The main criticism surrounding the commercialization of the North Slope gas reserves is that the state would never find investors.
Many also believed that if the project was not economical under the private sector, it was not economic at all. Neither belief is true.
The Alaska Gasline Development Corporation (AGDC) is on the cusp of signing deals with investors who will pour hundreds of millions of dollars into our state. That is an immediate path forward for the Alaska LNG pipeline. We don’t have to wait and wish for another megaproject anymore — we already have it.
In preparation for advancing the project, AGDC recently asked the Legislature for the authority to receive outside funding, up to $1 billion from investors. This request is not an attempt to exclude the Legislature from the process. Rather, it is but another step toward the AKLNG pipeline and the 20,000 new Alaskan jobs, a steady flow of low-cost energy and increased revenue for schools, roads, and troopers that come with it. The Legislature will still be the appropriating body, and will still need to approve any additional state spending or issuance of debts or bonds.
Critics, inside the Legislature and out, have recently asserted that we Alaskans are incapable of managing anything of significance on our own.
On that point, we both take exception.
I’m Rep. Gary Knopp, a Republican from Kenai. I came to Alaska thirty-odd years ago as a young man without connections or wealth. The same things folks are saying about Alaskans working on the gasline now, they could have said about me back then. I was young and unqualified, with thin financial resources — the biggest thing I had going for me was my will to succeed. Since that time, I worked with other Alaskans to build a construction company that has completed hundreds of jobs on time and on budget across the Kenai Peninsula. Don’t tell me that Alaska can’t handle big projects.
And I’m Rep. David Guttenberg, a Democrat from Fairbanks. I moved to Alaska in 1969 after growing up in New York. Working on the pipeline gave me a foundation of financial security for the rest of my life, and showed me what Alaskans were capable of. We had a sense of wonder at the scale of the project and felt like there was nothing we couldn’t do. The life lessons from these early years led me on a path beyond anything I could have imagined. Alaska is the “Great Land” where anything is possible.
For decades, Alaskan leaders who came before us, like Ted Stevens and Dan Fauske, made sure that Alaska and AGDC would be ready when an opportunity to commercialize Alaska’s gas emerged. That opportunity is now.
Since when did Alaskan leaders decide it was politically important to undercut our team and second guess our own accomplishments? Since when did we doubt our own ability to think for ourselves and determine our own path forward?
We are our own worst enemies if we resort to taking potshots in an attempt to sink the project that holds the key to our economic security. Some of this is being done for personal political gain, which is particularly unsettling.
Let’s instead look to the leadership of our Republican colleague from Nikiski, Rep. Mike Chenault, who hit the nail on the head when he recently spoke out against cutting AGDC’s funding, saying, “If we continue to be afraid to make that investment to get to a point where we see if we have a viable project or not, in 30 years we’ll be saying the same thing we’re saying today, is that, ‘We should have went forward and completed a project.”’
Questions about this project from lawmakers and everyone else are welcome. Every aspect should be thoroughly examined and the Legislature must play a critical role in vetting decisions that will impact Alaska’s financial future. That is exactly what is happening.
On this effort, we must work together and act as leaders, not politicians. The Alaska LNG Project is far too important to our state to undermine for partisan gain.
• Rep. David Guttenberg, D-Fairbanks, and Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Kenai, are members of Alaska House of Representatives.