Individual Alaskans To Buy Into Gas Pipeline
February 12, 2004
Murkowski, in a letter to the state, urged Alaska to press for a host of provisions as it conducts negotiations with a consortium of Conoco-Phillips, BP and Exxon and a second consortium of Mid American Energy, Pacific Energy Star and CIRI. Under terms of the state's Stranded Gas Act, both consortiums are in negotiations with the state to gain a fixed yearly total payment to the state that would provide financial certainty to the line builders by capping their state costs. In return, the state may seek other compensation than merely taxes on the pipeline and related facilities.
"I believe as the state negotiates with potential gas line companies that it is absolutely necessary that the state secure four important provisions that will protect our collective interests and lay the foundation for a stronger Alaska in the future," said Senator Murkowski in a Feb. 6th letter to the Governor.
Murkowski urged the state to seek: · Language guaranteeing the right of individual Alaskan ownership of a portion of a gas line project. · Language guaranteeing the ability of an All-Alaska Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project to proceed, either as a stand-alone project, or as part of the larger project to run a gas line along the Alaska Highway through Canada to the Lower 48. · Language requiring Alaska hire, funding for Alaskan worker training programs so they participate in the line and also Project Labor Agreements, to further protect worker interests. · And provisions where the gas line companies would provide resources to "strengthen education funding in Alaska."
"The state is in the driver's seat when it comes to negotiating this deal; we must take advantage of this once-in-a-generation opportunity to protect the interests of all Alaskans, grow our economy and plan for our future. Alaskans have been waiting for decades to build this project; we must act now to take advantage of these unique circumstances that have created a renewed vigor around this project," said Senator Murkowski in her letter to the state.
She noted that as part of the Senate comprehensive energy bill pending final passage she included a Sense of the Senate resolution urging the gas line builders to allow Alaska companies, Alaska Native Corporations and individual Alaskans to buy individual ownership shares in any gas line project. She said giving individuals the ability to participate in ownership of a gas line, should they so choose, will allow all Alaskans to "have a seat at the table over the coming decades as natural gas flows through the pipeline.
"Individual Alaskan ownership opportunities are the best way to keep Alaskans involved in the long-term affairs of this state," she said, noting that Alaska might have avoided a variety of tariff and other problems, if Alaskans had owned a portion of the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline over the past 30 years.
In the energy bill still pending final passage and the Omnibus Appropriations Act that passed Congress last month, Murkowski included provisions to provide equal loan guarantees and tax incentives for both an All-Alaska LNG project or for the longer pipeline to the Lower 48 States. "Any package that comes out of these negotiations should include provisions to allow all, or a portion of the proposed All-Alaska LNG project to go forward as a stand-alone project, or as part of another larger project," she wrote.
Murkowski in the energy bill also included $20 million to fund worker training programs in Alaska and the construction of a new worker training facility in Fairbanks. In addition, she said the state's agreement with a pipeline builder should require Alaska hire agreements, strong project labor agreements and include protections for the many Alaskan workers who are not members of organized labor groups.
"We saw first hand the need for qualified workers during construction of TAPS. We must plan accordingly to make sure Alaskans are properly trained to take advantage of the opportunities presented by this project," she wrote.
And Murkowski said the fourth provision the state should press for is additional funding from pipeline companies to help the state pay for education costs statewide. "Education remains a top priority for me in the U.S. Senate. Funding for education, however, continues to fall behind in Alaska.
"Pipeline construction and operating companies, along with the gas producers, will expect Alaska to produce a properly trained and educated workforce. They should be willing to invest now to help insure that workforce will be available by helping to contribute to the needs of our education system, at both the K through 12 level, and post-secondary levels. By harnessing the power of this project now, we can improve the lives of all future Alaskans. Now is the time to demand and negotiate strong provisions with those who choose to produce our collective state resources to strengthen education funding in Alaska," wrote Senator Murkowski.
She added she is continuing her efforts to see final passage of the gas line financial incentives and important streamlined regulatory and permitting processes either through passage of comprehensive energy legislation or through passage of such provisions in other legislation. The Senate is continuing debate on reauthorizing the federal highway trust fund to pay for highway and other infrastructure projects nationwide.
Under the Stranded Gas Act, the state has about a month to negotiate overall agreements with the gas line consortiums before submitting such agreements to the Alaska Legislature for acceptance or rejection.
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