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10/15/14 - Candidates for Governor debate high Interior energy costs, Flint Hills refinery closure

In a forum hosted by the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce Tuesday, two candidates running for Alaska Governor debated local and statewide issues. Gov. Sean Parnell defended his administration when candidate Bill Walker questioned what he's doing about the high cost of energy in Interior Alaska. Parnell said he's totally focused on reducing energy and fuel costs in the Interior and across the state. He cited gas-line negotiations and agreements in which he says he made sure Fairbanks would pay the lowest costs for gas.

An audience member asked both Parnell and Walker how they might have prevented the closure of the Flint Hills Refinery in North Pole. Walker said the Governor didn't do enough. Walker said when the company first came asking for help, months before the closure, he "would have gotten back to them to be part of the solution."

Parnell said, "I told them 'this is your moment to go speak with the Attorney General.' Now my Attorney General is Michael Gheraty, a Fairbanks boy. Do you really think that he would just sit there and do nothing or do you think he went to work with it? I'll submit that the refinery closing is a huge blow. It's something that caught me by surprise, but it is not something that I anticipated."

Parnell asked Walker how he would handle anticipated University of Alaska budget cuts in coming years. Walker said he'll look for efficiencies in all state departments, "I will look across the board. We have to look across the entire state to find out what we need to do. But it won't be exclusive. It will be inclusive. I'll certainly meet with the University;  of course I will."

The candidates also touched on statewide issues such as Medicaid benefits, the state budget, and valuation of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System..

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Jeremy Zidek, with the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, says it's important for Alaskans to prepare for earthquakes. He notes Alaska is the most active seismic region in the United States and the site of the largest earthquake in North American history. Also, he says three of the six largest earthquakes recorded in the world occurred here.   Zidek says Alaskans have an opportunity to take part in the world's largest earthquake drill on Oct. 16. Some 20 million people worldwide, including 76,000 Alaskans have signed up for the Great Alaska Shakeout.

Participants will practice three steps to stay safe: drop to the ground, find some type of cover to protect themselves, and hang on. Zidek says people who practiced drop, cover and hold were quickest to act when a 6.2 magnitude quake struck south-central Alaska on Sept. 25, 2014. He says without actively practicing, people may become confused; forget to drop, cover and hold; run outdoors; or expose themselves to falling objects. For more information, visit shakeout.org .

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The Anchorage Police Department is investigating a hoax that makes it look like the Ebola virus was found at an Anchorage school. The virus was not found at an Anchorage school. APD says someone doctored an image of the school district's website to replace text with misinformation about Ebola and and announce it on the social media network "Twitter." Police are investigating this as an act of Terroristic Threatening, a B Felony. They ask people with information to call 786-8900. To submit information anonymously, call Crime Stoppers at 561-STOP, or visit www.anchoragecrimestoppers.com.