Campaign aims to educate Alaskans on LNG line
City officials are hoping to “Turn up the Volume” and rebrand Valdez as Alaska’s only port of choice to bring the state’s natural gas reserves to market for both in-state use and as an export terminal.
The Valdez City Council and other city officials met with executives from Anchorage-based Walsh Sheppard, a media and public relations firm, in a special work session last Wednesday night to tighten up the deal and see first-hand what each side had to offer before inking out a contract work just under $400,000.
“It’s time Valdez steps away from the Port Authority and tells its own story,” council member Mike Wells said during the meeting.
Jack Sheppard, a senior partner in the firm, identified a number of challenges Valdez faces in the high-stakes race being waged in corporate war rooms and behind the scenes in the Alaska legislature.
Topping the list is the fact the state’s government – for several years – has floated numerous natural gas development plans, often with conflicting plans already in motion, sometimes intentionally confusing names between competing projects and has yet failed to actually bring any project to life, despite over ten years of effort.
Simply put, your average Alaskan has “gas line fatigue.”
Supporters of a Valdez gasline and LNG export terminal point to credible industry studies that have demonstrated a large volume diameter state-owned gasline would reduce energy costs throughout Alaska - including numerous roadless communities in the Bush – and provide the highest amount of revenue to the state’s coffers than other competing projects that have been postulated or presented to the legislature, including this year’s House Bill 4, which supporters say is a reconstitution of last year’s unpopular HB 9.
It is hoped the campaign will brand the Valdez gasline as the people’s choice, because it will lower energy costs for the greatest number of Alaskans.
“That’s what it comes down to,” council member Jeremy Miner said. “Bringing down the cost of energy.”
Other council members agreed.
“I want this information out there,” council member Dorothy Moore said. “To me, it’s about developing the state” not just Valdez residents.
“Valdez for Alaska, not just Valdez for Valdez,” she said.
Supporters of the all-Alaska gasline from the North Slope to Valdez have long complained that members of the Alaska legislature have paid more attention to misinformation about the Valdez plan, than actual facts.
The council, which had only hours before learned of House Speaker Mike Chenault’s expletive in a reply email to Sheri Pierce, the city clerk, pointed out that Chenault’s reply was a perfect example of deaf legislative ears and adds credence to the council’s opinion that a public relations campaign is greatly needed.
Council member Donna Schantz was the most vocally opposed to an expensive ad campaign; council member Chris Moulton, who has shown himself to be fiscally conservative, was not present.
On Friday, the council met at a special noon meeting to approve a budget amendment to pay for the contract, which will pay for TV commercials, radio and print ads, a new website, and social media development.
The budget amendment passed unanimously, with both Schantz and Moulton absent.
The contract covers February through the end of the regular legislative session.