By Dave Donaldson
Legislators are defending support of a deadline that – if not met – could lead to the closing of the state-licensed gas line from the North Slope to North American markets. House speaker Mike Chenault introduced a bill last week giving the state’s licensee, TransCanada, until July 15th to provide lawmakers with evidence that the pipeline is still economically viable.
He says the administration is asking for $163-million in next year’s budget to cover pipeline expenses for the project, and the public is asking about its status. He says the bill is simply asking for information.
The legislature’s in the dark on where we’re at. We don’t know if we have gas, really, for that pipeline. We’ve heard from TransCanada after Open Season that gas was bid, but world markets have changed also.
Anchorage Republican Mike Hawker, who co-sponsored the bill, sees it as an attempt to create a sense of urgency around the project by adding a reporting deadline that should have been in the original legislation on the terms of the project.
We want to see this project – presuming it’s a viable project – move forward as quickly as is possible. This is economically vital to the state of Alaska. And with the sense that this legislation was introduced, it was meant to augment, enhance and strengthen the AGIA process.
Governor Parnell recognizes the urgency that Hawker sees. However, in a written statement released by his staff today, he says adding the deadline for transportation commitments as “moving the goal posts,” adding that the bill would – quote – “lead to delays and ultimately end our opportunity to build this pipeline.” He says it will have a chilling effect on businesses considering investing here.
Other opponents to the bill agree with the governor – the bill changes the rules too soon. Minority Leader Beth Kerttula says Alaskans want the pipeline project now, but that desire doesn’t recognize the reality and the size of the project. She says lawmakers who approved the pipeline project in 2007 knew it wouldn’t be finished immediately.
What TransCanada has said is they are working in the same deliberative pace as when they were hear talking to us. So I think we need to give it time to work. We are further along and nearing a deal better than we have ever been with a gas line. So let’s see it work. Let’s stand by our word. And let’s not be precipitously hasty, let’s not go too fast.
The bill was referred only to the House Finance committee and hasn’t yet been scheduled for a hearing.