Time to get state aboard pipeline project

Posted: Friday, May 02, 2008

The last time we checked, building a natural gas pipeline in the state would be a benefit to every Alaskan. So, is there a reason why it shouldn't be the No. 1 priority for the state?

We need to make it the priority.

ConocoPhillips and BP's plans to move their project forward means it's silly to squabble over any other projects, especially with the two oil giants forking out $600 million to build up a new cost estimate for the project, as well as permitting.

Does the state's decision on whether to award an Alaska Gas Inducement Act (AGIA) license really matter if the logical choice is to go with a project ready to kick off this summer?

In other words, aren't we wasting time?

In a presentation made to the Alliance and Kenai and Soldotna chambers of commerce Tuesday, BP Vice President Angus Walker and ConocoPhillips Vice President Brian Wenzel told the audience the license they're waiting for will come from the feds, not the state.

"Our project is entirely independent of AGIA," Walker told those in attendance. He said it is important to distinguish that their joint venture "is not a plan, it's a project."

However, just because it circumvents the state process doesn't mean we won't benefit from it.

Denali The Alaska Gas Pipeline, is estimated to employ 10,000 people at the peak of the project, in addition to those already working.

And what about the trans-Alaska pipeline? It's hard to argue the fact there is $40 billion in the Alaska Permanent Fund, the majority of which came from the oil going through a 48-inch diameter pipeline owned by the producers.

Are we forgetting about what that success has given to Alaskans?

In addition, the companies will need to complete an in-state gas needs study in order to get the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission certificate needed for the project.

Take-off points from the main pipeline will be available, Wenzel said, including one that would provide gas to Southcentral Alaska.

According to the project Web site (www.denali-thealaskagaspipeline.com), "The pipeline will move approximately four billion cubic feet of natural gas per day to markets, and will be the largest private sector construction project ever built in North America. The project combines the financial strength, arctic experience and technical resources of two of the most capable and experienced companies in the world."

The 2,000-mile pipeline will carry natural gas from Alaska's North Slope to Calgary, Alberta, Canada. If it requires the gas be transported to market in the Lower 48, the pipeline will continue to Chicago.

Walker said the companies are looking for a 30- to 50-year venture and "hope for more."

When asked if Alaskans have any assurance the state will get its fair share from the North Slope gas, Walker said, "We're going to pay our taxes, we're going to pay royalties."

It sounds like it's time for the state to back away from politics and get into the gas business. The opportunity is there right in front of the Palin administration to grab onto. It's one project, one goal that will benefit all of us.

So let's check the personalities and egos at the door and get down to business the business of taking care of Alaskans.

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