Associated Press 

Competing gaslines still exclude Valdez for now

Budget closeouts among things to watch in Legislature this week


The big news at the Capitol this past week was Gov. Bill Walker's gas line proposal, one that some legislators fear will create an atmosphere of uncertainty over efforts to bring Alaska's gas to market.

The state has been pursuing a major liquefied natural gas project, known as Alaska LNG, with BP, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil Corp., TransCanada Corp. and the Alaska Gasline Development Corp., or AGDC. Walker said that will continue. But in an opinion piece published on newspaper websites Wednesday night, Walker said he was concerned about what would happen if that project falters and therefore, he wanted to increase the size of a smaller, in-state gas project so the state would have another option.

Whichever project is first to produce a ``solid plan,'' with conditions acceptable to the state, will get the state's full support, he wrote. Or, the two might be combined at some point, he said. AGDC has been pursuing the smaller project on the state's behalf.

The opinion piece ``pretty much lays out that we're in competition now with our partners,'' said House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, who has raised concerns with Walker's new plan.

Walker said while the companies are working well with Alaska now, he wants to ensure the state has an economically viable gas line ``not beholden to potentially changing priorities'' by the companies over the next few years. It's in Alaska's best interest to have two options, he wrote in an emailed response to questions Friday.

He said he doesn't see that legislative changes would be needed, though Chenault said lawmakers are looking into that. It would be an in-state pipeline that would provide gas to Alaskans and to a liquefied natural gas terminal developed by others, Walker said.

Walker announced his plans when he did because he said Alaskans and the Legislature deserve to know the direction he's heading on the gas line. Legislative leaders are looking forward to greater clarity on that direction.

Here are three things to watch:

BUDGET: House Finance subcommittees aim to finish work that will inform the House Finance Committee's rewrite of the operating budget. The House is taking the first crack at rewriting Walker's proposed budget. A version of the budget is expected on the House floor next month.

PAROLE OFFICER CASELOAD: The House State Affairs Committee on Tuesday plans to hear a bill from House Democratic Leader Chris Tuck that would set a maximum caseload for probation and parole officers.

FLEENER CONFIRMATION: Sticking with House State Affairs, the committee plans a confirmation hearing Thursday for Craig Fleener, Walker's appointee to succeed Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott should that position become vacant. Fleener ran as a lieutenant governor candidate on an independent ticket with Walker last year. Walker ultimately joined forces with the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Mallott, as part of a ``unity ticket'' meant to provide a greater challenge to Republican incumbent Sean Parnell.


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