City hopes to educate Alaskans amid competing natural gas proposals
City officials are cautiously taking off the proverbial gloves and preparing to take the story of Valdez and natural gas to Alaskans in the form of a serious and aggressive public relations campaign. The move comes after the council met in a special work session Wednesday, where Bill Walker, city attorney, advised the city to take immediate and decisive action to assure Valdez a place at the table as the Alaska legislature once again begins debating natural gas development.
The city issued what is known as an RFP – request for proposals – from ad agencies and/or public relations firms to keep Valdez is the forefront amid numerous competing interests in the legislature and amid the Alaskan voting public during the political debates on how Alaska’s natural gas reserves will be developed in the current legislature session.
“It’s going to cost some money,” Walker said, but “It’s time to stand up and fight this thing.”
Actually, there are multiple “things” in Juneau that are currently on the table regarding developing Alaska’s natural gas reserves on the North Slope. Unfortunately, most of the proposals bypass Valdez. Developments include formation of a state owned gasline development corporation, new legislation touting a large diameter pipeline to from the North Slope to the Anchorage area and ongoing AGIA issues left over from Sarah Palin’s administration.
Walker, who is also attorney for the Alaska Gasline Port Authority, warned council that Valdez will very likely get left in the dust if decisive action is not taken right away.
“The dynamics are changing,” Walker said. “We need to make sure our voices are heard.”
Walker, along with Valdez mayor Dave Cobb, have been with the Port Authority since its formation in the late 1990s. It was formed by popular vote by citizens of Valdez and the Fairbanks North Star Borough and the Arctic North Slope Borough. Its board of directors is made up of officials from the respective areas with a stated purpose to build or cause to be built, a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope to Valdez.
Since its inception, the Port Authority has held countless town meetings across Alaska, met with four different governors and countless legislators, but has failed to secure a firm voice legislatively regarding its efforts.
Cobb and Walker blame misinformation regarding Valdez as the main culprit, despite numerous studies that have concluded Valdez would be the most economic location for a natural gas terminus for gas exports and for instate gas use.
“We have all the tools,” Walker said. “We have a lot of information that we need to make people aware of.”
While the Port Authority points out that decades of study have proven Valdez to be the most logical choice for a natural gas terminal, Cobb said it has not been enough.
“Logic has nothing to do with it,” he said during the work session. “People don’t accept logic – you have to tell your own story.”
A series of studies published in 2012 concluded a gasline to Valdez could lower fuel costs in Bethel as much as 65 percent. A second study said natural gas exported from Valdez by way of a gasline would be less expensive to build due to the fact that there is a sizeable amount of infrastructure in place because Port Valdez is already exporting crude oil and has done so since the 1970s.
The cost of such a public relations campaign will not be known until options are presented by qualified firms after the RFP deadline, which is this Friday, February 1. The final cost will need to be approved by city council.
The specific RFP summary states: The City of Valdez is soliciting proposals from qualified professional firms to advise the city regarding the development of a gas pipeline informational campaign, and to implement such campaign with a dual-audience focus. The overall message will introduce Alaskans to the benefits of an all Alaska, state owned, large volume gas pipeline to tidewater, when compared directly to a smaller volume project. The first audience group will be the citizens of Alaska. The focus of this message will be more general, outlining the difference in the reduced cost of household energy directly related to each project, as well as the benefits to the Alaskan economy of fully developing the North Slope gas resource potential. It is envisioned this portion of the campaign will use a mix of media options (print, radio, electronic and perhaps television). The second audience will be the Alaska State Legislature. This message will be more specific providing a detailed comparison of the competing projects. The City of Valdez will provide the fact-based content for these messages. This portion of the campaign will likely be mostly print-based. The City has identified a concept for the general message lead-in to all Alaskans. This should be considered a starting point to help proposers understand the desired flavor of the message. “This is Alaska and size matters. The size of your gas pipeline should be big, and the size of your energy bill should be small.” Following an opening similar to this, the message will branch into the fact-based content.L