House Democrats Offer Series of Improvements to Small Gasline Legislation
Amendments would ensure low-cost gas, add accountability, provide maximum benefit to Alaskans
JUNEAU – Tonight, in an effort to add much needed accountability and assurances Alaskans will get low-cost gas and the maximum benefit from a small diameter gasline, Democratic legislators in the Alaska House of Representatives offered a series of amendments to the gasline’s enabling legislation.
“We all want to get Alaska gas to Alaskans, but as the governor has noted, this bill lacks accountability and doesn’t do enough to ensure Alaskans get low-cost gas and the maximum benefits from developing our gas resources,” said House Democratic Leader Beth Kerttula (D-Juneau). “Each of our amendments would add accountability and ensure low-cost gas, local hire, and other ways to make sure this project doesn’t just get built, but works for Alaska.”
The first amendment would have given the Regulatory Commission of Alaska authority to review and approve contracts between all companies to require just and reasonable gas costs. Without the amendment, the bill deletes that requirement so long as it does not violate anti-trust law.
“Alaskans deserve low-cost gas. Instead, this bill strips out our consumer protection against excessive rates,” said Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage) who offered the amendment. “This amendment would make sure those contracts lead to the cheapest gas and best deal for Alaska.”
Amendment number two would have guaranteed that utilities serving Alaskans get first access to gas should an unexpected shortage limit the gas moving through the pipeline.
“If the goal is to get Alaska’s gas to Alaskans, then we should make sure Alaskans get that gas first and aren’t left out in the cold if there’s ever an unexpected shortage,” said Representative Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage) who offered the amendment.
Rep. Kerttula offered what she called the “Show Me” amendment as amendment number three. It would require that the public be able to weigh in on the project through the legislative process before construction begins.
“Once we start construction, we slam the door on everything else, and that should be a decision made at that time, when we know more about the costs of this project, the cost of gas, and the other available options that may be better ways to get low-cost gas to Alaskans,” said Rep. Kerttula.
House Democratic Whip Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage) offered amendment four to ensure Alaskans get the jobs building the pipeline by requiring Project Labor Agreements. Representative Max Gruenberg also added an amendment to give Alaska hire provisions “some real teeth” so more Alaskans can get jobs working on this project.
“It’s Alaska’s gas, Alaska’s gasline, and it should be Alaska’s jobs building it,” said Rep. Tuck. “This Alaska-hire provision is in the big gasline law, the voters put it in the gasline initiative in 2002, and it should be in this bill too, so Alaskans can get the training and get the jobs building any pipeline that gets built.”
Other amendments ensured Alaskan companies have a fair shot at getting the contracts to build, operate, and manage the pipeline and to allow Alaskans the right to defend their rights to low-cost gas and to have a say in how their resources are developed and brought to market.