Former Gov. Walker leads effort to take over Alaska’s gas pipeline megaproject

A white bald man in a suit speaks at a table
Alaska Gov. Bill Walker and Alaska Gasline Development Corporation head Keith Meyer during a meeting in Beijing. (Photo courtesy Alaska Governor’s Office)

For more than 40 years, the state has tried and failed to bring natural gas from Alaska’s North Slope to market. Now, a new private venture — formed by some familiar players — wants to make an attempt. 

Former Gov. Bill Walker led a press conference on Monday with the group who call themselves Alaska Gasline & LNG, LLC.  

Walker is a man with a mission. He has spent decades working to bring the megaproject into existence.  And, much like he has in the past, he emphasized what it could bring to the state — jobs, money, cheap energy.

“You know we’re not out to get rich off of this project, we want to make it happen,” he said.

Walker was joined by the man he tapped to lead the state’s gasline corporation during his administration — Keith Meyer. As the state’s highest-paid employee, Meyer ran the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation for two years before he was ousted after Gov. Mike Dunleavy was elected. 

This is the second time this year Meyer has pitched taking over the state-led gasline project.   In January, Meyer went to the state corporation with an idea to take the project over again, this time with private backers. At the time, he would not disclose the company that was backing him.

Walker and Meyer are partnering with Fairbanks entrepreneur Bernie Karl and a labor union — Laborers Local 341.

Right now, those four are the only investors in their new venture. But Walker said that could change. 

“While there’s four now, we think there will be 400 or 4,000 because I think Alaskans are ready for this project to happen,” he said.

The group is responding to a message from leaders of the state’s gasline corporation who said this spring that they want to transition the project over from state control into private hands. They’re hoping to transfer the project by the end of the year. 

According to a written statement from the state corporation, “State of Alaska policymakers have made it clear that adequately funded third parties will need to fund Alaska LNG construction and lead the project forward. Any party with the appropriate resources and qualifications to help advance the Alaska LNG project is welcome to participate in the strategic path for Alaska LNG that the AGDC board defined this past spring.”

The corporation estimates the project will cost about $38.7 billion to build.  Alaska has struggled to hit the right market conditions to make its expensive project a reality. And, demand dropped in 2020 in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, driving gas prices even lower. 

But Meyer and Walker are undeterred.  They point to the success of a years-long federal permitting process. 

Meyer says the next step is to move the project into the market; get it in front of people who may want to invest in it.

“It’s a very good time in the LNG industry, the world is moving to natural gas as a much cleaner hydrocarbon. So we now have 42 countries that import LNG,” he said.  “So the industry has matured and Alaska is in a beautiful position to really participate in this industry.”

Meyer says if the state will turn the project over to their venture, they’re aiming to get it built by 2028.

Rashah McChesney is a photojournalist turned radio journalist who has been telling stories in Alaska since 2012. Before joining Alaska's Energy Desk, she worked at Kenai's Peninsula Clarion and the Juneau bureau of the Associated Press. She is a graduate of Iowa State University's Greenlee Journalism School and has worked in public television, newspapers and now radio, all in the quest to become the Swiss Army knife of storytellers.

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