Walker ‘doubtful’ he will ask legislature for more funding for gas line

Gov. Bill Walker delivers his State of the State address to the legislature in January 2017. Walker says he won’t be asking lawmakers for more funding for the gas line project. (Photo courtesy Alaska Governor’s Office)

During a Thursday speech to the Resource Development Council in Anchorage, Gov. Bill Walker addressed the status of the Alaska LNG megaproject, a state-led plan to build an 800-mile pipeline to carry gas from the North Slope. Over the last year, the state has focused on finding buyers. Although no firm agreements have been announced, Walker said he’s encouraged by conversations he’s had with leaders of potential markets like China and South Korea.

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But the governor also said he’s not likely to ask the legislature for more money for the project once current funding dries up.

“I don’t allow myself to get optimistic anymore – I’m hopeful, and I am hopeful,” Walker said. “But can we continue on after this funding? I’m doubtful, quite honestly.”

Currently, the state corporation charged with a gasline project is working through a $102 million budget to pursue a gas line; that’s supposed to last through the next fiscal year.

Walker also lauded the Trump administration’s support for oil and gas development in Alaska. The governor said he’s discussed ways to allow drilling in the Arctic Refuge’s 1002 area, or coastal plain, with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Walker also said that during a meeting several months ago, President Donald Trump brought up the proposed Izembek road as a priority.

“Before I could start talking about anything, he immediately brought up the Izembek road,” Walker said. “The President said, ‘we need to build that road. I’ve been talking to Secretary Zinke, we’re going to make sure we build that road.’ I mean, talk about a new day — it’s a new day.”

The Obama administration rejected plans to build a road through Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, citing impacts to habitat. But many Alaska leaders say King Cove residents need the 11-mile road built to nearby Cold Bay for emergency evacuations.