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Pushing forward to a better state

Posted: March 16, 2013 - 8:20am

The First Session of the 28th Alaska Legislature is more than halfway finished, but there are still miles to go. The House has almost satisfied its constitutional goal of passing a state operating budget, moving it to the Senate on Thursday. Now, we’ll see what changes the Senate makes and then name a conference committee to work out the differences.

Session has so far been focused primarily on moving bills through the system and getting new members on course. We’ve already passed substantial bills to better the state: the cruise ship bill, the water primacy bill, bills auditing state departments, a gun rights bill (both of which I sponsored,) numerous resolutions supporting state’s rights and honoring Alaskans, and now we are in the thick of things, examining the governor’s proposed oil tax revision. We also hope to soon have another robust K-12 education package to consider.

Time will tell how much we can finish up before adjournment in less than a month, but I am hopeful we’ll be able to, at the least, position ourselves for quick action in the second session.

On the home front, I look forward to returning to the Peninsula for town hall meetings in Soldotna and Seward on March 23, but I’ll do so with a heavy heart. News broke earlier this week that ConocoPhillips was not going to seek an extension of the export license – the only one in the nation – for its Nikiski LNG facility.

I wish I could tell you I was shocked or surprised by the decision. I wish I could tell you that all the activity in the Inlet would backstop the facility until a North Slope gasline could be built. I wish I could tell you any number of things that would help us keep this career-giving, family-sustaining, job-providing facility in our community. But I can’t. And that’s a tough pill to swallow.

We’ve passed legislation to stimulate production and exploration in the Inlet, working with former senator Tom Wagoner and Anchorage Rep. Mike Hawker. We’ve provided tax incentives and credits. We’ve even expanded the allowable area for exploration, and created a natural gas storage facility.

There simply isn’t enough available gas to make the operation pencil out. And that’s where an in-state gas pipeline comes in. I sponsored the bill that created the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation in 2010, directing them to take all the steps necessary to facilitate an in-state gasline – all facets, from design to financing, and leveraging existing state resources to streamline the process.

They’ve made tremendous headway, and as we learned this week, they’re well on their way to making a case to prospective builders and shippers. To that end, I’m working with Rep. Hawker on enabling legislation, House Bill 4, to help them keep the momentum going and finish their job.

It is absolutely critical that all parties now support the only group with a working project – the Alaska Stand Alone Pipeline. Let’s do what’s best for Alaskans and quit dividing critical time and resources. Alaskans need the gas, not just on the Railbelt, to help revitalize the state’s economy, and provide safe and affordable energy for our homes and businesses.

The Alaska Gasline Port Authority was dealt another blow March 7, when the U.S. Department of Energy denied their application for an export license, because they simply have no project, no gas, no plant, and no financing. How much longer will we allow regional factions to impede progress? This makes AGDC’s plan all the more important – it’s the only in-state line moving towards permitting.

House Bill 4 takes politics – statewide and local – out of the process and allows the experts to decide where to put the spigot. We in Nikiski just lost ours; let’s hope that the rest of the state doesn’t lose out as well.

A gasline is within reach and within reason. If ASAP becomes a spur from a larger line, great. But we must keep pushing forward in the unlikely event the large line continues to be more pipedream than pipeline.

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