The contract between Alaska and three producers for the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline, currently being reviewed by the state legislature (see Daily GPI, May 26), will likely be getting more scrutiny now that contract opponent Tony Knowles has announced his candidacy for governor.

Knowles, a Democrat who was elected governor twice, in 1994 and 1998, supports building a gas pipeline but opposes the contract struck between current Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski and ConocoPhillips, BP and ExxonMobil. Knowles and others have criticized the contract for being too soft on the producers, saying it has no actual requirement to build the line and imposes no consequences on the producers if a pipeline is not built.

However, the former governor is very much in favor of a gas pipeline, as he touted during a 2001 speech when he was governor.

“I believe Alaskans can be on the working end of a shovel building a natural gas pipeline within two years,” Knowles said in January 2001 (see Daily GPI, Jan. 11, 2001). “After decades of broken dreams, the economic and political stars are finally aligned in our favor. Natural gas is the fuel of the 21st century. Most Alaskans and industry experts believe the most viable project is a natural gas pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Fairbanks, and then along the Alaska Highway to the energy-thirsty American market.”

Knowles announced his candidacy Tuesday, the Associated Press reported. Murkowski said Friday he will seek a second term. Also, House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz, D-Anchorage, announced he would abandon his run for governor in order to run for lieutenant governor with Knowles.

Candidates have until Thursday to file if they wish to run in upcoming state elections. Knowles is eligible for a third term as governor since it would not be consecutive with his previous two.

Knowles ran and lost against Lisa Murkowski, daughter of the governor, for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the elder Murkowski when he became governor. Lisa Murkowski was appointed to the seat by her father in 2002.

Primary elections are Aug. 7, and the general election is Nov. 7. Both Knowles and Murkowski must win their respective primaries if they are to face each other in the general election. Fairbanks businessman and former legislator John Binkley, and Sarah Palin, a former mayor of Wasilla, are running against Murkowski in the Republican primary. State Rep. Eric Croft of Anchorage is seeking the Democratic nomination. Former legislator Andrew Halcro is an independent candidate.

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