Thursday, April 26, 2012

Mike Chenault and Kurt Olson Get Spanked and Sent Home

This year's legislative special session has been very amusing.  The stunning news is that Gov. Parnell abandoned ship after the senate had the audacity to ask some tough questions of Bryan Butcher from the Dep't of Revenue about the Gov's oil tax plan (which was nearly identical to the plan that Chenault and the republicans of the house offered).  Well, Butcher was totally unprepared for almost all of the questions.  No kidding, Parnell said that the senate bullied Butcher when senators wondered what might actually happen if Parnell and the house had their way.

So, Parnell, sulking a bit like his predecessor was so apt to do, yanked the measure from the special session agenda.

The senate, and keep in mind that this body is made up of an across-the-aisle coalition headed by Republican Gary Stevens, responding to this unprecedented action by the governor, decided to gavel out and not even address HB9, Chenault's baby, that would sink about 10 billion state dollars into a natural gas bullet line from the north slope to some point in south central.

Wait a minute, you might wonder, the state is awash in money, shouldn't we help out Alaskan consumers and provide cheap natural gas to the masses?

Well, that's the line of bull that Mike and his peninsula partner in crime, Kurt Olson, would like for you to believe.  The Kenai is awash in voters who think that Joe Miller should be emperor, so Mike and Kurt can and have done whatever they've wanted under the guise of being conservative, pro-development republicans.

The bullet line that Mike and Kurt (and Mike Hawker from Anchorage) are hustling is just another boondoggle.  Mike, the conservative republican, is the boondoggle king of Alaska (Goose Creek Prison, Knik Arm Bridge, Port of Anchorage, the Susitna Dam are just a few of the multi-million and sometimes billion dollar fiascos that have come or are being developed under his watch as Speaker of the House).

Just how is the bullet line a disaster?  Let me count the ways:

1) It bypasses Fairbanks where arguably the need for natural gas is the greatest.  Funny, Parnell is now whining that because HB 9 won't be addressed this session, those in F'banks won't get the gas.  Well, to do so under HB 9, another line would have to be built, and a cleaning station would also have to be built as the gas from the slope is 'wet'. A good overview of the problem is offered here.

2) The state has been investing in natural gas exploration and production in Cook Inlet (Mike's and Kurt's home base).  It seems that the untapped reserves here could be huge.  Having the Fairbanks market would make local development more profitable and still beat the price consumers would have to pay for north slope gas. Oh, and Cook Inlet natural gas is 'dry' and doesn't need a cleansing station.

3) Even conservative estimates of how much consumers would have to be charged for north slope gas from HB 9 is considerably more than either a large diameter pipeline or a line from Cook Inlet to Fairbanks.

4) Mike and Kurt wanted to give the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation a blank check and no legislative oversight - basically an unlimited giveaway of state money.  During the regular session, the senate took its fiduciary responsibilities a bit more seriously and stripped the bill of that provision and others that would have prevented anyone from examining the records of AGDC. Seriously, Mike and Kurt were ready to give away billions and take away the ability of the state to even ask questions about where the money was going.

So, it's done for another year.  Sean, Mike and Kurt got spanked and sent home.

Thankfully there are some smart folks in the senate.

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