Looking forward to a productive year in 2011

Posted: Saturday, January 02, 2010

2010 was an interesting year, to say the least.

In many ways, it may seem like we're right back where we started.

We may or may not be closer to construction of a natural gas pipeline to the Lower 48. Other ideas for bringing gas from the Slope to Southcentral Alaska continue to be discussed, though the only gas yet to be shipped still seems to be Ethan Berkowitz's little tank of propane.

We only just concluded an election of historical proportions, one in which we ultimately sent the same delegation back to Congress, and the same governor and central Peninsula state representatives back to Juneau.

And we start the new year with a body looking into the governance structure at Central Peninsula Hospital.

The more things change, the more they stay the same, right?

On the other hand, continuity can be a good thing, and perhaps the tumult of 2010 has gone a long way toward laying the groundwork for big leaps forward in the coming year.

At the state level, the competing gas pipeline projects have completed open seasons, and the administration of Gov. Sean Parnell appears focused on the issue.

More immediately, a number of things have happened that point to more energy security for the Peninsula, at least until the big pipeline is figured out. A number of smaller, independent operators are moving in to the Cook Inlet basin, taking the place of the big producers which have been reluctant to invest in more development here.

In fact, a pair of outfits are competing to bring a jack-up drilling rig to the inlet -- a development that's certainly been a long time coming.

Last year at this time we were concerned about gas shortages during peak winter use. Now, it appears more gas may be flowing in the near future, a new gas storage facility is in the works in Kenai, and the liquefied natural gas plant operated by ConocoPhillips and Marathon has had its export license extended.

Meanwhile, Homer Electric Association has taken steps to become self-sufficient in meeting the Peninsula's energy needs when its current contract with Chugach Electric expires at the end of 2013, with plans to install turbines at its facility in Nikiski that would take advantage of steam no longer being used by the Agrium plant.

There are a lot of moving pieces here, and we're interested to see how they all match up, but it looks like we'll be well prepared locally while the statewide picture continues to develop.

And if the discussion of governance structure at the hospital, and the borough assembly's subsequent scuttling of a proposed partnership, taught us anything, we hope it's that informed, rational discussion is crucial to maintaining the hospital's value into the future.

In short: Many of the plans laid in 2010 are still just that -- plans -- but we're looking forward to a productive 2011, and watching those plans come off the drawing board and into fruition.

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