Citizen Op-Ed, Originally Published: Fairbanks News Miner
The stars are aligned — from the White House, to Alaska’s congressional delegation, to Gov. Bill Walker and the skilled workers of Alaska — all parties are committed to building a project to bring Alaska’s natural gas to market. I see this project not as a burden or drain on the Alaska economy but a way out of the hole. We need new revenue and we need infrastructure that will provide for Alaska’s future. Alaska Liquefied Natural Gas will be the largest construction project in North America, and as the business manager of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, Local 942, I can tell you we are ready to build this pipeline.
The LNG project will bring a lot of big benefits to Alaska. For starters, the project requires a minimum of five in-state off-take points and will set aside 500 million cubic feet of gas for Alaska per day. That’s more than double Alaska’s current demand for natural gas; so, Alaskans will have access to an abundant supply of clean burning natural gas for local communities and, in particular, the Interior. The natural gas earmarked for Alaska consumers will be made available before it reaches the liquefaction plant for export, meaning Alaskans will get their gas first, before we liquefy and sell to other buyers. Alaskans will see the economic benefits of thousands of jobs to construct the project, and thousands more jobs associated with the activity this construction will bring to our state. Everyone from laborers to truck drivers to camp cooks to administrative professionals will be needed during the construction of the Alaska LNG project. We have spent years at the Fairbanks Pipeline Training Center preparing for this project. And, after the pipeline and facilities are built, there will be legacy jobs to keep the project operating over the next several decades.
As someone who has lived in Alaska for many years and has built our infrastructure with my own two hands, I was so pleased to hear the news about the proposed Alaska LNG project. We have heard this story before, and I too was skeptical, but as this project progressed, I realized that this deal is different. For the first time, we actually have a buyer for our gas at the table. This spring, Vice Pres. Mike Pence traveled to Alaska and was briefed on the Alaska LNG project by Walker and Alaska Gasline Development Corp. President Keith Meyer. Shortly after, Walker was appointed to Pres. Donald Trump’s Council of Governor’s. U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke spent several days in Alaska early this summer and met with Meyer and Walker to discuss strategies for advancing the Alaska LNG project. Following that meeting, Meyer presented the Alaska LNG project at an invitation-only White House Infrastructure Summit. Trump, Pence, Zinke, U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn all took part in the summit.
At the end of June, Walker and Meyer met with Republic of South Korea President Moon Jae-in to discuss the Alaska LNG project and its potential to provide a stable, long-term supply of clean energy. The same day, AGDC and Korea Gas Corporation (KOGAS), the second-largest corporate buyer of LNG in the world, signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a framework of cooperation for project investment, development and operation.
Following the KOGAS agreement, AGDC signed agreements with PetroVietnam in November and Tokyo Gas just last week. In addition, six other confidential agreements were signed in 2017. Buyers are lining up and formally committing their interest in the Alaska LNG project. The biggest sign of progress came in November when the state of Alaska, AGDC, Sinopec, CIC Capital and the Bank of China signed a Joint Development Agreement in the presence President Trump and President Xi. This monumental agreement aligns the necessary parties to cooperatively advance the marketing, investment and financing of the Alaska LNG project. The agreement lays a framework for activities and milestones that will lead to a final agreement at the end of 2018. Though many seem to remain skeptical, I am more confident now than ever that the Alaska LNG is rapidly becoming a real project that will deliver real results. We must stay the course and keep egos in check, reminding ourselves to stay out of our own way and see this through to the end.
Scott Eickholt is the business manager of Alaska Laborers Local 942.