Opinions

Balash skipped steps down memory lane attacking Walker's gas line efforts

Commissioner Joe Balash is a nice enough guy, but he only does what his bosses tell him to do. His Oct. 24 commentary was just the most recent proof. When he was told to support the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, he did. When he was told to stop supporting AGIA (and ACES), he did. When he was told to support a large diameter boondoggle gas line to the Lower 48 he did. When he was told to stop supporting that project in favor of an uneconomic bullet line, he did that, too.

The problem is not with Balash, but his boss, Gov. Sean Parnell.

Parnell has demonstrated that he has no respect for the voters' wishes. Parnell refused to work with the Alaska Gasline Port Authority's sister agency, Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority, which was created by a 2002 statewide vote with the mandate of building a large diameter gas line to tidewater.

Parnell destroyed that voter mandate -- made by an initiative supported by 138,000 Alaskans -- when he signed SB 138. After destroying ANGDA and refusing to even acknowledge its board during his entire term, Parnell opted for appointing a Texan to set policy on the new Alaska Gasline Development Corp. board under Parnell's "Alaskans are not good enough" policy.

The difference between we at AGPA and the employees and campaign staffers of Sean Parnell is that we are working for a project that has a voter mandate. My obligation as a fiduciary requires me to advocate for what the voters have asked.

None of us would have worked for so long on this project if we did not believe the voters had it right, or if the project -- a large-diameter gas line for LNG export -- wasn't economic. Our only limitation was that the voters could not provide us with a 30-year supply of natural gas. AGPA has had to rely on Alaska's governors to ensure that North Slope gas was not warehoused. When we've brought the markets to Alaska to advance a project, we've needed our governor to enforce the "duty to develop" oil and gas lease provisions. We've had to suffer through the massive corruption funded by Big Oil that has turned Alaska's elected officials against us, and set potential partners fleeing.

This history is important, and I'll share the part Balash omitted.

MidAmerican Energy, owned by Warren Buffett, tried to advance a gas line project in Alaska. MidAmerican bailed when it saw how corrupt Alaska is.

"As you are painfully aware the ongoing corruption investigations coupled with previous indictments, guilty pleas and convictions draw into question virtually every major Alaskan project participant and governmental levels from State to Federal," wrote MidAmerican CEO David Sokol in 2006.

Sokol suggested the Alaska and U.S. governments will need to team with "a proven and non-conflicted project development partner" to deliver Alaska gas. (Advice Parnell has completely disregarded.)

Around this time, the Port Authority had worked for six months to prepare an AGIA application, a highly technical endeavor. Two weeks ahead of the AGIA submission deadline, our two partners (Fortune 500 companies) pulled out. They reported being threatened by the North Slope producers.

In 2012 Bill Walker, working for the AGPA board, brought half a dozen companies to Alaska. These major companies wanted enough gas to justify building a large diameter gas line. We formalized this interest in a response to the Solicitation of Interest that Exxon held under AGIA.

Our response, along with that of Resources Energy Inc. was 200 percent of the volume of gas needed to complete the project. The markets wanted to have first gas in 2019. Neither Parnell nor Exxon could be bothered to respond to this market demand, and that sabotaged this significant development, insulted the markets, and damaged Alaska's reputation. Parnell's claims that Bill Walker cannot bring people together don't match reality. When Parnell claims Alaska is now closer to getting a gas line built, he is wrong. If Parnell had not repudiated the wishes of the voters, and the markets, we'd be on track to first gas in 2019, not 2025.

Bill Walker has challenged Parnell to a gas line debate. But Parnell is afraid to have an honest debate. He knows the truth is not on his side, and he'd rather attack with false claims through his campaigners and employees. One Parnell employee, Dan Fauske -- of AGDC, has compensation that exceeds half a million dollars per year. This compensation is more than any federal employee in the United States, to include Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, as well as the directors of the CIA and FBI. That Fauske has no background in pipelines does not matter to Parnell. People with actual experience would explain the truth to Parnell.

Merrick Peirce is a board member and chief financial officer of AGPA, whose mandate from voters is to develop a gas line project for LNG export.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.

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