AJOC EDITORIAL: First LNG steps, and a word on the First Amendment
A Chinese proverb states that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and so it goes with the Alaska LNG Project.
More than a few of those important initial steps have been taken less than nine months after the major North Slope producers, pipeline company TransCanada and the State of Alaska signed a “heads of agreement” statement outlining a large-diameter pipeline and export plant project.
The Legislature approved the state taking a 25 percent ownership in the Slope gas to be shipped through the pipeline, an export permit application has been filed, land is being acquired for the future LNG plant at Nikiski, the U.S. Department of Energy announced it will streamline the export permit, the partners have pre-filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for technical work and this past week Natural Resources Commissioner Joe Balash was in Japan with representatives of BP touting the Alaska LNG Project.
While there, Balash also signed a cooperation agreement with the Japan Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, complementing an earlier agreement signed with the Japan Bank for International Cooperation that is facilitating LNG imports to the country.
Not the least of the important steps taken along the way was the wise action of the Alaska voters to resoundingly defeat Ballot Measure 1 by 10,247 votes on Aug. 19 among nearly 190,000 ballots cast. The turnout was 39 percent, the second-best in the last 12 years only trailing the 41 percent turnout in 2008.
Contrary to the day-after moans about the initial 31 percent turnout on Aug. 19, it does appear that a good many Alaskans were engaged enough in the issue of protecting the state’s economic future to get out and vote.
Whether it portends to the outcome in November is unknown, but primary voters did reject the position of the new “unity” ticket of governor candidate Bill Walker and Democrat lieutenant governor candidate Byron Mallott, who both favored repealing oil tax reform.
Walker has also been a steady critic of Gov. Sean Parnell’s approach to developing Alaska’s vast North Slope natural gas, and there can be little doubt that the progress we are seeing would not be continuing were voters to approve of the Walker-Mallott position on oil taxes.
We are still at least five years from the actual “go or no-go” decision on building the Alaska LNG Project, which will include five off-take points to deliver gas to the state’s residents as it travels toward Nikiski. But we’ll never get there without the steps that are being taken now, and each one should be welcomed.
Fumbling on the First Amendment
A funny thing happened along the way to national Democrats attempting to stage a show vote on a Constitutional amendment to restrict political speech now guarded by the First Amendment.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid put the amendment up for a vote to advance debate Sept. 8, expecting Republicans to vote against it and have it fall short of the 60-vote threshold. Then the Democrats would be able to use that vote against the GOP in the upcoming midterms even as Reid’s SuperPAC pours tens of millions into contested races, including ours here in Alaska.
But the GOP didn’t bite, and the measure was advanced for debate by a 79-18 tally.
Hilariously, Reid called the move by Republicans to vote for debate a “stall tactic” because the Democrats well know the proposed amendment isn’t going anywhere and all they wanted was something they could stick in their campaign ads paid for by their own billionaire donors.
This is what passes for politics in Washington, D.C., and of course there is our Sen. Mark Begich out there leading the charge for a measure that is nothing more than a waste of time created by his party even as he still refuses to sign a deal with Republican opponent Dan Sullivan to curb Outside spending.
What makes Begich’s position even more untenable is the fact that it is his own campaign — not some shadowy Outside billionaires — that produced the ad that has been universally panned as the worst of this election cycle and that he was forced to pull from the air on Sept. 1.
The Associated Press reported that Begich had to be convinced by national Democrats to pull the ad even after the victims’ family vigorously protested to his campaign through its attorney.
One nugget from the victims’ family letter to the Begich campaign should also raise eyebrows.
Apparently, State Rep. Geran Tarr, a Democrat who represents the Mountain View district where the horrific crimes exploited in the Begich ad occurred, was dispatched to the victims’ home in an effort to get them to tamp down their calls to remove it from the air.
According to the Sept. 1 letter to Begich from family attorney Byron Collins, his client said of Tarr’s visit: “the reason why I want the ad down is because we do not want it to interfere with the trial. She told me it wasn’t going to and that it’s all political but I don’t see it that way. I told her it was all for votes and I do not want this or my family to be part of any campaign cause it’s all pointless for us.”
As if dragging the victims’ family through the public eye wasn’t bad enough, the Democrats shamelessly pushed it further by attempting to convince them to drop their objections so Begich could score political points against Dan Sullivan.
So when Begich talks about every Alaskan having a voice, remember whose voices he didn’t want to hear and what kind of speech he is willing to defend.