Wagoner, Stevens vote 'Yea'

Posted: Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Alaska Senate voted 14-5 Friday afternoon to adopt, without change, the House version of the bill granting TransCanada Corp. a license to pursue a natural gas pipeline.

Sen. Tom Wagoner, R-Kenai, and Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, voted with the majority following roughly 2 1/2 hours of debate on House Bill 3001, which included turning down three amendments proposed by bill opponents.

Sen. John Cowdery, R-Anchorage, was absent.

Wagoner said the floor debate reiterated the same rhetoric lawmakers have been listening to for 60 days.

"With the information we received, I believe it is the best deal the state of Alaska will ever get," Wagoner said. "It's the closest we have ever been to having a pipeline built. I feel pretty comfortable with what we did."

"We are in agreement (with the House), and so it's a done deal," Stevens said not long after the Senate adjourned. "I feel really pleased about it."

He admitted to concerns that some members wanted to delay the bill, and adding amendments would have done that by forcing it back to the House for concurrence. But that did not happen. All three amendments were defeated by 14-5 votes.

"We owed it to the governor and her administration who have worked hard on this; and we have worked hard for two months," Stevens said. "Time will tell, of course, but I think it is the right decision to go ahead and get a gas line."

Stevens said he assumes TransCanada will soon meet with the gas producers to try and hammer out a mutual agreement they can live with.

Opposing the bill were Senate President Lyda Green, R-Wasilla; Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethal; Sen. Charlie Huggins, R-Wasilla; Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage; and Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka.

Wagoner said the Senate now will tackle other energy-related legislation before the body -- some of which he is deeply opposed to.

"We'll go to work on energy relief, or resource rebate, or whatever you want to call it," he said. "I'm totally disillusioned by what is being done here. I think the people, if they study this, will be, too."

Ideas being forwarded include sizeable increases in power-cost equalization, an increase in low-income heating assistance, and the rebate program.

Wagoner said he believes the net effect of those changes would be largely unfair.

A person living in rural Alaska conceivably could get the power-cost equalization raise, the heating assistance increase and the rebate.

"People living in Homer, Kenai, Soldotna, Anchorage and maybe the Mat-Su Valley would be lucky to get the $1,200," he said.

Calling the ideas unfair and inequitable, Wagoner said they should be defeated, and the governor should call lawmakers back to do a better job.

He said he was going to propose an amendment to give every household in Alaska $1,800 and abandon all the other so-called fixes. That, he suggested should be sufficient for virtually everyone.

Hal Spence can be reached at hspence@ptialaska.net.

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