Governor faces his greatest
By Walter J. Hickel
November 27, 2005
In the weeks ahead, Frank Murkowski has his greatest challenge
and opportunity as Alaska's governor. The legacy issue, as he
clearly recognizes, is how to produce and market Alaska's North
Slope natural gas. There are tens of billions of dollars at stake.
And beyond the revenues that can pour into Alaska's general and
permanent funds, there is an even bigger issue.
Will this resource simply generate
cash and dividends or will it be the key to a healthy and sustainable
Alaska economy well into this century?
I faced a similar situation
regarding North Slope oil and the trans-Alaska pipeline in 1969
and 1970. It required a showdown with the Exxon Corp. (then Humble
Oil) because it didn't want an all-Alaska line.
Now, as then, we welcome the
involvement of the producers. They have contributed greatly to
Alaska. But while they negotiate on behalf of their stockholders,
it is up to the governor to make sure that the real beneficiaries
of these resources are the Alaska people. It's our land, won
in our battle for statehood, and our gas.
If asked how to proceed, this
is what I would recommend:
- Announce that there will be
no more secret gas line negotiations. As North Slope gas is no
longer stranded, all future discussions will be transparent and
conducted in the full light of day.
- Tell the producers that we
are going to develop our gas on our terms. Don't ask them what
they will do. Tell them what they must do.
- Announce that in order for
our gas to be used instate for the maximum benefit of our people,
as mandated by our constitution, the state of Alaska will build
an all-Alaska pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez.
- Explain that the state's 4
trillion cubic feet of royalty gas at Prudhoe plus Point Thomson's
8 trillion cubic feet are enough to make a gas line economic,
and litigation is not required.
- Thoroughly examine the Alaska
Gasline Port Authority proposal to build an all-Alaska line,
which so far has been dismissed by this administration without
a proper review. If the benefits to Alaska are as outstanding
as I believe them to be, give them the go-ahead. This does not
take legislative action. The governor can make the decision.
- If, however, the Alaska Gasline
Port Authority proposal is inadequate, announce that the state
of Alaska will build our own gas line. Invite America's pipeline
construction companies to bid on a 54-inch diameter gas line
to Valdez designed to meet the highest engineering standards.
- Invite the major U.S. financial
institutions to finance the all-Alaska line. With an $18 billion
federal loan guarantee, and our own supply of gas, there will
be no shortage of takers.
- Guarantee that a spur line
from the main line will be built to Southcentral Alaska to meet
the growing needs here.
- Inform Alaska's rural communities
that high-priced diesel can be replaced by propane produced from
the gas liquids from an all-Alaska line.
- Notify the petrochemical industry
that our feedstocks will be available to create high paying,
long-term jobs for Alaskans. Invite them to participate (as we
did on the Kenai in the 1960s) according to our terms, including
strict environmental standards.
- Retain the best attorneys
in the nation. If the producers challenge in court our right
to develop our own gas, instruct the legal team to take our case
to the Supreme Court.
- Address the national media
and challenge the greed of those who would litigate and delay
rather than provide the energy our country urgently needs.
- Invite the producers to hook
into the all-Alaska line at Delta and build a second line through
Canada, if and when they can resolve U.S.-Canada treaty restrictions,
permitting obstacles, aboriginal land claims, and the legal battle
between Canadian pipeline companies Enbridge and TransCanada.
And, finally, celebrate the
fact that Alaska has lived up to the promises and pledges made
at statehood by using our resources for the benefit of our people
and not buckling to Outside interests.
Walter J. Hickel was heavily
involved in Alaska's statehood fight. Later he was elected the
Republican National Committee chairman in 1954, a position he
held for 10 years. In 1966, he won the governorship of Alaska.
He left the position from 1968 - 1970, when President Nixon appointed
him secretary of the U. S. Department of the Interior. In 1990
- 1994 Hickel once again became governor of Alaska, this time
under the banner of the Independence Party. However, he rejoined
the Republican party in April 1994.
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