Nikiski resident only one to speak during hearing on House pipeline bill

Members of the House Majority Caucus speak to reporters during a press availability on Thursday Feb. 26, 2015. From right are Rep. Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage, Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, Speaker of the House Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, and Rep. Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla.

On Wednesday evening Kenai Peninsula residents had their chance to weigh in on the statewide dispute over Gov. Bill Walker’s announcement to expand the Alaska Stand Alone Pipeline, or ASAP.

 

Public testimony was taken at the Kenai Legislative Information Office, beginning at 6 p.m., in an extended House Resource Committee meeting discussing the AGDC Support of Natural Gas Projects or House Bill 132, which aims to nullify Walker’s plan —which some have interpreted to threaten the Alaska LNG project. Nikiski resident Bill Warren was the only person to show up in the entire state.

“I am surprised no many more people showed up,” Warren said. “I think it’s an contentious issue.”

Legislative Information Offices were open in cities through out the state including Anchorage, Glennallen, Seward, Fairbanks and Barrow, said Kenai Legislative Information Officer Alyson Stogsdill.

The bill was introduced after legislators said they were worried about the mixed signals that Walker’s proposal to expand ASAP could send to its partners in the Alaska LNG project. They introduced HB132 to stop Walker from spending money to compete against the Alaska LNG project, unless that project fails to progress.

Nikiski is the lead terminus site for the Alaska LNG project’s proposed 800-mile pipeline leading from Prudhoe Bay and Thomson fields. The project could create up to 15,000 instate jobs, according to the project’s website. Warren told the committee he thought the HB132 was a bad approach.

“This is not the time to be timid, but be brave,” Warren said.

If the stand alone pipeline project was extended, the state could take a transparent approach to marketing and soliciting buyers such as Japan, he said.

House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski is one of the sponsors of HB132.

“To avoid a duplicative or competing project, the legislation puts a limit on the use of the Instate Natural Gas Pipeline Fund to pay for work on a project that would export more gas than it would deliver instate,” Chenault said in a statement released March 4, two days after the bill was announced.

Other leadership sponsoring the bill are Majority Leader Charisse Millett, Rules Chair Craig Johnson and Majority Whip Bob Herron. Representatives Kurt Olson, R-Soldotna, Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage, Benjamin Nageak, D-Barrow and Dave Talerico R-Healy.

Chenault said the key to megaproject success requires the absence of “competing objectives and “the alignment of stakeholders along a single project,” in his statement.

The bill manages these objectives by maintaining the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation’s commitment to the existing Alaska LNG Project, Chenault wrote in his statement.

The corporation is the partner engaged on behalf of the state in the project.

“The preferred line for me is the one that gets built. That is my preferred line.” Walker said during his Feb. 19 appointment of three new development members. “That I want to make sure that one gets built. I’m not sure that betting everything on AK LNG is the right approach. I think that as far along as we are with ASAP I think that makes sense to have, to advance that at the same time.”

Warren said Walker has earned the trust of the public with his transparent approach since taking office. The governor would not propose something that would stop an existing project with the scope of the Alaska LNG pipeline, and HB132 is a “restrictive,” and “childish” approach to addressing Walker’s plan, he said.

HB132 provides three instances when the House would approve pursuing the extended Alaska Stand Alone Pipeline, including if a partner to the LNG Project withdraws.

If the Alaska LNG Project proceeds into the Front-End Engineering and Design phase or once July 1, 2017 hits, Walker may revisit his plan, Chenault said in his statement.

The next opportunity for giving public testimony on HB132 is 1 p.m., Saturday at a local LIO.

 

Reach Kelly Sullivan at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com

 

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