AKLeg special session, day 12: Alaska Legislature approves purchase of TransCanada’s interest in AKLNG project
The spotlight was on the Alaska House Wednesday as its members voted on whether to keep the Alaska liquefied natural gas pipeline project, AKLNG, moving.
“The eyes of the world are watching what this Legislature does and how we act,” said Rep. Mark Neuman, co-chair of the House Finance Committee. “I think by providing the requests that were done by the department, we show that the Legislature is putting their money where their mouth is.”
The Alaska House passed Senate Bill 3001 unanimously, with a vote of 39-0. The bill approves $157 million in funding for the State of Alaska to buy a larger share in its natural gas pipeline project. TransCanada Corporation will receive $68 million for its share in the project.
The Senate voted 16-3 Tuesday in favor of the bill.
“They were holding our chips at the table, we’re finally taking our chips ourselves,” said Rep. Scott Kawasaki, of Fairbanks. “We’re finally sitting at the table with three producers, and I think that’s the way it should be.”
Several members of the House spoke in favor of the project, urging a yes vote from their colleagues.
“This bill is about saving the state money,” said Rep. Les Gara, a member of the House Finance Committee. “Whether the project succeeds or doesn’t, it saves us money.”
Other members spoke about the catastrophic nature of failing to approve the funding to buyout TransCanada, who has acted on the state’s behalf in the project until now.
“If we don’t vote yes, the project dies,” said Rep. Andy Josephson.
Only one member of the House said she was on the fence about how to vote. Rep. Shelley Hughes, of Palmer, expressed her disappointment with the way Gov. Bill Walker’s administration failed to adequately address her concerns.
“I needed to make a decision, Mr. Speaker, whether it would be a wake-up call, a protest vote to send a message, or whether it’d be a ‘let’s move forward with our three partners and save the state some money’ vote,” Hughes said.
Earlier in the special session, TransCanada spokesperson, Vincent Lee, said his company couldn’t continue to vote in good faith on the project, knowing the administration wanted to sever ties. Lee said his company would vote no on a Dec. 4 decision about whether to move forward in the project.
“This is probably one of the less controversial things that we’ll do in moving forward on this gas line,” said Rep. Charisse Millet, the House Majority Leader.
The House adjourned Wednesday afternoon, after spending several hours debating two resolutions — one of which reinforces the blueprint for the project moving forward. The Senate is expected to adjourn Thursday morning. SB3001 will pass through the governor’s office for a final signature Thursday.