Alaskan officials respond to Begich comment on gas line

Alaskan officials defended the state's plan to build a gas line from the ANS to Alberta after US Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alas.) said the Obama administration is frustrated that the project isn't farther along.

Nick Snow
Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, June 4 -- Alaskan officials defended the state's plan to build a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope to Alberta after US Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alas.) said the Obama administration is frustrated that the project isn't farther along.

Begich told a business audience June 2 in Anchorage that he would like US President Barack Obama to elevate the pipeline on the national energy agenda instead of treating it as a state project, according to an Associated Press report. He said that Obama has indicated that the project is among the top five he would like to see move forward.

Alaska Gov. Sarah H. Palin said on June 3 that substantial progress has been made as two competing projects move ahead. "I am so very proud of our gas line team, which works hard every day to make progress on this vital project for our state. With no need for grandstanding, they have moved this project along with stakeholders and federal regulators, and that is going to pay enormous dividends in the future," she said.

Two state commissioners said in a letter to Begich that they were disappointed by his comments. Noting that it would be the biggest and most complex private sector undertaking in history, Revenue Commissioner Patrick S. Galvin and Natural Resources Commission Thomas E. Irwin said that its lead time must be measured in years instead of months.

"However, every day the Alaska gas pipeline project is making significant progress toward becoming a reality. That progress is the result of bipartisan actions taken in Congress and in the Alaska State Legislature in the past, actions that must continue to be bipartisan in the future," they said.

They said that the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act was designed to protect values critical to state and national interests by providing for lower tariffs on the pipeline, ensuring expansion opportunities for new gas discoveries, and protecting against basin control. Alaska's legislature expressed bipartisan support for these values, including Democrats who voted unanimously for the measure, Galvin and Irwin said.

"Further, President Obama has been supportive of the Alaska gas pipeline project from the very beginning of his presidential campaign to the present, and we applaud that support. Also, we have heard nothing from him or members of his administration that reflects frustration with the significant progress that is now occurring. Finally, an overwhelming majority of Democrats and Republicans in Congress have supported the pipeline as an essential element of a comprehensive energy policy," they said in their letter.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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