Alaska gas line remains top priority for Palin successor

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, July 6 -- Alaska Gov. Sarah H. Palin listed her efforts to begin constructing a massive natural gas pipeline as one of her main accomplishments when she announced her resignation on July 3. Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell said it will be his top priority when he takes over the governor’s office on July 26.

“I will continue the course set by the governor that has produced such forward progress these past 2 years,” he said after Palin’s unexpected announcement. “I will continue to support and promote responsible resource development and energy development of all kinds for Alaskans.”

Reactions within the state’s congressional delegation were mixed. “I am deeply disappointed that the governor has decided to abandon the state and her constituents before her term has concluded,” US Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alas.) said on July 3.

The state’s other US senator, Democrat Mark Begich, said, "I'm as surprised as all Alaskans by Gov. Palin's decision to step down with nearly 2 years left in her term. There was speculation she would not seek reelection, but she gave no indication of a resignation when I met with her for 45 min in her Anchorage office 2 days ago.” He said that he looks forward to working with Parnell as governor “and the rest of the administration on the gas line, growing our economy, creating jobs for Alaskans and many other pressing issues facing our state.”

Republican Don Young, Alaska’s lone US House member, said, “I’m as surprised as anyone by this announcement, but I support her decision and I wish her well.”

In her speech, Palin said her administration’s accomplishments spoke for themselves. “We aggressively and responsibly develop our resources because they were created to better our world, to help people, and we protect the environment and Alaskans (the resource owners) foremost with our policies,” she stated.

‘Massive bipartisan victory’
Palin said the Alaska Gasline Initiative Act (AGIA), which the legislature passed soon after she took office, was “a massive bipartisan victory” with a 58-1 vote, and that it is “succeeding as intended, protecting Alaskans as our clean natural gas will flow to energize us, and America, through a competitive, proprivate sector project.”

During her administration, Palin said, Alaska established a petroleum integrity office to oversee safe development, worked to bring oil and gas activity back to Point Thomson for the first time in decades, and passed a new oil and gas tax, ACES (for Alaska’s Clear and Equitable Share).

She said ACES “is working as intended and industry is publicly acknowledging its success,” adding, “Our new oil and gas clear and equitable formula is so Alaskans will no longer be taken advantage of. ACES incentivizes new exploration and development and jobs that were previously not going to happen with a monopolized North Slope oil basin.”

Palin said her administration’s accomplishments also included ethics reforms, slowing down the growth of government, strong support for education, and breaking ground on a new prison. “We built a subcabinet on climate change and took heat from outside special interests for our biologically sound wildlife management for abundance,” she said. She added that she was ready to take credit, but only for hiring the right people.

She also said she felt compelled to speak out on energy, national security, and other issues and to campaign for candidates who share her views, but not while trying to still be governor in a toxic political environment she said developed after Republican presidential nominee John McCain made her his running mate last year.

Parnell said Alaska has a good team of state government officials to keep it moving forward. “We've got an extremely talented team of commissioners, and I intend to keep them working hard for our state. I will work with the governor to coordinate with the cabinet and staff on a seamless, stable transition. And I will work closely with legislators, community leaders, and individual Alaskans to accomplish these ends,” he said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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