This election, if we are to have a straightforward conversation about building a gasline and taking real steps to secure Alaska's economic future, we need to start with facts and then take a long and hard look at the promises being made by candidates running for Alaska's highest office.
Mr. Bill Walker has promised to "start building a gasline in three years." According to Mr. Walker, he not only has permits in hand, but also eager customers in Asian markets waiting to pay us top dollar for Alaska's gas. That sounds great, but is it true? No, not by a long shot.
Voters need to know the truth about claims like these when they head to the voting booth this August. Although you wouldn't know it with Mr. Walker's recent criticism of AGIA, in 2007 he testified in support, claiming he welcomed the competitive process set forth in the AGIA legislation. The Senate Finance Committee held hearings and Mr. Walker testified in support of the Alaska Gasline Port Authority's "All-Alaska" project. In fact, prior to his formal testimony, Governor Palin gave Mr. Walker direct access to her gasline team to ensure the pending legislation gave his "All-Alaska" project a fair shot. Then, Mr. Walker, and the Alaska Gasline Port Authority team, took the next logical step: they prepared their application to build an Alaska gas pipeline within the newly created competitive process created by the passage of AGIA and supported by Mr. Walker.
As the AGIA application deadline approached, Mr. Walker couldn't get the application together, and was given an extension from the state. The application was eventually turned in but was far from complete. Instead, delivered was a jumbled cart full of maps with project descriptions for pipelines of different sizes, throughputs, and costs. Aside from the disorganization, and certainly more important, Mr. Walker's application failed to describe a critical component, the commercial arrangements by which Alaska's gas would be liquefied, marketed, and delivered.
Like any competitive process, there are winners and losers. When Mr. Walker and the Port Authority went up against TransCanada, TransCanada won, because TransCanada filed a plan that met Alaska's requirements. As a result, TransCanada is in the midst of an open season, the first in Alaska's history and the closest we've ever been to building a natural gas pipeline. And of important note, AGIA requires TransCanada provide detailed engineering plans of a gasline to Valdez for LNG export -- nearly identical to the Port Authority's plan -- just to make sure that Alaska doesn't leave any marketing opportunity behind.
The most recent development in the "All-Alaska Gasline" saga is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's decision on May 14, 2010 to deny Mr. Walker's permits to build an LNG facility at Anderson Bay, near Valdez.
Mr. Walker's failure to make real progress on Alaska's most important project, despite being given every opportunity to succeed, should show every Alaskan he isn't right for our state's top job. Respectfully, my experience tells me he's long on promises but short on solutions. As a longtime small business owner and state senator, I believe we need someone with a record of achievement in the Governor's office if we're to get a gasline done in time to keep Alaska's economy growing. Only one candidate fits that description in this year's gubernatorial contest: Governor Sean Parnell. You'll hear a lot from Alaskans in the coming weeks suggesting for whom we should vote in August and again in November. Let's make sure we're all armed with the facts before we make a decision that could change Alaska's economic future forever.
Former Alaska Sen. Gary Wilken
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