Massachusetts Congressman Rallies Against Gas Line Exports

A Democratic Congressman from Massachusetts is rallying against the idea to build a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope to tidewater in Alaska for export to Asia.

This fall, Governor Sean Parnell came out in favor of the idea, saying prospects to build a pipeline to Canada and the Lower 48 weren’t favorable. But Representative Ed Markey calls it a “scheme” and says if Alaska exports gas to the Chinese, “Uncle Sam really would deserve to be called Uncle Sucker.”

Larry Persily is Federal Coordinator for the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline. He says Representative Markey has been an outspoken opponent of exporting liquefied natural gas out of the United States. But he says he’s several steps ahead of reality.

“That’s the great thing about energy policy debate in this country is that the rhetoric gets way ahead of the facts. Exxon, Conoco Phillips, BP are not planning to build an export pipeline. Despite Representative Markey’s statement, everyone’s waiting to see whether the producers will go along with the Governor’s request to work together to study whether a project makes sense.”

Representative Markey was not available for an interview. But in a press release, he say exporting U-S gas will raise prices for U.S. Consumers. Persily says that’s not true.

“Right now they’re disconnected markets. You could export natural gas from Alaska and it’s not going to effect the Lower 48 because there’s no way to get it there anyhow.”

Currently there are eight applications before the Department of Energy to export U.S. Natural Gas. But Representative Markey has introduced a bill in Congress that requires any natural gas extracted from taxpayer-owned federal land to be resold to American consumers. Persily does not expect that legislation to pass.

In a statement, Senator Mark Begich called Markey’s comments “laughable” saying, “Yet again, Representative Markey is trying to shut down any Alaska Development.”

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Annie Feidt is the Managing Editor for Alaska's Energy Desk, a collaboration between Alaska Public Media in Anchorage, KTOO Public Media in Juneau and KUCB in Unalaska. Her reporting has taken her searching for polar bears on the Chukchi Sea ice, out to remote checkpoints on the Iditarod Trail, and up on the Eklutna Glacier with scientists studying its retreat. Her stories have been heard nationally on NPR and Marketplace. Annie’s career in radio journalism began in 1998 at Minnesota Public Radio, where she produced the regional edition of All Things Considered. She moved to Anchorage in 2004 with her husband, intending to stay in the 49th state just a few years. She has no plans to leave anytime soon. afeidt (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8443 | About Annie