Alaska editorial: Anti-VECO sentiment shouldn't translate to passage of gas line bill

Posted: Thursday, May 10, 2007

This editorial appeared in the Anchorage Daily News:

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Will the Legislature be stampeded into passing Gov. Sarah Palin's gas line incentive bill now that VECO executives have pleaded guilty in the Juneau corruption scandal?

Let's hope not. The issues and stakes in this year's gas line debate are too complex to be settled by simplistic anti-VECO logic.

Nonetheless, there is an argument that seems to be getting traction in Juneau. It goes like this:

"VECO pushed the oil industry line on the PPT oil tax and on Gov. Frank Murkowski's gas pipeline deal. VECO and the North Slope producers don't like Palin's gas line incentive bill. VECO is the kind of bad guy Palin campaigned against. If they don't like Palin's gas line bill, her idea must be good. The Legislature should pass it."

That line of thought might pass muster on talk radio, but it's no way to make state policy on the biggest economic challenge facing the state.

Palin's proposal is fraught with rigid demands. It risks driving away parties whose cooperation is essential to a successful project. She and the Legislature need to work out a flexible framework that keeps producers in the game while holding the door open to new players, such as independent pipeline companies.

With the guilty pleas of two top VECO officials, Palin is riding high. She campaigned as the Republican reformer who'd clean up Juneau. The scandal seems to vindicate her.

Alaskans welcome the high ethical standards Palin is upholding, and are now rightfully suspicious of any legislative issue VECO touched. That suspicion is healthy. But it shouldn't blind the public or their elected representatives to the flaws in Palin's approach to the gas line.

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