My Turn: Alaska gas authority should build pipeline

Posted: Friday, August 01, 2008

If Alaska is to reach its full potential and increase the wealth for all of its citizens, it needs to move away from the exploitation of its resources by special interests and corrupt politicians and take control of its own destiny.

Alaska needs to invest in and develop its resources by building a state-owned all-Alaska gas line such as the voter-mandated proposal by the Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority.

This is the proposed 800-mile liquefied natural gas line from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez that was created by initiative, and voted for in 2001 by almost two-thirds of the people of Alaska to get their natural gas to market.

Even though the all-Alaska gas line is a superior project, however, corrupt politicians and political agendas have prevented it from getting off the ground.

It is by far the best and most logical candidate to build the line since it would provide the maximum benefits to Alaska, including the most revenue to the state, the most jobs to Alaskans, and it will help us resolve our fiscal dilemma for decades to come. This was proven in ANGDA's feasibility report and also by the state's revenue commissioner's statement that the all-Alaska gas project is profitable and economic.

It also makes economic sense to build the gas line next to the existing infrastructure of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline by using the permits, the right of way and the access roads already in place. ANGDA's time frame was to begin construction in 2009 with completion by 2012, creating 20,000 jobs.

Since ANGDA became a state entity under the Department of Revenue, we've had two governors that have ignored the will of the people by opposing the all-Alaska gas line.

First, former Gov. Frank Murkowski under-funded and stalled the ANGDA proposal while trying to get his corruption-tainted gas line contract through the Legislature.

Now, Gov. Sarah Palin has quashed the all-Alaska gas line by rejecting both ANGDA's and the Port Authority's proposal even though she ran her campaign on promises of supporting it. Since ANGDA is an entity of the state, its duty by statute is to design, fund and build a gas line from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez.

Palin flip-flopped on the all-Alaska gas and now pushes the TransCanada proposal, a 2,500-mile "pie in the sky" gas line that is 10 years off and does not guarantee a pipeline will be built. This will lock up our gas from markets for another decade.

Palin ran for office on fair and transparent government, and ultimately it was her responsibility, along with Commissioner of Revenue Patrick Galvin, to get the ANGDA proposal into the AGIA process. They failed to do so.

Harold Heinze, the CEO of ANGDA, whose job was to get a gas line built to Valdez, also failed and now supports the TransCanada project. Is this the way a fair and transparent government works?

The ANGDA version is a superior proposal and a superior project in terms of benefits to this state. That is why it was never brought to the table. Once the people of Alaska saw that proposal, there is no way they could go any other way.

The state should build and own the gas line from Prudhoe to Valdez and, ANGDA, along with the Alaska workforce, could build it before Trans-Canada or the oil producers ever get theirs off the drawing board. If they want their "pie in the sky" gas line through Canada, they can hook up at Delta Junction.

We need to ensure that our state and its citizens will not lose wealth or the ability to prosper due to corporate greed and political corruption. Alaska can subcontract out the development of our oil resources to our own exploration and pipeline companies and at the same time build up our Alaska union workforce and become a richer state for it. It would mean cheaper energy and more Alaskan jobs in the oil industry.

The Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority is the best candidate to build our long-awaited gas line. The Legislature should vote "no" on the TransCanada proposal and bring back the all-Alaska gas line to the table as they said they would.

• Tim O'Donnell is a Juneau resident and has worked in the construction and oil industry for 34 years.

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