All-Alaska gasline drives candidate

Bill Walker runs for governor hoping to advance export pipeline

Posted: Friday, February 19, 2010

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker has positions on many Alaska issues, but he has passion for developing the state's huge reserves of natural gas.

Michael Penn/Juneau Empire
Michael Penn/Juneau Empire

And he has a preferred strategy, markedly different than that of fellow Republican primary candidates, incumbent Gov. Sean Parnell and former House Majority Leader Ralph Samuels.

Walker endorses what supporters call the "all-Alaska gas line," a pipe running through the state from the North Slope's gas wells to a liquefied natural gas export terminal in Valdez.

"What that will do for this state is why I'm running," Walker said.

Walker made his first public campaign visit to Juneau this week, and met with the Empire's editorial board and leading Republicans.

Walker currently practices law in Anchorage, and has worked in municipal law representing cities across the state.

Outside his hometown of Valdez, where he was once mayor, he's best known as the man behind the Alaska Gasline Port Authority.

The port authority, and Walker, support building a line following the route of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, and having natural gas exports eventually replace oil as the state's economic mainstay.

"It's not for us, our generation," Walker said. "We've had a great run on oil."

Walker's all-Alaska gasline plans are somewhat controversial. Like fellow candidate Samuels, he criticizes the state's Alaska Gasline Inducement Act effort, backed by Parnell.

Both say it is unlikely to result in a natural gas pipeline, but they differ from there. Samuels wants to negotiate with the natural gas lease holders to encourage them to build a pipeline, likely through Canada.

Walker wants a shorter, and somewhat cheaper, line entirely through Alaska.

"I'm not a big advocate of putting our resource through Canada," he said.

He also wants the state to take the lead in building the line itself, a stance that helped him win an endorsement from former Gov. Wally Hickell.

While the pipeline is his passion, Walker offered an endorsement of Juneau as the state's capital, and said he and his wife Donna would live here.

"We are looking forward to living in Juneau year-round," he said.

And state department heads, many of whom Gov. Sarah Palin allowed to live in Anchorage, would generally live here as well.

"This is where the seat of government is, this is where the state will be run from," he said.

Walker said he doubted that the cruise ship head tax has had a big impact on visitors, but didn't express strong support for it either.

"I'm not particularly in favor of it," he said.

Alaska's educational efforts need to be improved, but some measures could go too far, he said.

"I'm all for raising the bar, but let's not raise it so far the dropout rate increases," he said.

Walker also said he was skeptical of oil industry calls through an aggressive advertising campaign against the oil tax law, called Alaska's Clear and Equitable Share Act but known simply as ACES.

Better evidence is needed from the oil producers that ACES is discouraging investment in Alaska, he said.

"When the price (of oil) goes down, they get immediate relief - ACES gives them that," he said. ACES includes a progressive tax rate, which drops with oil prices.

Walker said the state's reliance on oil, which is running out, is the basis for his campaign and push for his the natural gas pipeline plan that he thinks has the best chance of success.

"If (our economic driver) was fish, I wouldn't be running for governor, because that's a renewable resource," he said.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 586-4816 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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