FAIRBANKS — “This schedule is a necessary step forward for the Alaska LNG project and provides a clear trajectory for Alaskans’ efforts to commercialize our massive reserves of natural gas. FERC’s schedule for this project — the largest energy infrastructure project in America — outlines a completion track by 2024 or 2025, so that it can bring affordable energy to Alaskans and help meet growing global demand for this clean-burning fuel.”
That was Sens. Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski in their press release in response to some historic news that Alaskans got last week. On March 13, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission determined that it now has the information necessary to complete the analysis and publish a schedule for the drafting of an Environmental Impact Statement for the Alaska Liquefied Natural Gas project. The outcome of this process should be an order on March 8, 2020, that authorizes the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation to construct Alaska LNG.
On behalf of AGDC and Alaskans across the state, I want to say how grateful I am to FERC and to this federal administration for their commitment to being responsive and take action on this critical infrastructure project. It is one thing to say that a project is on the fast track – as President Donald Trump and Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke have both publicly said – it is quite another thing for actual progress to reflect that stated goal. I am impressed.
AGDC first filed an application for a Natural Gas Act Section 3 permit with FERC on April 17. That application reflected thousands of hours of work by our team. FERC reviewed more than 60,000 pages of AGDC reports in just eight months. They responded with 801 questions seeking clarification and further data. AGDC provided responses to 100 percent of those questions by the beginning of this year. Additional questions are inevitable and typical of a project of this magnitude. We anticipate that we will continue to go back and forth in dialogue with FERC throughout the permitting process. But it is nothing short of commendable how quickly and thoroughly the lead federal regulators have worked with us so far.
The gasline is a vital component of Alaska’s future and will turbocharge our economy. The Alaska LNG project will be the nation’s largest energy project. This project will bring thousands of jobs to Alaskans, slash the cost of energy in our communities and allow Alaska’s massive, proven, but stranded, natural gas resources to secure energy dominance for our country.
Construction equals jobs and could begin as early as 2020. We anticipate as many as 12,000 direct jobs during construction. The range of direct and indirect occupations involved in this project will require a workforce from across the state. In response to the FERC announcement, the president of the Alaska AFL-CIO stated, “We are heartened by this great news from FERC. In a short while we, along with many other Alaska organizations, will be building a workforce for this project which will help turn our lagging construction economy around.”
Alaska businesses and resident workers will be first in line to benefit. The Alaska Bidder and Alaska Hire policies and a strong project labor agreement will make certain this happens. Alaskans are already training for the various roles this project will require. We can be proud of our network of in-state Joint Apprenticeship Training Centers, career and technical education providers, Registered Apprenticeship programs and the University of Alaska system. We have long been at the top of the game when it comes to oil- and gas-related training, and Fairbanks hosts the only comprehensive pipeline industry training center in the United States. To meet the employment needs of this project with Alaska hire, we must continue to expand the capacity of Alaska’s training programs and institutions.
We all know that high energy costs have long presented a chokepoint for Alaska’s economy. When the pipeline is complete, Alaska gas will go to Alaska communities before making its way to Asia. Access to this new source of energy could lower the cost of energy in communities such as Fairbanks by half or more. Thanks to state Sen. Lyman Hoffman, 20 percent of the state’s ownership royalty share will go toward a rural capital energy fund so even communities off the pipeline corridor will benefit.
Finally, we recognize that reducing the trade imbalance between the U.S. and China is a top priority for our federal administration. Our analysts believe that no project in the country could have a greater immediate impact on reducing that trade imbalance. Leaders in Washington, D.C., have made it clear they recognize that potential as well.
Alaska’s congressional delegation, our legislators and local community leaders all deserve a lot of credit for their commitment and vision for this project. With another critical step forward last week, the team at AGDC is on track to make the Alaska LNG project deliver for all Alaskans, from Kotzebue to Ketchikan.
Keith Meyer is president of the Alaska Gasline Development Corp.