Gov. Bill Walker says he would consider removing a controversial natural gas reserves tax from consideration during this month’s special legislative session — but only if the state’s partners in the Alaska LNG pipeline project can negotiate an acceptable replacement by Friday, Oct. 23. That’s the day before the session is scheduled to open.
The state is partnering with ExxonMobil, BP and ConocoPhillips on the project, which would bring natural gas from the North Slope to the Kenai Peninsula for export.
Walker has been pushing for a “withdrawal agreement” to ensure the project could go forward even if one company decides to pull out. When the partners failed to come to an agreement earlier this fall, he proposed the reserves tax, which would dock companies for any natural gas left in the ground.
The other big issue on the agenda is whether or not the state should buy out its fourth partner, pipeline builder TransCanada.
The governor has not yet released specific legislation for either issue — a delay that’s irritated the legislature’s Republican majority.
With two days to go until the session opens, it’s already off to a testy start. The governor’s staff had scheduled a five-hour briefing on gasline issues for all 60 lawmakers Saturday afternoon, Oct. 24. But Republicans in the House and Senate balked — and scheduled hearings during that time instead.
In a statement, House Speaker and Kenai Republican Mike Chenault said lawmakers have “already lost valuable time” by not seeing the bills in advance, and would be better served by going immediately into hearings.
Speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Oct. 21, Walker said that’s fine. His administration will hold the briefing at 8 a.m. Saturday for whichever lawmakers want to attend. He said the legislation will be ready by the start of the session.