Voices of Alaska: Don’t settle. Alaskans can get the job done

  • By REPS. GARY KNOPP
  • Sunday, April 1, 2018 7:26pm
  • Opinion

“You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” — Wayne Gretzky

Since the State of Alaska took control of the efforts to commercialize North Slope gas reserves a few years ago, a common criticism from some state lawmakers is that the state would never find investors.

The project was not economical with private industry at the reins, so it must not be economical at all: that was the argument, a line of thinking that makes perfect sense on face value but on closer examination is actually plain wrong.

It is now evident that the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation is on the cusp of signing deals with investors who are willing to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into our state, that there is a path forward for the Alaska LNG Project in the immediate future rather than waiting and wishing for another generation.

That is why AGDC submitted a request to the Legislature for the authority to receive up to $1 billion from investors. What this signals is that AGDC is preparing to advance the project with non-state funds, rather than relying solely on scarce state funding.

Obviously this is good news, another sign of progress on a project that will provide jobs for 20,000 Alaskans while also providing a steady flow of low-cost energy, and revenue to pay for schools, roads, and troopers.

Yet somehow, some people are casting the request for receipt authority as an effort to cut the Legislature out of the decision making process on the Alaska LNG Project.

The idea that a request for legislative approval to receive investment could be designed to circumvent the Legislature just doesn’t make sense. Beyond this one decision, as the appropriating body, the Legislature must also approve any spending or issuance of debts or bonds. The Legislature will be intimately involved on this project at every step of the way.

Critics, inside the Legislature and out, have recently asserted that we Alaskans are incapable of managing anything of significance on our own.

On that point, we both take exception.

I’m Representative Gary Knopp, a Republican from Kenai. I came to Alaska thirty-odd years ago as a young man without connections or wealth. The same things folks are saying about Alaskans working on the gasline now, they could have said about me back then. I was young and unqualified, with thin financial resources — the biggest thing I had going for me was my will to succeed. Since that time, I worked with other Alaskans to build a construction company that has completed hundreds of jobs on time and on budget across the Kenai Peninsula. Don’t tell me that Alaska can’t handle big projects.

And I’m Representative David Guttenberg, a Democrat from Fairbanks. I moved to Alaska in 1969 after growing up in New York. Working on the pipeline gave me a foundation of financial security for the rest of my life, and showed me what Alaskans were capable of. We had a sense of wonder at the scale of the project and felt like there was nothing we couldn’t do. The life lessons from these early years led me on a path beyond anything I could have imagined. Alaska is the “Great Land” where anything is possible.

For decades, Alaskan leaders who came before us, like Ted Stevens and Dan Fauske, made sure that Alaska and AGDC would be ready when an opportunity to commercialize Alaska’s gas emerged. That opportunity is now.

Since when did Alaskan leaders decide it was politically important to undercut our team and second-guess our own accomplishments? Since when did we doubt our own ability to think for ourselves and determine our own path forward?

We are our own worst enemies if we resort to taking potshots in an attempt to sink the project that holds the key to our economic security. Some of this is being done for personal political gain, which is particularly unsettling.

Let’s instead look to the leadership of our Republican colleague from Nikiski, Rep. Mike Chenault, who hit the nail on the head when he recently spoke out against cutting AGDC’s funding, saying “If we continue to be afraid to make that investment to get to a point where we see if we have a viable project or not, in 30 years we’ll be saying the same thing we’re saying today, is that: ‘We should have went forward and completed a project.’”

Questions about this project from lawmakers and everyone else are welcome. Every aspect should be thoroughly examined and the Legislature must play a critical role in vetting decisions that will impact Alaska’s financial future. That is exactly what is happening.

On this effort, we must work together and act as leaders, not politicians. The Alaska LNG Project is far too important to our state to undermine for partisan gain.

Rep. Gary Knopp is a Republican from Kenai. Rep. David Guttenberg is a Democrat from Fairbanks.

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