Northwest Digest

Posted: Friday, November 11, 2005

Oil companies want gas line details

FAIRBANKS - Oil company representatives said they want more details before they support a proposed deal with the state to build a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope.

Top executives from BP and Exxon Mobil spoke Wednesday during a U.S. Senate committee hearing about oil price gouging.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, asked what has slowed the companies, given that combined third-quarter profits alone exceeded the entire estimated cost of the gas line.

"It is absolutely critical from our point of view that all the elements of the agreement are clear and the interaction between the gas operation and the oil operation at Prudhoe also be clear," Lee Raymond, Exxon Mobil's chief executive said at the hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Raymond said the specific issues are "more appropriately handled between the governor and the people up there who are trying to negotiate it."

Ross Pillari, BP America's chief executive, said each company approaches negotiations differently.

"We would like to see all the details resolved before we agree to go forward," he said. "But we agree that this project is a good project and we believe it will get done shortly."

James Mulva, ConocoPhillips CEO, also appeared at the hearing. The company, the third major North Slope producer involved in the "sponsor group," has reached a preliminary agreement with the state.

BP wants more tankers in Puget Sound

WASHINGTON - London-based energy group BP PLC has threatened a 10 percent production cut at its Cherry Point refinery near Bellingham, Wash., if a federal law restricting tanker traffic in Puget Sound is not repealed.

Ross Pillari, BP America's chief executive, made the comment Wednesday, a day after Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, quietly introduced legislation that would overturn an amendment the late Sen. Warren Magnuson, D-Wash., inserted into the Marine Mammal Protection Act in 1977.

The so-called Magnuson Amendment reduced the risk of oil spills in Washington waters by limiting the number of oil tankers that could dock in the Puget Sound region.

About 600 tankers a year enter Washington state's marine waters and Puget Sound, according to a 2004 report by the Washington Department of Ecology.

Critics of Stevens' proposal argue that additional tanker traffic could increase the likelihood of oil spills in the sound. They also have warned that without the restriction Washington could become the center of oil production on the West Coast.

Wash. governor seeks funds to fix welfare

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Gov. Christine Gregoire wants $46 million to help repair the state's welfare budget, and would cut some costs and tap the agency's program surplus to make up the difference.

Gregoire's welfare blueprint, unveiled Thursday, drew praise from human services officials and child care advocates because it avoids kicking more than 2,000 families off daycare assistance.

But the plan also revokes welfare cash from parents who refuse education and job programs, worrying some poverty advocates who say children could be harmed.

Gregoire, who once worked as a welfare-fraud investigator, expressed admiration for her own single working mom in explaining tougher welfare-to-work measures.

Legislation would give reporters a shield

SPOKANE, Wash. - King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng joined state Attorney General Rob McKenna in encouraging newspaper publishers Thursday to get behind legislation to protect reporters' confidential sources.

McKenna, a Republican, plans to request legislation next year that would make Washington the 32nd state with some form of reporter's privilege.

On a panel of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association with McKenna, Maleng urged publishers at their annual meeting to get behind the shield-law bill.

"My philosophy is, a free society requires a free press," McKenna said.

Shield laws give the media the tools they need to hold public and private agencies accountable, McKenna said.

Almost all of the state's public-corruption investigations over the past 25 years have been driven by media interest, Maleng said.

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