Bill Walker talks up natural gas to Juneau Chamber

Bill Walker speaks to a reporter after his speech to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce on Thursday. (Photo by Rosemarie Alexander/KTOO)

Bill Walker speaks to a reporter after his speech to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce on Thursday. (Photo by Rosemarie Alexander/KTOO)

While Gov. Parnell was unveiling his budget in Anchorage, a political challenger was talking energy in Juneau.

Though it wasn’t a campaign trip, Bill Walker has already filed to unseat Parnell in next November’s election.

Walker is a natural gas evangelist and advocates an in-state gasline.  He’s also counsel for the Alaska Gasline Port Authority.

In a speech to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce Thursday, he said the state is missing an opportunity to get natural gas to market.

“We hear about deficits, we hear about running out of money.  You know, we are,” Walker said. “We’re tied to the price of oil and the price is not going to stay at 110 dollars when the Bakken field gets billed out to the West Coast and those refineries can buy oil at 75, 80 dollars a barrel.  We’re going to be in for a rude awakening.  We need to build this project. We need to get our gas to market.”

The Bakken oil shale formation is in North Dakota, which is enjoying an oil production boom, while Alaska’s North Slope is in decline.  North Dakota is the state most cited when Governor Parnell argues that his new oil tax reduction law will spur more production in Alaska.

Walker said reducing petroleum taxes will not result in more oil down the pipeline; instead it rewards producers already in Alaska and takes away incentive for independent companies to invest here.

“The fall (revenue) forecast, what it basically shows is our taxes are cut in half. If we’re going to give that kind of revenue away, we should get something back. Not just confirmation they’re going to do what they’re supposed to do anyway, we should get something back for Alaskans and we didn’t.  Shame on us. That’s unprecedented. No place in the world would put that kind of money across the table and not ask for something in return.  They don’t have to invest in Alaska, they don’t have to hire anymore local folk, drill more wells, they just get it.”

Walker said he’s concerned about the impact the revenue decline will have on state programs and services in next year’s budget.

He plans to vote to repeal the new oil tax law, which will be on the ballot in the August primary election.


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