SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


We're All on the Same Page
By Tom Irwin


July 11, 2008

As we celebrate 50 years of statehood, we are reminded more than ever of the many leaders who stood before us and helped guide this great state to where it is today.

Among those leaders are Governors Wally Hickel and Tony Knowles. And the list goes on through the years.

But I focus on those two because just days before the legislature votes on whether to award TransCanada a license to build our natural gas pipeline, both Governor Hickel and Governor Knowles are suggesting to legislators they either abandon AGIA or put the license decision on hold.

The messages are not new from these past Governors. We heard the same messages before the AGIA process began. And we hear them now. Neither recommendation on its own is in the best interest of the state. But in part, they have already been incorporated under AGIA.
Let me explain.

Governor Wally Hickel, a dear friend of Governor Palin, believes that the only way to get our gas to market is with a pipeline from the North Slope to Valdez and then liquefied and sent to Asia.
We respect Governor Hickel, and consequently Governor Palin insisted upon exploring the LNG option during the AGIA review process even though we didn't have an AGIA-compliant LNG application. We crunched the numbers over and over again to try to understand the value of an LNG project to Alaskans. Truthfully, the value of an LNG project doesn't compare to TransCanada's overland route through Canada.
Those numbers in and of themselves don't reflect the challenges of taking Alaska's gas, during a time of great need in this state and across our nation, and sending it overseas. This is Alaska's chance to show Americans that we need to responsibly develop ALL of our known resources to provide help to the rest of the country so that we can all become less reliant upon foreign sources of energy.

As far as Governor Knowles' idea, again, we respectfully disagree because of the timing he suggests. He wants to suspend the license decision and negotiate with the producers before approving it. We believe that plan brings us right back to where we were before Governor Palin took office - negotiating behind closed doors with the producers who have repeatedly said they need fiscal certainty before they bring our gas to market.

And so maybe it would be best to revisit with you exactly why we are recommending that we award TransCanada the AGIA license.

An AGIA license to TransCanada gives us certainty that the gasline project will move forward, and that the gasline will meet Alaskans' needs. Our "must haves" were designed as specific criteria that protect Alaska's long-term interests. They are minimum hurdles to ensure that Alaskans get what is due to them. And we have a company that is interested in jumping those hurdles to get our gas to market. AGIA and TransCanada provide for in-state gas for Alaskans. TransCanada will provide spur lines for delivering gas to Alaskans, a special rate for Alaskans to pay for natural gas, expansion opportunities which bring about more exploration and development, and ultimately more jobs for Alaskans and revenue for Alaska.

When TransCanada bid for the opportunity to build our natural gas pipeline, it knew that it was competing against the ideas of Governor Hickel. And so in its AGIA application, TransCanada included an option for a line to Valdez. If the demand is there and the market exists, under the TransCanada license, Alaskan companies have the opportunity to send LNG down the coast of the United States.

When TransCanada bid for the opportunity to build our natural gas pipeline, it knew that three producers hold a majority of the gas leases on the North Slope. That's why for weeks now, TransCanada and the Palin Administration have testified to our state legislators that once the license is issued, we are ready and willing to talk to the producers about partnering under AGIA and bringing our gas to market.

But the time for discussion with producers and exchange of value is not before a license is granted, but after. Alaska needs the AGIA License to maintain its leverage.

With the AGIA License, Governor Palin and this Administration will truly move Alaska's Gas Pipeline Project forward.

Tom Irwin
Department of Natural Resources Commissioner

Received July 11, 2008 - Published July 11, 2008


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Ketchikan, Alaska