Alaska editorial: Legislature must pick up pace on gas line deal

Posted: Friday, May 26, 2006

This editorial appeared in the Kenai Peninsula Clarion:

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Time is a wastin'. April 11 has come and gone, and we're still nowhere on the North Slope natural gas pipeline. Now the federal government is suppose to step in and do a study on whether it should build or finance the pipeline. That's because no company applied to build it for us.

The state had 18 months to get its ducks in a row and get the ball rolling. Eighteen months.

And we wonder why there's a special session year after year?

Why is it so difficult to get things accomplished in this state? At what point does everyone see the general benefits for those who live here? Certainly there are few "deals" that are a perfect win-win, but is it that difficult to decide what benefits the majority?

Chances are, they say, the feds won't step in the middle of our negotiating - or will they?

"Now more than ever, given the political disarray in our world, the government has a higher likelihood of stepping in," said Brian Samuels, a financial analyst with CK Cooper and Co. of Irvine, Calif.

While the study is in the preliminary stage, one has to wonder where the next step will take us.

Gov. Frank Murkowski is pushing the pipeline hard to the Legislature. The other week he said he would support a tax on the North Slope's natural gas reserves if the Legislature approves his proposed contract with BP PLC, ExxonMobil Corp. and ConocoPhillips - the state's top three producers. You scratch my back, I scratch yours.

All politics aside, the pipeline eventually will be built one way or another. And the waiting game to see who blinks first and the inclusion of the federal government isn't winning any points with Alaskans.

It isn't clear exactly what will happen if the government does get involved. But we would lose control of the pipeline on our own home turf. That's not what anyone in this state wants to see.

The bottom line is the natural gas pipeline is a good thing for Alaska. Yes, it's expensive and, yes, it's risky. But something - or someone - has to budge to make it happen.

The delay in getting the study of the pipeline off the ground tells us the feds aren't chomping at the bit to get involved, either. In fact, we're sure they'd like to see us resolve this issue before they even get their feet wet.

We all want to see the success of the pipeline in our state. We want the gas, and we want it on our terms - not the federal government's.

The powers that be in Alaska are where they are because we trust them to make decisions for the benefit of all Alaskans. So what do you say, folks? Let's do something before we don't even have the opportunity to make a choice.

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