Lawmakers concerned as governor seeks new partners for gasline project
Gov. Bill Walker is switching gears to the state’s gasline project after lawmakers ended a special session in Juneau without passing any long-term financial plan. But many lawmakers don’t like where he’s going.
At a luncheon hosted by the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, Walker told business leaders it is appropriate for the state to take the lead on building the pipeline for the project, known as AKLNG.
“This is creating the infrastructure for commerce to work,” Walker said. “If we had not built any roads in Alaska, and waited, and said, ‘Well, that’s up to the trucking industry to build the roads,’ we wouldn’t have any roads.”
Last month, the president of the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation told lawmakers the project is not moving forward with current partners ExxonMobil, BP and ConocoPhillips. Now, Walker says he wants the gasline’s customers to help pay for it.
“Over the last 30 years, it’s been, you know, you look at these projects and you see customers involved in the project, and so we’re not trying to create something new it’s just sort of the new norm we’re looking to take advantage of,” Walker said. “There’s a whole world of companies on the market side that have expressed interest in this project, so I see no scenario that we’re going in alone. I see no scenario that we’re using the permanent fund.”
But many lawmakers don’t share the governor’s optimism.
“Those are things that we would need to look at,” said Senate President Kevin Meyer. “Because what we want to do is to sell the gas for as much as possible — if they’re investing, [investors] want to buy the gas for as cheap as possible.”
After spending months in session trying to trim the state’s budget, Rep. Geran Tarr said she’s concerned about what the state can afford right now.
“If the state has to take on a larger role in this next phase, that means it will be likely of more cost to the state and we are really trying to balance our essential state services with opportunities like this,” Tarr said. “If it turns out that we have to slow down the project right now as we wait for market conditions to improve or if we can’t bring together these new opportunities, it will be a huge disappointment, but we’ll have to prepare for the next one.”
ConocoPhillips, BP and ExxonMobil will have to decide by the end of the year whether to continue forward with the project.
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