State Government Is a Civil War: Harry Noah

Urging lawmakers to put an end to what he calls a Civil War within state government,  outgoing gas pipeline coordinator Harry Noah today (Tuesday) called on lawmakers and the executive branch to make decisions on the future of Alaska’s energy.    In a final report to the House Resources Committee,  Noah brought legislators up to date on the interlocking phases of the work he has been doing since his appointment in March. He said his goal in the job is not to build a project, but to sort out the options from which the state’s political leaders could choose.   In addition, he bluntly told the members that the lack of decisions on a wide range of projects was the reason for his departure.

Noah showed the committee a graphic with a depiction of a major North Slope Energy Sale at the center.  It was surrounded by eight small boxes labeled with various plans to use the gas – such as the TransCanada project,  the Denali gas line,  Cook Inlet gas producers,  and a bullet line from the Slope.

There’s all kind of energy is these individual boxes,  but we’re not actually moving forward.   There isn’t a major sale off the North Slope.  We don’t have a gas supply.  And until we get ourselves together we are just thrashing ourselves at this point in time.   And quite honestly, the legislature is funding most of this.  I mean, you are paying for most of this.  I think you could argue that up to this point, the dollars are well-spent.  But at this point, if you keep spending,  and no one makes a decision,  you just create civil war.   We just create civil war within state government. And there’s no profit in that.

He said that while there are good people doing good work,  what he is seeing in state government is not positive.  Noah says he’s as guilty as people working other projects that would put North Slope gas to use.  There are conflicts that need to be resolved.  At the top of the list,  he pointed to fiscal stability issues that potential gas producers want settled.

That’s the underlying question here.  It’s political dynamite right now, obviously.  It’s very hard to deal with.  But if you don’t deal with it, what’s going to happen is there’s going to be an open season, it’s going to be heavily conditioned, and it’s going to keep rolling.  It’ll be another year after that,  If there’s a new governor there will be new people.  We’ll just keep rolling and rolling and rolling.

The other conflict he sees is the importance that’s being placed on renewable energy projects.  He has no argument with the idea,  but says the state is confusing the market by calling for private sector development of that industry.

It’s very unusual for a state to have so much money.  It’s got disposable income to spend on these types of things.  And we are distorting this marketplace.   On one hand, we want people to commercially come in and do things,  but in the other hand we’ve got this hammer out here that says “You guys go ahead and spend your money, but if you do, we might decide to come in and do it ourselves.”   It’s confusing the marketplace.   And so you all,  you the politicians need to make some decisions.  Are  you going to fund these alternative projects.

Legislators in attendance agreed with Noah’s assessment.  Matsu Senator Charlie Huggins said Noah is a casualty of the civil war he described.  Noah told the committee that he resigned after coming to the conclusion that politicians need to make some decisions.  He said they have plenty of people providing input, but he didn’t see any direction on the way.

Commissioner of Natural Resources Tom Irwin addressed some of the same issues as Harry Noah in the afternoon session of the committee meeting.    Irwin defended the AGIA project and TransCanada and Exxon’s role in the design of that pipeline.
He disagreed with Noah on the need for legislators and the administration  to make decisions quickly on several issues. Irwin said more information is needed before those decisions are made – and a single decision will not cover every need in the state.  He says there are people studying the various options that are appropriate for some Alaskans.

Harry’s group is focused on the Bullet Line.  We’re predominantly AGIA. We have an energy group working on energy for the villages. But if you make a decision today,  ou’re lacking information on the design of AGIA, you’re lacking the Bullet Line information.  I propose that you need to make decisions, but you need to do it with more information.

Irwin asked lawmakers not to get sidetracked with any option before them.


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