By Dave Donaldson
Alaskans will not immediately know the extent of industry interest in either of Alaska’s natural gas pipelines until this year’s gubernatorial elections are over. Both the state-licensed TransCanada proposal and the B-P/Conoco Phillips’ Denali projects are currently before possible gas shippers for consideration during the Open Season process. But the results of that bidding process will be confidential.
Federal Gas Transportation Coordinator Larry Persily says no state or federal law gives any government agency — or the public — access to the proprietary, commercial documents that comprise an Open Season bid.
You wouldn’t know the terms of any deals until they negotiate them, until they file those terms with the Federal Regulatory Commission. It’s entirely possible at some point after the open season closes. Either of the project sponsors might want to announce Hey Alaska, we received X bids, we received X expressions of interest, we received bids totaling X number of feet. I mean, nothing’s stopping them from putting out a summary. But they’re not required to photocopy and hand out on the street corner copies of the actual bids.
The subject has become a political issue in this year’s gubernatorial season, however.
Republican Candidate Ralph Samuels says on his website that Governor Parnell will withhold the results of any responses to the two formal proposals — hiding them until after the election. On this morning’s Talk of Alaska, Samuels says the people of Alaska are paying part of TransCanada’s expenses and should have the information.
We chose to go down this road. Not me, but the people of Alaska through their elected officials chose to go down this road for the five hundred million – we’re paying half, we’re going to pay ninety percent, Can you imagine that we’re going to be coughing over the money and nobody knows what we’re paying for? Once you get government involved and you want to go into the public arena, it should be in the public arena. It’s not a commercial arrangement. I don’t think that will happen, but it should happen if Alaskans want to know how they spent their money.
And Bill Walker, also running against Parnell in the primary election, agrees. He believes the administration will have information from the Open Season and says the governor should make it all available – even if it’s only a compilation of the responses as Persily described.
I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t use his position of authority as the chief executive of the state of which we have expended over a hundred million dollars on this and say This is going to become public; and we’re going to do it in such a way that it doesn’t challenge the integrity.
Open Season for the TransCanada proposal is set to close for bids on July 30th, Denali’s on October fourth . Persily says the public – himself included – will not likely receive any new information for several months as work continues behind the scenes.