Parnell Has Parallel Strategies on a Gas Line
Governor is confident he can push the oil companies to act, as he did last year
JUNEAU - When it comes to getting oil companies to move forward on a major gas line project, Governor Parnell’s strategy might be described as walking loudly and carrying a small stick.
But the governor is confident he can push the companies to act, as he did last year.
Governor Parnell got what he wanted last year on a gas line – alignment between North Slope producers BP, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips, and pipeline company TransCanada, as they agreed to work together on a project to tidewater for export of liquefied natural gas, with take-off points for Alaskan consumers along the way.
Now the governor is pushing the companies to keep the momentum going, even as a state agency works on a project to provide gas only to Alaskans.
“My priority is to get Alaskans’ gas to Alaskans first and to get it now,” he said at a news conference Thursday.
The governor is calling on the Big Three producers and TransCanada to come up with a gas pipeline project description by February 15 – details including the size of the pipe, the volume of gas, the route and various infrastructure.
“Last year -- what I saw last year was when I set aggressive benchmarks, the companies upped their game and responded. Tell us what you’re planning. Tell us what you’re going to build.”
The governor wants a commercial agreement among the companies by spring, followed by a season of field work this summer.
“Alaskans deserve to know what’s going to be, what the plan is, before we’re asked to give up anything on the gas tax side.”
But at the same time, Parnell is backing legislation to strengthen the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation in its pursuit of a much smaller pipeline that would deliver gas only in Alaska.
“I want them to be able to build a gas line on their own or to participate in a gas line being built by themselves and others.”
Dan Sullivan, commissioner of natural resources, elaborated in an interview: “If the producers stall, and we’ve seen that before, or if the momentum that we’ve seen is not accelerated or stalls, we have to have the ability to move forward as a state with regard to commercializing our gas for Alaskans and then also maybe for export.”
Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage) says he doesn’t understand the governor’s concept of “merging” the two projects, because they’re so different. “The worst option, probably, but if we have to go there we have to go there, is the little diameter pipeline they’re talking about. But that’s going to lead to very expensive gas and tie consumers to those prices for 20 or 30 years.”
The in-state line is the fallback, but in terms of consumer impacts, size matters.
Governor Parnell said last year that he envisioned discussions about fiscal terms for a big gas line project during 2013.
Under the timetable he laid out today, that suggests a special legislative session this fall, although he declined to comment on the possibility.