Gubernatorial Candidates Spar Over Interior Issues

Two candidates running for Alaska Governor debated during a forum Tuesday in Fairbanks. Sean Parnell defended his administration when Bill Walker questioned what the current governor is doing about the high cost of energy in the Interior.

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“I am totally focused on reducing energy costs and fuel costs here in the Interior and across the state and when I think about ways I have worked to do that, in this gasline negotiations and agreements that have been signed, I made sure Fairbanks residents would pay the lowest costs for gas whether that’s Cook Inlet prices or North Slope prices,” Parnell said.

Candidate Bill Walker says the cost of energy is his top priority.

“Governor Parnell has had six years to bring down the cost of energy we need an immediate plan a mid-term plan and along term plan,” Walker said. “The first thing I’ll do as governor I will issue a declaration of disaster on the cost of energy in in Interior and rural Alaska.”

Walker says he believes a declaration will make a difference because it will bring greater attention to the cost of energy in the region.

The candidates also addressed the closure of the Flint Hills Refinery in North Pole. Bill Walker says the Governor simply didn’t do enough to keep the refinery open.

“Well the first thing I would have done, what they should have done is the Governor should have met with them after they came to see him months before the announcement of shutting down asking for help saying ‘we’re in trouble, can you help us?’ I would have gotten back to them to be part of the solution,” Walker said.

Governor Parnell says he made an effort to keep the refinery open and he was surprised by the closure.

“I told them this is your moment to go speak with the Attorney general,” Parnell said. “Now my attorney general is Mike Geraghty, a Fairbanks boy. Do you really think he would just sit there and do nothing or do you think he went to work with it? I will admit the closing of the refinery is a huge blow. It’s something that caught me by surprise, but it is not something that I anticipated.”

The forum was hosted by the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce.