Another legislative season approaches and again we find ourselves having pipe dreams.
Will this finally be the year we wake up and start serious work on getting North Slope gas to Alaska communities and markets beyond?
Or will the nightmare continue? How many more decades must our ears endure politicians promising a gas line? How much paperwork, press releases, suits, plane tickets, bills — on and on — must be generated and consumed talking and talking and talking about this?
For decades we’ve heard industry forecasters remind us — much like how mom used to sound when we left the house with wet hair and no coat — of looming gas shortages as we kick up our feet to warm them next to our heaters.
“Those politicians we hired will figure it out eventually,” we told ourselves while sipping eggnog.
Well, we have arrived — a gas deficit is predicted by 2015. That’s 24 months from now and we’re no closer to having a gas pipeline than we were when we were first warned about the shortage.
What can be done?
Looks like Nikiski’s Mike Chenault will be resubmitting his idea on how to get that gas to Alaskans through a reincarnation of House Bill 9, which essentially gives the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation the power and money to see a 24-inch gas pipeline to open season.
HB9 isn’t a mandate to start construction and the bill itself doesn’t ensure we’ll get a pipeline done, but like Chenault said himself, it gives power to the only group in the state doing serious in-state gas line work.
As the House Speaker himself recently told the Clarion, “Everybody else is talking …”
Last year HB9 passed the House along party lines, but the legislation was never picked up by the Senate during regular session, which was no surprise, and then ignored further in the special session.
The bill will likely pass the House again unless something radical changes in it and will likely meet a friendlier Senate full of Republican leadership who like Chenault’s vision for in-state gas.
With few other options on the table and shortages looming, HB9 is a must for this session. We’d like to see it become law and the lynchpin for a pipeline reality, but we’d settle for it to come to a vote in the Senate this year and for our legislators to have the adult discussions a gas pipeline deserves. Maybe then we’d sleep better at night.