Alaska Gov. Bill Walker holds a print out of a bill introduced in the Alaska House that would limit participation by the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. in an alternate gas line project during a news conference Monday, March 2, 2015, in Juneau, Alaska. Walker expressed shock with the bill and said he would veto it if the bill reached his desk. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker holds a print out of a bill introduced in the Alaska House that would limit participation by the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. in an alternate gas line project during a news conference Monday, March 2, 2015, in Juneau, Alaska. Walker expressed shock with the bill and said he would veto it if the bill reached his desk. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

Tensions flare between House, governor over pipeline project

  • By Becky Bohrer
  • Monday, March 2, 2015 11:22pm
  • News

JUNEAU — Tensions flared Monday between members of the Alaska House and Gov. Bill Walker over how best to advance state efforts to secure a major gas pipeline project, with a visibly upset Walker denouncing a bill from the speaker of the House as “the most un-Alaskan thing I’ve ever seen put together.”

House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, introduced legislation that would limit the role of a state-backed corporation in an alternate gas line project proposed by Walker. The state has been pursuing a major liquefied natural gas project, known as Alaska LNG, with BP, ExxonMobil Corp., ConocoPhillips, TransCanada Corp. and the Alaska Gasline Development Corp., or AGDC, which Chenault and other lawmakers want to ensure remains the state’s primary focus.

The bill states that the AGDC could not be involved with an alternate export or liquefied natural gas project until the earliest of three events: the state or another party withdrawing from Alaska LNG; Alaska LNG entering its next phase, a decision for which is expected next year; or July 1, 2017. It also says the AGDC cannot market gas owned or controlled by another party without that party’s written consent.

Walker held a news conference to respond to the bill, which he said would hurt the state’s negotiating position with Alaska LNG and promised a veto if it reached his desk. At times, he held up and shook a copy of the bill, scrawled with handwritten notes.

Walker shook things up last month with an opinion piece in which he proposed increasing the size of a smaller stand-alone gas line project, one initially aimed at providing gas to Alaskans, and turning into a project that would be capable of exports in case Alaska LNG faltered. Walker wrote that whichever project was first to produce a “solid plan” with conditions acceptable to the state would get the state’s full support.

Or, he said, the two projects might be combined at some point.

Walker said the state would continue to pursue Alaska LNG. But he said that companies involved in the project have competing projects of their own and it’s appropriate for the state — which has seen a long history of fits and starts on gas line projects — to not pin all its hopes on that one project.

Chenault and other majority lawmakers say they have gotten no greater clarity on Walker’s alternate proposal and are worried about the proposal casting a shadow of uncertainty over Alaska LNG. With a bill, there’s more opportunity to get information about Walker’s plans and to have a fuller discussion, he and others said.

“With all respect, this is what the Legislature does,” said Rep. Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage, adding later: “We are trying to conduct the public’s business in the public.” Hawker is one of the co-sponsors of Chenault’s bill.

House Majority Leader Charisse Millett, R-Anchorage, also a co-sponsor of Chenault’s bill, said she and the other bill supporters stand ready to work with Walker.

Walker said again Monday that he has gotten no pushback from the companies involved in Alaska LNG, including Exxon, with whom he recently met. An Exxon spokeswoman declined to comment.

Walker said he would continue with his gas line plans “until we’re stopped.”

Miles Baker, vice president of external affairs and government relations for the AGDC, said the AGDC would have to be directed by its board to pursue a project with greater capacity, and he thinks that Walker would have to clarify or rescind an administrative order that he signed late last year halting new spending for the stand-alone project.

Walker recently appointed three new members to the AGDC’s seven-member board, which also includes two of his commissioners. The appointees are subject to legislative confirmation.

Baker said the AGDC’s legal counsel also is looking at whether a law change is needed for the AGDC to pursue a larger-scale project.

Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, said he supports Walker’s approach and is not sure that Chenault’s bill would have the support needed to pass the Legislature.

The dustup follows a decision by members of the House Finance Committee last week to strip provisions related to Medicaid expansion from the operating budget. Walker, who has made Medicaid expansion a priority, has resisted calls from leaders of the GOP-led House majority to introduce a bill of his own on expansion and said there’s an expansion bill from minority Democrats already pending in the House.

Many lawmakers see Medicaid expansion as a major policy call that would be better addressed through committee hearings on a stand-alone bill and say Walker should lead the charge.

More in News

tease
House District 6 race gets 3rd candidate

Alana Greear filed a letter of intent to run on April 5

Kenai City Hall is seen on Feb. 20, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai water treatment plant project moves forward

The city will contract with Anchorage-based HDL Engineering Consultants for design and engineering of a new water treatment plant pumphouse

Students of Soldotna High School stage a walkout in protest of the veto of Senate Bill 140 in front of their school in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, April 17, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
SoHi students walk out for school funding

The protest was in response to the veto of an education bill that would have increased school funding

The Kenai Courthouse as seen on Monday, July 3, 2023, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Clam Gulch resident convicted of 60 counts for sexual abuse of a minor

The conviction came at the end of a three-week trial at the Kenai Courthouse

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meets in Seward, Alaska, on Tuesday, April 16, 2024. (screenshot)
Borough awards contract for replacement of Seward High School track

The project is part of a bond package that funds major deferred maintenance projects at 10 borough schools

Kenai Peninsula Education Association President LaDawn Druce, left, and committee Chair Jason Tauriainen, right, participate in the first meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s Four Day School Week Ad Hoc Committee on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
4-day school week committee talks purpose of potential change, possible calendar

The change could help curb costs on things like substitutes, according to district estimates

A studded tire is attached to a very cool car in the parking lot of the Peninsula Clarion in Kenai, Alaska, on Monday, April 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Studded tire removal deadline extended

A 15-day extension was issued via emergency order for communities above the 60 degrees latitude line

A sign for Peninsula Community Health Services stands outside their facility in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, April 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
PCHS to pursue Nikiski expansion, moves to meet other community needs

PCHS is a private, nonprofit organization that provides access to health care to anyone in the community

Jordan Chilson votes in favor of an ordinance he sponsored seeking equitable access to baby changing tables during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, April 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna OKs ordinance seeking to increase access to baby changing tables

The ordinance requires all newly constructed or renovated city-owned and operated facilities to include changing tables installed in both men’s and women’s restrooms

Most Read