Pipeline Coordinator Still Shuttering Shop While Obama Calls for Funding

The budget President Obama sent Congress this week includes $1 million for the office of the federal coordinator for the Alaska natural gas pipeline. But the current coordinator, Larry Persily, says he’s still shutting down his offices in Anchorage and Washington, D.C.

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“We are giving away the furniture, equipment to other federal agencies through surplus property, archiving records and trying to get it all done by Feb. 28th, give or take a couple days either way,” he said.

The problem is that the budget proposal is for the 2016 fiscal year, which starts in the fall. The office has no appropriation for the current year and is running on leftover money from prior years. And there’s a problem with the statutory mission of the office. Congress created the coordinator job more than decade ago. Back then the plan was to build a pipeline from the North Slope to Canada and then connect to the Lower 48 system. Now, thanks to fracking, the Lower 48 is awash in natural gas, so the Alaska project has become an LNG export plan. Congress, though, hasn’t changed the mission of the federal coordinator to match. Despite the president’s million-dollar budget request, Persily says restarting the office in the fall is far from certain.

“That restart is dependent on Congress passing the president’s budget, Congress including funding for the office, Congress changing the law to expand the office’s authority. So there’s no guarantee it’s going to restart. If it did restart? Yeah, this is not the most efficient way to do it,” he said.

Persily says he doesn’t know what he’ll do next, but he doesn’t expect it includes reconstituting the coordinator’s office.