Legislators pull together, remove middleman from Alaska’s future

Last week was historic for Alaska. Thanks to our state legislators, we took a significant step toward controlling our own destiny. 

The Legislature held about two weeks of hearings to examine my proposal to buy out TransCanada’s interest, then almost unanimously approved my request to exercise our option to take over Alaska’s share of the gas pipeline project. 

This is not just a financial or contractual arrangement. It’s so much more. For the first time in a long time, Alaska is stepping up and taking out the middleman between us and our future.

Under a prior agreement, TransCanada held the State’s ownership interest in two components of the Alaska Liquefied Natural Gas (AKLNG) project — the gas treatment plant on the North Slope and the gas pipeline itself. While TransCanada has been a valuable partner in the AKLNG project, taking over the company’s interest gives Alaskans greater control over our share of the gasline project. It ensures that we maximize the economic return on the production of our natural gas resources.

To successfully build a gas pipeline transport system and market our gas, we must pull together as a team. The next step is to ensure North Slope gas is available for a gasline project. While some of our AKLNG partners are developing multiple LNG projects around the world, we have just this one. 

The united front shown by the legislature’s approval of the TransCanada buyout goes a long way toward getting us a pipeline project that secures our economic future and benefits all Alaskans.

The benefits of an LNG pipeline system include short-term construction jobs; long-term careers running the pipeline and developing oil and gas reserves; opportunities to help meet the state’s energy needs; and a long-term revenue source for public infrastructure and services.

Long before construction begins, this project will jumpstart Alaska’s economy. It will create thousands of jobs. Billions of dollars will be spent and circulated throughout the state. Every project dollar has a multiplier effect — supporting local businesses, retailers and contractors who in turn support other businesses. 

To ensure those jobs go to Alaskans, we have already begun training local workers in preparation for the type of work that will come with the pipeline. As of 2014, more than 1,600 Alaskans have received training in pipeline construction and maintenance. 

Once the pipeline is built, we will see hundreds of long-term career opportunities in which Alaskans can run and maintain the pipeline system. And we can expect even more jobs and state revenue from reinvigorated oil and gas exploration on the North Slope. This economic activity boosts local economies and helps provide a base for economic diversification.

There will be at least five pipeline off-take points, which means the potential of lower energy costs for Alaskans as natural gas is made available to communities throughout the state. 

This will enable communities to replace wood and oil with natural gas, which will reduce air pollution and carbon emissions. 

Approval of the TransCanada buyout is another stepping stone toward making the gas pipeline a reality. Standing united together, we can do this. I thank you, Alaska legislators, for pulling together to provide overwhelming support of this important project advancement.  

Bill Walker was elected governor of Alaska in 2014 as an independent.

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