ALASKA - The special legislative session ended with a whimper Monday night, as the House of Representatives finally acknowledged that the senate would not engage on the issue of an in-state natural gas pipeline.
The House Majority press conference following adjournment was a chorus of sharp complaints about the senate, but senators said the legislation, favored by Governor Sean Parnell and the House Majority, simply was not ready for prime time.
"We did what the good people of Alaska elected us to do,” said Representative Bob Lynn (R-Anchorage). “We came down here and we passed good bills out of this house and so Mr. Speaker I move and ask unanimous consent that the house adjourn Sine Die."
After the 27th legislature wrapped up its business, members of the Republican-led majority in the house decided to place blame.
"Sadly the Alaska Senate has told the people of Alaska no,” said Representative Mike Hawker (R-Anchorage). “...Has said no to finding affordable energy for our communities."
The last bill standing was designed to expedite the construction of an in-state gas line to serve Alaska consumers.
"What the senate has done is they've doomed Alaskans in Fairbanks and in rural Alaska to another year, two, three, four, of brutal winters, spending a disproportionate amount of their income on just staying warm,” said Representative Craig Johnson (R-Anchorage).
But senators in the bipartisan majority said the house was headed in the wrong direction.
"It doesn't make sense to go ahead and build a small diameter line from the North Slope down to Southcentral when we have a 200-year supply of gas in cook inlet,” said Senator Bill Wielechowski.
According to Wielechowski, a big gas line will provide far cheaper gas.
"It's just a policy difference,” said Wielechowski. “I think that's ultimately what it came down to. Many of us on the senate side felt it was a bad policy call. We've already invested half a billion dollars in a large diameter line. We're finally in a position where you have the producers on alignment. We're in a position where we're making progress on a big line."
And there were concerns about making a super-agency out of the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation.
"An enormous amount of power given to an agency, an enormous amount of rights given to them without coming back to the legislature before confirmation,” said Senate President Gary Stevens (R-Kodiak).
With the wide differences between the house and the senate the legislature finally ran out of gas.
Of course the other issue that failed in the special session was Parnell's bill to reduce oil taxes by up to $2 billion a year, depending upon the price per barrel.
Stevens said that issue might well come back next year, but he says the administration so far has not made the case.