SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Gasline, Energy & Salmon
By Rep. Mike Doogan


June 30, 2008

Hearings, we got hearings.

The legislature held more hearings on Gov. Sarah Palin 's proposal to give TransCanada subsidiary TC Alaska a state license to build a gas pipeline from the North Slope. We met Tuesday afternoon in Palmer and Thursday afternoon in Soldotna, with public hearings on those evenings.

We didn't hear much that is new from either the people who presented or the citizens who testified. The administration has made a solid case for licensing TC Alaska, although skeptics are still trying to poke holes in it. I doubt their arguments will carry the day, though.

Most of the public testimony has been against granting the license, but the turnouts haven't been large and nobody has much to say about the alternatives. There have been some people who owe the North Slope oil producers for their livelihoods who want to let only a producers' proposal go forward. But most of those who don't like the administration's proposal seem to have the idea that, if it fails, the state will jump in and build a pipeline in Alaska.

Let's see. The state building a $25 billion pipeline? Does that sound like a good idea to you?

As you read this, we are in Barrow. Then, after a Fourth of July break, we go to Ketchikan and, from the looks of things, reconvene in Juneau July 9. There's been talk about even more hearings in Juneau, but, frankly, there are increasing numbers of lawmakers who want to just vote the thing up or down. Since the TC Alaska license is likely to pass, and since the people who control the apparatus of the legislature don't like it, there may be fireworks before this is over.

Energy plan? What energy plan?

Complicating matters is the governor's plan to lob money at every man, woman and child in Alaska and call that energy relief. Adding that to the pipeline license could be the recipe for problems with both proposals.

Right now, the range of legislative opinion stretches from the governor's hand-'em-all-money crowd to the don't-give-'em-anything group, with lots of legislators stretched out in between. My own position is that we should give help to those who need it, which are households with low incomes in high energy cost parts of Alaska.

And did I mention salmon?

We've managed to squeeze in a few meetings of the Cook Inlet Salmon Task Force between the pipeline meetings. The task force is looking at what's happening with salmon, particularly those who don't seem to be swimming back to rivers in the Mat-Su Borough.

What we've learned so far is that fish managers don't have very good information about these fish, and that they've been taking a leisurely and really bureaucratic approach to finding out. This, as you might imagine, is not making sports fishermen very happy.

Meanwhile, commercial fishermen aren't very happy about the task force, which they claim is injecting politics into scientific management. They might have a point, if the current management was actually based on verifiable science, which it is most definitely not. And if the Board of Fish, which currently makes salmon decisions, wasn't so clearly a political group itself.

What the task force is going to do about this is not clear yet. I'm not sure that there's enough information to do anything that isn't totally arbitrary. On the other hand, I'm not sure being totally arbitrary in favor of sport fishermen and subsistence users isn't the best move at this point.

The fact is, the situation with Mat-Su salmon is a mess, and nobody has a very good suggestion for straightening it out. And on that cheerful note, I'll sign off. Maybe if I finally kick this cold I've had for three weeks and counting, the world will seem like a more upbeat place. I know it will make the woman who lets me live with her happier. Right now she's talking about buying me a kennel, because I've let my attitude go to the dogs.


Rep. Mike Doogan

About: Rep. Mike Doogan (D) is a member of the Alaska Legislature representing Anchorage.

Received June 30, 2008 - Published June 30, 2008


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Ketchikan, Alaska