offshore drilling but have no plans to interfere with the ship’s navigations, he said. “ All six people on the ship are experienced climbers in their normal daily lives and have the professional training and equipment needed to climb on to the rig safely without interfering with its operation,” Nichols said by email. Shell USA spokeswoman Kelly Op De Weegh said by email that Greenpeace protesters illegally boarded the vessel, called the Blue Marlin, jeop- JUNEAU ( AP) — Alaska is expected to receive $ 400 million less in unrestricted general fund revenue for the current year than previously forecast. The announcement by the state Revenue department came as the state Senate was debating the state’s operating budget. The department previously estimated unrestricted general fund revenue of $ 2.6 billion for the current year, which ends June 30. The forecast has been revised to $ 2.2 billion. The department says the forecast for next year also will be $ 2.2 billion. Revenue commissioner Randall Hoffbeck cited low oil prices. In a release, he said the state’s investment revenue continues to grow in significance and is likely to produce more than twice the revenue of oil going forward. However, he noted that most investment revenue is not typically available for spending. State Revenue Forecast Down By TOM HESSE Sentinel Staff Writer “ Boy, be careful what you pray for as far as running for office,” Gov. Bill Walker said Friday while he was in Sitka. “ My goodness, I started running for this office, oil was $ 110 and after I was sworn in it was $ 46.” Walker was speaking at a Chamber of Commerce event during a visit when he would also sign a law- enforcement appreciation bill and attend a graduation ceremony at the Public Safety Academy. Walker said the answer to the state’s $ 3.5 billion budget deficit will not be by spending reductions alone. “ We will not be able to balance the budget by cutting,” he said. “ That’s something that I think has come off pretty clear. If we laid off every state employee except Pat Pitney, who actually signs the checks, we still wouldn’t have a balanced budget.” “ I’m a little concerned, now, how far we’re cutting. My concern is, with the stroke of a pen we can end programs that have taken decades to create,” Walker added. The first- term governor originally called for a six percent cut to the ferry system budget but said he backed off those cuts later. However, once the legislators started working on the budget, that number was pushed to a 10 percent cut in the state House in February. In March the Senate proposed an additional $ 6 million reduction. Walker current year. Kelly, R- Fairbanks, said a key point to keep in mind when discussing the budget is “ we’ve got a big problem.” It is seen as virtually impossible for the state to cut its way out of the predicament, and a number of lawmakers have said everything has to be on the table when looking at cuts. Education and Medicaid are major components of the state’s budget. MacKinnon, R- Eagle River, said what the committee did was responsible, wasn’t easy and represents a starting point for negotiations with the House. Kelly said the proposal also provides some leeway in case prices said those cuts would require a number of scheduled trips to be canceled. “ What I would hate to see us do, as Alaskans, is contacting – I think the number is 2,500 reservations – that we would have to contact each one to tell them that service is not available ... it just sends the wrong message to those who have planned their schedule....” he said. Walker is also concerned that the 2.5 percent reduction to education funding that he proposed has been “ doubled or tripled” in the Legislature. Last week the Senate Finance Committee moved forward on an amendment that would cut the Base Student Allocation by 4 percent. From the audience, Sitka School Board President Lon Garrison asked the governor what could be done about the nearly $ 80 million proposed cut to schools. “ This is a critical point where I think your leadership is going to be critical in trying to bring people back to the table and what’s good for Alaskans,” Garrison said. Walker said his budget team had originally considered no cuts to education before deciding on the 2.5 percent cut. “ I’m very concerned about the depth of those cuts,” Walker said. “ We sat around our conference room for many hours talking about whether or not we would leave no cuts to education at all and we just felt like there had ardizing their safety and that of the crew. She said Royal Dutch Shell PLC has met with groups that oppose energy exploration in Alaska waters. “ We respect their views and value the dialogue,” Op De Weegh wrote. “ We will not, however, condone the illegal tactics employed by Greenpeace. Nor will we allow these stunts to distract from preparations underway to execute a safe and responsible exploration program.” Petty Officer Third Class Melissa McKenzie of the Coast Guard’s 14th District in Honolulu confirmed the Coast Guard received word from Blue Marlin crew members that a group had boarded the vessel. The office did not receive a request for assistance. The Polar Pioneer left Malaysia in early March. It is one of two drill rigs Shell hopes to use for exploratory drilling during the summer open water season in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast if it can obtain all necessary permits. Shell last drilled in Arctic Ocean waters in 2012. Using two vessels, the company drilled pilot holes and performed other preliminary work in both the Chukchi and the Beaufort seas. Shell was prohibited from drilling into oil- bearing rock because it did not have required response equipment on hand. The company experienced problems in the challenging conditions, culminating with the drill vessel Kulluk, which was used in the Beaufort Sea, running aground near Kodiak when it broke loose from its tow vessel. The company hired by Royal Dutch Shell PLC in 2012 to drill on petroleum leases in the Chukchi — Sugarland, Texas- based Noble Drilling U. S. LLC — in December agreed to pay $ 12.2 million after pleading guilty to eight felony environmental and maritime crimes on board the Noble Discoverer. That rig is the second one Shell intends to use this year if it obtains the necessary permits. Arctic offshore drilling is bitterly opposed by conservation groups that claim oil companies have not demonstrated they can clean up a major spill in ocean water choked with ice. They also say the leases are far from infrastructure such as Coast Guard bases, deep- water ports, major airports and other resources that could be of use in a spill. Nichols said the six activists have the training and experience to carry out the protest safely. They hope to unfurl a banner containing the names of millions of people from around the world who oppose Arctic drilling, he said. The activists are carrying several days’ worth of supplies. “ The most dangerous thing about this rig isn’t the Greenpeace climbers,” Nichols said. “ It’s the reckless drilling Shell wants it to start this summer in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea, where an accident would be impossible to clean up and devastate the delicate Arctic environment.” The activists launched their in flatable boats from the Greenpeace ship Esperanza, Greenpeace said in an announcement. The six protesters are from the United States, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden and Austria. Greenpeace has targeted Shell before. In February 2012, actress Lucy Lawless and seven other activists with the organization climbed a drilling tower on the Arctic- bound Noble Discoverer while it was in port in New Zealand. Lawless spent four days atop the 174- foot tower, camping and blogging about her experiences. The oil- exploration protest briefly delayed the ship’s voyage. Lawless later pleaded guilty to trespassing. In March 2012, Greenpeace activists boarded two Shell- leased ice- breakers in Helsinki, Finland. Greenpeace said Shell leased the icebreakers for support of Arctic offshore drilling. Shell later obtained a U. S. federal court injunction that ordered Greenpeace USA to stay away from its drill rigs destined for the Arctic through October 2012. JOSH LEDERMAN, CONNIE CASS, Associated Press \ WASHINGTON ( AP) — Facing deep skepticism on multiple fronts, President Barack Obama ramped up lobbying Monday for a framework nuclear deal with Iran, one of the toughest sells of his presidency. Yet critics from Jerusalem to Washington warned they won’t sit idly by while Obama and world leaders pursue a final accord that would leave much of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure intact. The White House deployed Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz — a nuclear physicist — to offer a scientific defense of a deal that Moniz said would block all Iranian pathways to a nuclear weapon. He described the emerging deal as a “ forever agreement,” disputing skeptics who contend it would merely delay Iran’s progress toward a bomb. “ This is not built upon trust,” Moniz said, describing a set of intrusive inspections that would tip off the global community if Iran attempts to cheat. “ This is built upon hardnosed requirements in terms of limitations on what they do, at various timescales, and on the access and transparency.” Under the agreement, Moniz said, Iran would agree — in perpetuity — to a beefed- up level of inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Other elements of the inspection regimen, such as those dealing with storage and mining of nuclear materials, would end sooner. And Moniz acknowledged that over time, some restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities might be eased if the world gains confidence that its program is being operated for purely peaceful purposes. Skeptics of Obama’s diplomatic outreach to Iran were undeterred. Senate Majority Leader Mitch Mc- Connell, R- Ky., just back from the Middle East, questioned why Iran would be allowed to retain more than 6,000 centrifuges — despite Obama’s earlier suggestion that he was pursuing a deal that would end Iran’s nuclear program, not simply shrink it. “ The parameters of the interim deal, in essence, establish an internationally recognized, 10- year nuclear research and development program,” McConnell said. The strongest international criticism has come from Israel, where leaders consider a nuclear- armed Iran to be an existential threat. Israel’s minister for strategic affairs, Yuval Steinitz, said Israeli military action against Iran’s nuclear program remains an option, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netan yahu has also insisted any final deal must include a “ clear and unambiguous Iranian recognition of Israel’s right to exist.” Obama, in an NPR News interview Monday, said requiring formal recognition of Israel was a “ fundamental misjudgment,” tantamount to insisting that the Iranian regime completely transform as a prerequisite to a deal. “ We want Iran not to have nuclear weapons precisely because we can’t bank on the nature of the regime changing,” Obama said. In Washington, members of Congress from both parties have raised concerns about the pace at which U. S. and international sanctions on Iran would be lifted in exchange for rolling back its nuclear program. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Iran continues to press publicly for a deal that would lift all sanctions immediately. The U. S. and its negotiating partners — Russia, China, France, the U. K. and Germany — have been pushing for phased- in sanctions Greenpeace Group Boards Arctic Drill Rig relief. But the fact that such a key matter was left unsettled in the framework deal has fueled further doubts about the negotiations, which are supposed to be concluded by June 30. Lawmakers are pushing to give Congress a say in whether the agreement should stand. Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R- Tenn., is pressing legislation that would not only let lawmakers vote to approve or reject the bill, but would also prevent Obama from using his own authority to temporarily waive existing U. S. sanc

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