Legislature hires consultant to scrutinize China gas pipeline deal

The Alaska State Capitol in Juneau (Marc Lester / ADN)

JUNEAU — The Legislature has hired an expert on energy in China to offer political advice and analysis on the state's nascent partnership with that country on Alaska's massive proposed natural gas export project.

Sitka Republican Sen. Bert Stedman, chair of the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee, signed the contract, capped at $35,000, earlier this month. It's with Wenran Jiang, who worked for more than two decades as a professor at the University of Alberta and once directed its China Institute.

Jiang will earn $350 an hour to provide information, opinions and "expert consulting services" on China, its energy policy and infrastructure, according to the contract. He'll also help the Legislature analyze the state's recent agreement to jointly develop a huge pipeline and LNG export project with three Chinese entities: oil company Sinopec, the Bank of China and China Investment Corp., a state-owned investment fund.

The project, Alaska LNG, would include a natural gas pipeline running 800 miles from the North Slope oil fields to the Kenai Peninsula. It's estimated to cost $43 billion.

Jiang is making two presentations Thursday at the Capitol — one in the morning at an informational meeting organized by Stedman, and another in the afternoon hosted by the House finance and resources committees.