Lt. Gov. candidates split on gas line plan

Posted: Sunday, April 18, 2010

Republicans trying to choose a lieutenant governor candidate may want to first choose their favored gas pipeline project.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

Candidate Eddie Burke, a former talk radio host, supports the state's effort under the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, where TransCanada Corp. would ship Alaska's gas to North American markets.

Candidate Jay Ramras, currently a state representative from Fairbanks, supports the competing Denali pipeline being developed by ConocoPhillips Co. and BP p.l.c., also connecting with the North American pipeline system in Alberta, Canada.

The third candidate, Mark Ewing, a Mat-Su Borough Assembly member, is backing the All-Alaska gas pipeline, running from the North Slope to a liquefied natural gas export terminal in Valdez.

The three candidates made their pitch to the Republican Party Convention in Juneau Friday, separating themselves from one another while all touting their conservative background.

"I have strong conservative credentials," Ramras said.

He described conservative Sen. John Coghill from the neighboring community of North Pole as his political mentor.

Burke said that, like the audience, he too was a Republican, but "we're conservatives first."

He then added a little oomph to that statement, saying that his wife couldn't make the event because she had been attending the tea parties, which he called a "great movement." He said the White House currently is being "occupied by a socialist."

Ewing then one-upped him.

"Yesterday, I attended the tea parties," he said, adding that Alaskans "need less government."

Clearly differentiating the candidates, though, were their pipeline views.

Ramras said he is not supporting the state's AGIA pipeline plan, but was instead supporting the Denali pipeline, which he described as the "private" option.

The state has committed to investing up to $500 million in the AGIA pipeline to ensure it is developed in a way that benefits the state.

Ramras described AGIA, which he voted in favor of, as "a bad process to begin with."

Burke said he supported the AGIA plan, backed by Gov. Sean Parnell, former Gov. Sarah Palin and the Alaska Legislature.

He also questioned Ramras' vocal support for an small-diameter, in-state gas pipeline that would bring Alaska gas to cities like Fairbanks and Anchorage, but likely at high cost.

"When you hear someone say they want to deliver in-state gas to their hometown, you should ask them how does that pencil out," Burke said.

Ewing said his platform was about bringing jobs and revenue to Alaska, and said that needed to be done with an LNG facility.

"That can only be done with the 48-inch pipeline running down the Trans-Alaska (pipeline) corridor," he said.

There appeared to be differing opinions on Pebble Mine as well, with Burke strongly in favor and the others less so.

Burke shouted, "Pebble yes, Pebble yes," in response to a question.

"The water coming through that is cleaner than the water you are drinking in your hotel room tonight," he said.

Ramras' answer was inconclusive, but when pressed by Burke he appeared supportive.

Ewing expressed doubts about the huge mine.

"I'm all for development, (but) I'm a little worried about Pebble" he said.

The candidates sprinkled their comments with attacks on federal spending and "Obamacare," as well as general attacks on the federal government.

Former talk-radio host Burke referred to "President Hussien," who he said was blocking Alaska from developing its resources.

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

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