(Juneau) - The sponsors of House Bill 9, Speaker Mike Chenault and Rep. Mike Hawker, expressed dismay at the Alaska Senate's refusal to leave Juneau without credibly addressing the bill, which Governor Sean Parnell agreed is critical to pass during the special session.
How long do we wait for gas? Alaskans have been waiting for gas for 30 years. It's time to take our future into our own hands, and that's just what House Bill 9 would have allowed Alaskans to do.
~ Rep. Mike Chenault
The legislation would have allowed major progress, including a binding open season in 2013, on an in-state gas pipeline delivering gas to Alaskans in dire need of secure, affordable energy.
"When we passed House Bill 369 two years ago, I believe that was our commitment to Alaskans to keep advancing an in-state gas pipeline," Chenault, R-Nikiski, said. "The House came through on that commitment, and the Senate has let Alaskans down. How long do we wait for gas? Alaskans have been waiting for gas for 30 years. It's time to take our future into our own hands, and that's just what House Bill 9 would have allowed Alaskans to do."
If we keep saying no, we will never know what could be.
~ Rep. Mike Hawker
HB 369, which was the genesis of AGDC and HB 9, passed the House unanimously and by an overwhelming majority in the Senate in 2010.
The sponsors estimated that failure to approve House Bill 9 will delay in-state gas by at least one, and likely several, years. In addition, the Senate has effectively denied Alaskans a direct role in a larger export project contemplated by the producers and TransCanada - perhaps even an ownership stake.
"If we keep saying no, we will never know what could be," Hawker, R-Anchorage, said. "I'd like to turn on the flow of any gas pipeline, and watch how far the vision of Alaskans takes our communities, our businesses and our future."
Chenault and Hawker challenged the Senate's post-adjournment assertions justifying their refusal to fully consider House Bill 9.
While commending the producers' and TransCanada's agreement to talk about redirecting work on an aligned project, Hawker said for now, it's just that - talk.
"The producers and TransCanada have been quite clear that they want to shift discussions to an aligned project, and I support that," Hawker said. "However, Alaskans have been here before. My constituents and many other Alaskans have expressed their desire to have state leaders take Alaska's energy future into Alaskans' hands. House Bill 9 would have empowered AGDC to continue working on an instate line while participating in discussions on a larger project."
Chenault and Hawker further took the Senate to task for misleading Alaskans that there is an adequate supply of gas in Cook Inlet to provide energy security to Southcentral, where the major utilities are facing supply shortages now on peak winter days, and for base needs beginning in 2015.
"The USGS thinks there may be 19 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered gas in Cook Inlet, but our Southcentral utilities don't have the supply contracts they need to get much past 2015," Chenault said. "I wish those explorers the very best but I can't stake my communities' energy supply on uncertain outcomes."
The two have been leading supporters of Cook Inlet oil and gas development.
The sponsors have consulted with most of the Cook Inlet gas companies, and have letters supporting House Bill 9. A steady stream of North Slope gas would help secure the export market needed to support additional Cook Inlet production.
Chenault and Hawker also pointed to significant support for House Bill 9 from key Fairbanks gas consumers, including the Flint Hills refinery and Golden Valley Electric Association. The Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce has voiced strong support for House Bill 9.
"House Bill 9 told AGDC to work on an instate line, with modifications as necessary," Hawker pointed out. "If there is adequate supply in Cook Inlet such that shippers are willing to sign the long-term contracts required to support a line from Cook Inlet north without a state subsidy, House Bill 9 would have fully equipped AGDC to shift its work to that line."