It’s “Infrastructure Week” in the nation’s Capitol and that means hard-hatted transportation and water-works types will be there in force to pump up the urgency of investments in bridges, dams, airports, tunnels, and broadband.
On behalf of the Trump transition team, the National Governors Association in December sent a mass email to governors, asking them to list five projects from their states that were “ready to start.” Trump specified he wants to see a lot of private money in the mix and shovel-ready projects on the final list.
States, unions, advisers and associations deluged the White House with suggestions. California wants to rebuild its dams. New Jersey and New York want a tunnel. Rural states want broadband.
For Alaska, which projects were proposed by Governor Walker? Was it the King Cove Road? The road to the Ambler Mining District? Port Clarence? Juneau Access, the most shovel-ready project in Alaska?
None of the above.
The one project requested was $45 billion for the Walker AK-LNG project — the gasline. He wants it in the form of a loan guarantee. And he’ll also need the project exempted from federal taxes. And regulatory relief.
Helpfully, the National Governors Association stepped in and filled out the rest of the list of five for Alaska, possibly leaning on the state’s DC delegation for advice: Nome Port, King Cove Road, Ambler Mining District Road, and the McKenzie Rail extension were added.
Juneau Access project? Not on the list because the money has already been awarded. The governor has attempted to strip the money from the project, but the Senate has, for now, restored it.
Gov. Walker’s AK-LNG pipeline project, which has just applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to begin permitting, was not shovel ready. Not even close. It’s barely application ready, with FERC having advised the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. to “stay in pre-file,” according to Must Read Alaska sources.
Walker’s request was also the single most expensive project proposed of all those proposed by the 50 states.
Here’s the hitch: The $1 trillion in infrastructure will not be all from federal coffers. It’s looking more like as much as $200 billion in taxpayer dollars would leverage up to $1 trillion through partnerships with states, cities, private and institutional investors.
And while the Trump Administration has a broad definition of infrastructure, it has tasked 16 federal agencies to whittle the list down to “transformational’’ projects that will create jobs and economic growth. They’ll look at projects that can be accelerated and work on reducing red tape on projects in the pipeline.
The AK-LNG project would grow jobs during its construction phase, but it’s truly an export pipeline, and after it’s built, there will be few jobs associated with it. The big benefit from the project would be some royalties for the State, and some cheaper natural gas for Railbelt communities.
The states all have their top lobbyists in DC to work aggressively on their behalf to advance their projects. But Alaska’s DC office, headed by Craig Fleener, has been a no-show in DC for many weeks. Instead of Fleener making the rounds, Walker has sent Melissa Stepovich to the nation’s capital for about one week a month.
Word has it that Gov. Walker is working on another list, perhaps a more reasonable request, but no one is leaking what’s on it.
They are saying when construction begins in 2019, as if it’s a done deal. Whining about the 50 million uncertainty to the markets.
AGDC President Keith Meyer is in China right now trying to get financing for the project. He will be attending CWC China LNG & Gas International Summit & Exhibition in Beijing May 17-18. Meyer will meet with prospective LNG buyers and give a presentation about the AK-LNG project on May 18.
If Meyer can find financing from the Chinese government, Alaskans will need to decide if it wants one of the world’s most repressive governments to have a piece of the project — a project that the free market has walked away from.