As the legislature closes out the first week of its special session on the Alaska LNG gas line project, there’s one question in the air — what’s the hold up?
That’s because lawmakers appear to agree on the one major issue on the table: buying out TransCanada, and taking a larger stake in the project.
But Republican leaders in the House say they’re not yet ready to take a vote — and they won’t be until they’re convinced the state has a plan to take over TransCanada’s role in the project.
House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, put it this way:
“I’ve been asking for months now, who is coordinating the efforts of all the state departments, and I haven’t got that answer yet…there is no one person in the administration now who you can go to to get the majority of your questions answered.”
As it stands, several state agencies have a role in the project, including the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Revenue, and the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation.
Chenault and other lawmakers want to know which agency will be taking over TransCanada’s role vetting and voting on project decisions.
“While I respect the governor, I don’t think that he has the time to be in charge of the state and also the gas pipeline project and do a good job with both…there needs to be somebody in the administration where the legislature or Alaskans can go to and say, ‘What’s going on? Where are we at? And. give us an answer!'”
Gov. Bill Walker says the answer is pretty simple.
I ask him, “So when the Legislature says, where does the buck stop on the Alaska gasline project?”
“It’s right here in this office,” Walker says.
Walker says he’s the one refereeing among the different agencies.
While he’s not involved in day to day negotiations, he speaks weekly with counterparts at the state’s three oil company partners — ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and BP — and gets daily phone updates from officials.
On December 4, all four partners must vote on whether to go ahead with the next year of work and funding. The governor says he’ll coordinate that decision.
“We’ll sit down with the commissioner of Natural Resources, the Commissioner of Revenue and the attorney general, and coordinate with AGDC on the data that’s been collected thus far, and making that decision.”
Walker says if the buyout goes through, that structure could change.
But for now, when lawmakers ask, who’s in charge of the gas pipeline? The answer is: Bill Walker.