Alaska House Speaker John Harris rejected Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski’s plea that lawmakers return for a third special session, which apparently puts the Alaska natural gas pipeline project on hold until after a new governor is elected in November.
Murkowski had written House leaders to pitch for a third special session to ratify his gas pipeline fiscal contract with a trio of producers — BP, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil — before he leaves office. While the Murkowski camp had said the governor was leaving his options open on a third special session, Chief of Staff John Manly told NGI last week that because lawmakers don’t want to return to the table the producers also are reluctant to resume talks. Discussions are “pretty much dead in the water at this point.”
Murkowski lost in the Republican primary Aug. 22 to Republican Sarah Palin, former mayor of the city of Wasilla and former chair of the Alaska’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. He will leave office Dec. 4. Gasline efforts now fall to his successor: Palin, Democrat Tony Knowles or Independent Andrew Halcro. All three candidates have made it a top issue in the election. Palin and Knowles indicated they will start the process with an open competition among multiple pipeline project proposals. Halcro favors using the Murkowski-negotiated deal as a base but with significant modifications.
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