Up until recently, almost every pundit and seasoned political observer in Juneau would tell you that Gov. Sean Parnell’s oil tax bill, SB 21, was the legislation that was driving the mechanisms of the legislature.
How things change.
Now, the 800 pound gorilla is two bills, both related to gas. Speaker of the House Mike Chenault and Rep. Mike Hawker’s HB 4 by which would facilitate the development of a small diameter in-state pipeline running from the North Slope to Southcentral Alaska, and SB 23, which would truck LNG from the North Slope to Fairbanks. (Read more about the details of both here and here).
Both bills are in House Finance and both sound like relatively simple, albeit expensive, solutions to both areas’ natural gas shortage. (But if things were simple, then the citizens of the state with the largest energy fields in North America wouldn’t be chopping wood to stay warm or buying generators in preparation for energy blackouts.)
That is to say, everything seems simple until politics comes into play. So, here’s some of the scuttlebutt: The Fairbanks delegation is ready to take a sword for its trucking plan, and Chenault and Hawker and other Southcentral legislators are ready to fall on their swords for theirs.
They both need the approval of one another. But not all of the Fairbanks folk are crazy about the small line. Some want to hold out for the dream of the big line. Some think the small line is too expensive and the agency that will be in charge will be too powerful. Some of the Southcentral legislators see trucking as a waste of money and believe that the small line would solve their natural gas shortage.
Then there’s Valdez, which has appropriated $500,000 of public money to oppose pay for ads opposing the instate line and promote the big one, not to mention the myriad wants and needs of legislators in other parts of the state.
Parnell, as is his wont, doesn’t appear to be providing anything like strong leadership on this issue, but he does seem to support trucking while leery of the small line, for whatever that’s worth.
In any case, the oil tax bill might be used as leverage by all in order to pass either or both of these bills.
HB 4, the small line, is in House Finance and a committee substitute of it is expected to move as early as tomorrow, with trucking close to follow. Both bills will move to Rules where HB 4 will likely be quickly calendared for floor action. And trucking, or SB 23, will be held pending Senate action on HB 4.
In other words, mine is better than yours and I’ll move yours when you move mine.
Updates to come.
Contact Amanda Coyne at firstname.lastname@example.org