JUNEAU -- The speaker of the Alaska House, Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, plans to introduce legislation next week affecting the state's natural gas pipeline projects, a major point of contention between Republican House leaders and independent Gov. Bill Walker.
Chenault's chief of staff, Tom Wright, said a bill would be introduced Monday but he declined to specifically describe the proposal before it is introduced.
The state is involved in a pair of projects to get natural gas from the North Slope to an ice-free port and to Alaska communities. A smaller, state-owned line would run from the North Slope to the northeast corner of Cook Inlet, while a larger line that the state would build with oil producers would run to Nikiski on the Kenai Peninsula.
The state's involvement in both projects is administered through a state corporation, the Alaska Gasline Development Corp., that was set up through legislation backed by Republican elected leaders. Walker, an independent who was elected in November with the backing of Democrats, said last week he wants to change the scope of the smaller, state-owned project to match the larger one.
Wright said his office was working on the bill with Rena Delbridge, a staff member to Rep. Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage. Both Hawker and Chenault were architects of the legislation that set up the AGDC and have been skeptical of the shift Walker proposed last week.
"What we're doing is strengthening and affirming the role of AGDC" in the small and large gas line projects, Wright said. He declined to provide additional details.
A hearing on the bill has already been scheduled for late next week in the House Resources Committee. A notice about the meeting shows the title of the legislation as "An Act Relating to the Support of the Alaska Liquefied Natural Gas Project by the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation."
In a brief interview after a news conference Friday afternoon, Walker said he wasn't aware of Chenault's legislation and declined to comment on it.
Alaska Dispatch Publishing