My Turn:No fed bureaucracy needed for Alaska gas

Posted: Monday, August 20, 2001

BP, Exxon and Phillips have asked Alaska Sen. Frank Murkowski to submit a bill to the U.S. Senate to federalize Alaska's natural gas and negate our state's rights to develop our own gas project. Sen. Murkowski said he will schedule hearings before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee chaired by Sen. Bingaman, (D) N.M.

At first glance, the bill seems to: 1) eliminate the Alaska-Canada Highway as the preferred route, 2) do away with the Alaska Natural Gas Transportation Act (ANGTA), a treaty with Canada signed into law in 1977 by then President Carter, and 3) give the oil companies and the federal government control of our gas.

More disastrous and threatening for Alaskans are the take-aways of individual and state's rights in regard to having any control over the development and routing of our gas. The bill could strip the power of Alaskans to decide on issues regarding the proposed pipeline. It could totally negate a vote of the Alaska people through any citizen initiative process.

The bill calls for the creation of a federal pipeline director and a massive new federal bureaucracy, all to be located in Washington D.C. The federal pipeline director will be in the Executive Office of the President. This bill gives this new pipeline czar control over Alaska's natural gas. The new office would have authority over all state of Alaska and federal agencies. It is a bureaucratic seizure of power, calling for an almost emergency like centralization of economic and political power.

The bill limits judicial and court's rights. The federal legislative branch should not be allowed to usurp the delegated statuary powers of the federal judicial branch of government in order to grab Alaska's gas.

The proposed bill limits tribal sovereignty rights. Tribal governments would not be able to coordinate directly, but would have to go through the office of the new federal pipeline director who would have authority over the tribal governments and natural gas.

Environmental rights are trashed in this new bill. The bill could speed up and bypass all existing federal and state environmental agencies, laws and existing permitting procedures. This is totally unfair to the two companies, Foothills Pipeline and Yukon Pacific Corp., who have played by the existing rules in obtaining their environmental and legal permits over the course of the last 10 years.

The words Valdez and LNG are not even in the bill. Nowhere in the proposed legislation is there any mention of an All-Alaska route. This bill does not provide in-state gas for Alaskans, does not provide the most jobs for Alaskans and certainly does not give the maximum revenues to the state of Alaska. Any percentage of state ownership-investment, over and above the lawful 12 1/2 percent royalty the state is entitled to, in an all-Alaska gas line to Valdez, maximizes state revenues over other proposed projects. Sen. Murkowski's bill does not even mention jobs, revenues or gas for Alaskans.

This is not federal gas. This is Alaska's gas. Alaska's pipeline is not a federal pipeline. It is a state pipeline. We do not need federal interference of any kind. This bill even references gas routes through the Continental Shelf. Alaska's Legislature has wisely passed a state law deleting the Beaufort Sea as a gas route. This bill belongs in the nearest trash can, not in any federal hearings.

I hope Sen. Murkowski looks at this legislation in depth. Every Alaskan should read this proposed bill.

When all is said and done, this gas issue is going to make or break a few political careers. More importantly, it may well make or break Alaska's future.

Scott Heyworth chairs the Citizens Initiative for the All-Alaska Gasline based in Anchorage.

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