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Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS — More than 50 people attended the eighth and final hearing conducted by Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell on the marijuana initiative Tuesday, with a couple of dozen people arguing that legalizing marijuana is either a sensible action and a matter of personal choice or a grave threat to children that opens the door to addiction and wasted lives.

While the hearing was a largely sedate affair, there was scattered applause on both sides for many of those who testified and a couple of catcalls. Treadwell thanked the audience for being respectful and said it wasn't close to what one reporter dubbed the Jerry Springer atmosphere that arose at the more contentious hearings...

Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS-- Gov. Sean Parnell has made it a recurring theme of his campaign that oil production on the North Slope is no longer falling because the Legislature approved his bill to cut oil taxes.

"We've stopped the drop in this year -- that was a direct result of Senate Bill 21," Parnell said in a Juneau debate Monday with independent gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker.

The “stopped the drop” statement is based on a comparison of oil production in the fiscal year that ended June 30 with the one that preceded it. During fiscal year 2013 and 2014, oil production was nearly identical...

Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS -- The state and the oil companies will soon be asking legislators who want to know the inner details of negotiations on Alaska's proposed gas line megaproject if they can keep a secret.

It will come in the form of a confidentiality agreement that lawmakers will be asked to sign if they want to see information that the state and the oil companies believe should be kept out of the public eye...

Dermot Cole

An oil tanker left Valdez on Friday with a crude oil shipment bound not for the West Coast of the United States but for South Korea, the first export shipment of Alaska oil in a decade, according to Genscape, which operates a vessel tracking business providing market information to traders.

Genscape said the Polar Discovery, owned by ConocoPhillips, is expected to arrive Oct. 10 at Yeosu, the home of the fourth largest refinery in the world.

ConocoPhillips on Monday confirmed the shipment to Asia...

Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS -- Enrollment at University of Alaska campuses continued to decline this fall, extending a pattern traced in part by university officials to better job opportunities, the cost of living and a drop in the number of public high school graduates in Alaska.

Unemployment and enrollment tend to rise and fall together, the university says. And both are down since 2010, while the number of public high school graduates in Alaska has dropped and the cost of living in rural Alaska has made it harder to maintain enrollment at some campuses...

Dermot Cole

A dispute over 911 phone services between the Fairbanks North Star Borough and Alaska Communications Systems is headed back to state court following a ruling by a federal judge Friday.

Alaska Communications argued that it should be a federal case but District Court Judge Ralph Beistline said that “the facts alleged in the complaint do not state a federal cause of action.”

The borough alleges that about 4,000 Fairbanks residents may have inaccurate addresses in the 911 system because they have moved or changed numbers with the carrier -- still commonly known among Alaskans as ACS -- since May. The list of wrong addresses grows by about 1,000 a month, the borough claims...

Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS — Addressing hundreds of students, faculty members and staff Friday, University of Alaska Fairbanks Chancellor Brian Rogers said even if a tuition hike had been approved by the UA Regents, the school would be preparing for another round of budget cuts.

In his “State of the University” convocation in Davis Concert Hall, Rogers said he is asking university administrators to identify areas by December where “we can cut significant amounts of money and to look again for new and expanded revenue sources.”...

Dermot Cole

A timetable described by a contractor as “extremely aggressive” and “very accelerated” could leave little time to sort out the financial details on the Fairbanks gas trucking project, an electric utility executive warned Thursday.

Cory Borgeson, president of the Golden Valley Electric Association, said the time to consider how a $57.5 million state grant might best be allocated to various segments of the project is now, not after a cost estimate on the North Slope plant is complete in November. “There’s no reason to wait,” he told the board of the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority...

Dermot Cole

As it maps a recovery plan following a failed launch in late August from its rocket range in Kodiak, the Alaska Aerospace Corp.continues to study expansion plans to accommodate rockets capable of carrying payloads nearly three times larger than those in the past.

The Federal Aviation Administration released a draft environmental assessment Sept. 12 on a proposed new launchpad designed for solid- or liquid-fueled rockets with payloads of up to 10,000 pounds. The existing launch complex, which has had 17 launches since 1998, is licensed for solid-fuel rockets with payloads of up to 4,000 pounds...

Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS -- The key question mark about the state-backed effort to expand natural gas distribution in Fairbanks remains the price, with the release of new information put off until the end of the year.

The staff and board of the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority say the revised timetable on the gas trucking plan has nothing to do with the fall election, but is a consequence of a complex and challenging project with many moving parts made more difficult by a compressed schedule.

At a summer meeting, AIDEA board member Gary Wilken of Fairbanks said he would rather take an extra year to get it right than to spend the next 20 years having to live with something that was done wrong...

Dermot Cole