During the latest speech of his months-long tour of Alaska, former Alaska Gov. Bill Sheffield told a combined Kenai and Soldotna chamber of commerce luncheon crowd they should support the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation’s proposed in-state natural gas pipeline. Sheffield, who was Alaska’s governor from 1982-1986, said he had been criss-crossing the state to learn about gas and its importance to Alaskans.
“We are on the precipice — and in many communities, already over the edge — of an energy crisis in Alaska,” Sheffield said. “Too many of our residents are struggling to deal, these days, with the cost of heating their homes, cooking their meals and that adds up to the price of a monthly mortgage payment.”
The Alaska Legislature has appropriated $72 million for AGDC’s Alaska Stand Alone Pipeline, or ASAP, project since 2010 according to the AGDC and Sheffield advocated strongly for House Bill 4, currently before the Legislature, which he said would provide adequate funding to keep the ASAP project going.
The bill would make the AGDC a subsidiary of the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation and make it an independent public corporation of the state.
Sheffield said giving AGDC the power to develop an in-state natural gas pipeline would help avert disaster in the Cook Inlet.
“The decline of natural gas production out of the Cook Inlet has caused a loss of hundreds of jobs on the Kenai Peninsula, absent the strike of a huge natural gas prospect in the Cook Inlet, it will drive up domestic and commercial energy costs in a couple of years,” he said.
If the pipeline were approved, Sheffield said it would create and maintain thousands of jobs while also providing opportunity for communities to re-open facilities that have been shuttered — like Nikiski’s Agrium plant.
“This is something we can do if we just muster up the political will to do it,” he said. “Doing so will benefit the present population because of the jobs that will be created as it being built ... there will be long term benefits for the population.”
Sheffield said the in-state natural gas line, or bullet line, was more realistic than a big diameter pipeline.
“We’ve talked about the big diameter pipe going in for 40 years,” he said. “It may get done eventually, but the advent of fracking now has flooded the market in the Lower 48 and driven down the price of natural gas and it’s obvious the whole basis of the project has to be rethought.”
With 35 trillion cubic feet of gas estimated to be in the North Slope, Sheffield said the state could not afford to not advance the ASAP project.
“I have yet to meet anybody that knows a thing about oil and gas that doesn’t believe that there’s a whole lot more up there yet to be discovered,” he said.
Ultimately, Sheffield said, it was time to stop talking about the project and take steps to break ground.
“As they saying goes the devil is in the details and I’m convinced we can fight our way through the devils if we just get going,” Sheffield said.
Rashah McChesney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.