By Dave Donaldson
U-S Senator Mark Begich today gave a wide-ranging speech on issues that have been seen as divisive in the nation’s capitol. Talking to a majority Republican joint session of the state House and Senate, the Senator didn’t back off from discussing his role in the recently enacted Health Care plan, the $13-Trillion national debt, and the effects of the Recovery Act – or stimulus money – that have helped to the state.
However, the biggest response came when he talked about resource development – such as the state’s role in the nation’s energy needs. Senator Begich says he has been working for the development of the state’s resources – oil, mining, forestry and fishing. And he says his approach has been to include the private sector in those issues that need federal attention.
While state and federal investments are enormously important, I know everyone in this room agrees it’s the private sector that leads the way in job creation. Government’s role should be to develop a pro-business climate and then get out of the way.
Begich praised the legislature for focusing on the natural gas pipeline from the North Slope to North America. And he said the national focus on the project will intensify.
Soon, you can expect a new demonstration of support by the Obama administration for the Alaska Gasline Project. We’re poised a ready to increase loan guarantees and federal support for this vital national project.
In a meeting with reporters following the speech, Begich didn’t give details on what to expect. However, he pointed out that President Obama has put the gasline on his list of the top five Green Projects in the country.
Our efforts right now are to convince the President to make it a National Interest Project. Why that is important is it brings other resources to the table. It’ll help streamline the permitting process – and a variety of other things. I believe that the President, as you saw today, to unfold some of his long-term energy strategy to get us more independent on energy, to do energy around our national security and our national economic security, and his first speech was on O-C-S. I believe next you’ll see some other pieces and I believe we’re making our case on the gas line is a big part of that equation. And I believe the President’s folks are very interested in it.
Begich said much of the strength that comes from getting a National Interest designation would depend on what the President wants to do with it. But he sees it as very positive that the President is starting to move on energy at the same time that Congress is starting to see the need for a long-term energy plan – and he says Alaska gas is at the top of the priorities.