ANCHORAGE - Anchorage attorney Bill Walker jumped into the race for governor Monday and declared that construction of a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope to Valdez will be the focus of his campaign.
"This pipeline under our administration would be built by Alaskans, operated by Alaskans and owned by Alaskans," he said. "All Alaska, all the time."
Walker is project manager and general counsel for the Alaska Gasline Port Authority, the municipal port authority established in 1999 by the North Slope Borough, the Fairbanks North Star Borough, and the city of Valdez to construct an "all-Alaska" gas pipeline.
Walker is the fourth Republican to declare his gubernatorial intentions, along with Gov. Sean Parnell, who replaced Sarah Palin after her surprise resignation in July, former state House Speaker John Harris of Valdez, and Gerald L. Heikes of Palmer.
Walker was introduced by Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker and immediately endorsed by former Gov. Walter J. Hickel.
At an announcement ceremony and press conference, Walker focused his prepared remarks almost entirely on the proposal for a pipeline.
A pipeline tapping the North Slope's vast resources has been a dream of Alaskans for more than three decades. The issue was a hallmark of the Palin administration. She pushed through a plan that awarded a state contract to TransCanada, a Canadian gas pipeline company, a license to develop the North Slope pipeline. Exxon Mobil, the single biggest holder of gas reserves on the Slope, joined that project this year. They have a target of an initial open season, when producers commit to reserving space in the line, to be completed by the end of July 2010.
A competing project, Denali Gas Pipeline, was launched by the other two major gas leaseholders on the Slope, BP and Conoco Phillips.
Both envision a pipeline that runs south to interior Alaska and then east to a hub in Canada where gas could be supplied to Lower 48 states.
Walker said the Lower 48 is awash in gas. His plan proposes an export market out of Valdez.
He said it could be funded with tax-exempt revenue bonds and he compared it to other types of government-owned infrastructure that helps development projects.
"If that was a gold mine, which it is, and it required a road, we would build a road," he said. "We build roads all the time. We build airports all the time."