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Judge rejects call to block Walker from expanding Medicaid

Aug 28, 2015 -- 1:15pm
- JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - A judge has rejected a request by state lawmakers to temporarily block Gov. Bill Walker from expanding Medicaid in Alaska. Superior Court Judge Frank Pfiffner denied a request by the Alaska Legislative Council to bar Walker from implementing Medicaid expansion until the merits of the council's case challenging Walker's authority to expand Medicaid on his own are decided. Walker announced plans to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid coverage for thousands more lower-income Alaskans after legislators tabled his expansion legislation for further review. Walker has proposed rolling out expansion Tuesday. The complaint centered on whether the expansion population is a mandatory group for coverage under Medicaid or an optional group that would require legislative approval. Pfiffner said unless another court says otherwise, Walker can go ahead with his plans.

Crews to arrive to help fight blaze in Kodiak's Chiniak area

Aug 28, 2015 -- 1:00pm
- KODIAK, Alaska (AP) - Additional firefighting crews are expected to help battle a wind-whipped wildfire that prompted evacuation orders for a small Kodiak Island community and destroyed a library and some properties. The fire erupted Thursday night in Chiniak, about 10 miles southeast of the city of Kodiak, on the easternmost point of Kodiak Island, leading to the evacuation call. The cause of the blaze isn't clear. Kodiak City Manager Aimee Kniaziowski told KMXT radio there was no good estimate yet for its size. Authorities said a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter planned an aerial survey and damage assessment. Kodiak Fire Chief Jim Mullican said the fire continued to burn out of control. Strong winds, which have whipped up ash from a century-old volcanic explosion, have hampered air travel in the region.  

EPA: Clean water rule in effect despite court ruling

Aug 28, 2015 -- 12:45pm
- WASHINGTON (AP) - The Environmental Protection Agency says it is going forward with a new federal rule to protect small streams, tributaries and wetlands, despite a court ruling that blocked the measure in 13 central and Western states. The EPA says a rule that took effect Friday in 37 states will safeguard drinking water for millions of Americans. Opponents, including farm and business groups, have pledged to fight the rule, emboldened by a federal court decision Thursday that blocked the rule from Alaska to Arkansas. Other lawsuits seeking to block the rule are pending across the country, and the Republican-controlled Congress has moved to thwart it. Opponents call the rule federal overreach. The EPA says it clarifies which smaller waterways fall under federal protection after two Supreme Court rulings left that uncertain.

Shell pauses Arctic offshore drilling for high wind, water

Aug 28, 2015 -- 12:30pm
- ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - A spokesman for Royal Dutch Shell PLC says he's not sure when exploratory drilling will resume off Alaska's northwest coast after high winds and waves shut down operations Wednesday. Curtis Smith says in an email that all critical operations were paused in the Chukchi Sea because of high wind and waves. The Polar Pioneer, a semi-submersible drilling unit that Shell leases from Transocean Ltd., began work July 30 and remains anchored at the drill site. The weather is also affecting operations on shore. Smith says Shell is temporarily relocating staff at its housing camp in Barrow, the northernmost city in the United States. Smith says a road used to transport people to the camp is down to one lane due to high water and could become impassable. 

Sitka offers free counseling in wake of deadly landslide

Aug 28, 2015 -- 12:15pm
- JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Officials are urging residents of Sitka to seek mental health counseling in the wake of the recent landslide. The Daily Sitka Sentinel reports that the city's emergency response plan includes a mental health component, which was added a few years ago. Those seeking help can call Community Response Counseling for free. The landslide occurred Aug. 18 when logs, mud and debris slid down a hillside into a Sitka neighborhood, killing three people. In response, medal health organizations have coordinated to make sure counselors are on hand in the wake of the disaster to talk to family members and friends of the victims, as well as searchers and rescue workers and other responders.

Fairbanks politicians warned for violating 'billboard law'

Aug 28, 2015 -- 12:00pm
- FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - Politicians in Fairbanks and the rest of the state are receiving letters warning them to obey the "billboard law" with their campaign signs. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports that the law prohibits political signs on property along state-maintained roads, which in the Fairbanks North Star Borough are most roads. For a sign to be legal, it needs to be almost two football fields away from the pavement. In Fairbanks, there are a number of signs along state-maintained roads despite the law. An Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities spokeswoman says they are sending letters to political camps throughout the state to remind them of the sign road. Any sign placed too close to roads are subject to DOT removal, including signs attacked to vehicles.
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