By CRAIG MEDRED
The first day of September came and went with nary a peep out of the office of Alaska Gov. Bill Walker as to the fate of his beloved Alaska natural gas pipeline. The anniversary would be hardly worth noting but for what Walker said at the end of August 2016.
It was then he drew a line in the sand and went out of his way to publicize it in the pages of the Alaska Dispatch News owned by friend and supporter Alice Rogoff. September 1 was to have been the drop-dead date for Walker’s LNG-export project if no buyers for gas signed on.
“Walker sought the interview after weeks of seemingly bad news about the gas line, including reluctance by the producers to move ahead with the current project and a consultant report saying the gas line wasn’t competitive with other projects around the world,” reporter Alex DeMarban wrote in the story.
“(Walker) said the state will have an answer within one year whether the project can move forward — or not. If the interest is not there, the state backs off.
“‘If the market says, ‘You know what, you should have been here 10 years ago, or 20 years ago and we would have signed up and we’re not interested, (then) that’s it,’ (Walker) said.”
The answer the state had received from buyers as of Friday was “thanks for the offer” and silence. Despite the lack of firm commitments, however, cash-strapped Alaska is on schedule to spend about $100 million on the project this year and next.
When Walker this week announced plans to call the Legislature back into session in October to confront the state’s revenue shortfall, he made no mention of possible cost savings to be found by closing the state-run Alaska Gasline Development Corp. (AGDC)
The AGDC plan is for the state to one day own and run a gasline costing an estimated $45 billion to $65 billion to build.
Over the past year, there has been little real progress on the gasline project, but plenty of public spin.