Federal pipeline coordinator’s office to close this month

JUNEAU — President Barack Obama has proposed $1 million in funding and a change in scope for the office of federal coordinator of Alaska natural gas projects.

But the proposal, for the budget year starting Oct. 1, doesn’t change plans for the office to close around the end of this month, federal coordinator Larry Persily said Monday.

The office wasn’t included in a budget bill passed by Congress in December, and Persily said that without funding for the current year, the office has no choice but to close. The office is giving away furniture and equipment to other federal agencies in Alaska and will preserve its records at the National Archives, he said by email.

The office’s digital library of gas-line project documents going back 40 years will be maintained at the Alaska Resources Library and Information Services, Persily said.

Persily plans to resign after the office closes. If Congress restores the agency, a new federal coordinator would have to be appointed by the president, subject to Senate confirmation, he said.

The office was created in a 2004 law aimed at helping advance an Alaska gas pipeline project that would serve North America. That project was set aside amid a change in markets in favor of a large-scale liquefied natural gas project that would allow for overseas exports. But Congress did not change the scope of the office to include a liquefied natural gas export project.

Persily has said that the lack of clear authority for the office to be involved with the new project was becoming more of an issue as the project progressed.

The budget proposal calls for a change in the authorization to allow the office to work on a liquefied natural gas project.