A push from Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski to cut Canada out of a deal to build the Alaska Highway pipeline won’t fly, says Premier Dennis Fentie.
Murkowski, who is seeking re-election this year and banking on a host of legacy projects, orchestrated a tentative co-ownership deal in February for the proposed pipeline that would run from Alaska through the Yukon to Alberta.
Cost estimates for the construction of the pipeline range upwards of $20 billion.
The Alaska legislature reconvened two weeks ago at Murkowski’s request so he could introduce two pieces of pipeline legislation.
Murkowski’s proposal includes pipeline ownership rights for the state of Alaska and the so-called ‘North Slope producers’ — ConocoPhillips, BP, Exxon Mobil — who own rights to the enormous underground natural gas reserve at Prudhoe Bay.
“Nobody’s walking out of here without taking a position and standing up and being counted,” Murkowski said at a news conference in Juneau on July 12, according to Reuters.
The deal has yet to pass public and legislative reviews.
But Murkowski’s proposal has received a cold reception in Canada.
“That’s his government and his position and that certainly won’t be something Canadians would entertain and, more importantly, it won’t be something Yukoners would entertain, period,” Fentie said in a news conference Thursday.
“At the end of the day Alaska is obligated, under their own laws and legislation, to negotiate fiscal terms with the producers.
“In that process, these types of things are evolving.
“On the Canadian side, the Canadians will dictate what transpires there.
“We already have a Northern Pipeline Act that clearly articulates what would happen, should an Alaska Highway route be chosen. That is federal law.
“I don’t think we are at a stage where any conclusion can be drawn here.”
The 1978 Northern Pipeline Act gives rights to build the Canadian portion of an Alaska Highway Pipeline to TransCanada Pipelines Ltd.
TransCanada CEO Hal Kvisle sent a letter to Murkowski last week, arguing that his Calgary-based company has the only permit to build the Canadian portion of the pipe.
“TransCanada holds valid property rights to build and own the Canadian section of the project,” Kvisle wrote, urging Murkowski to consider a partnership with TransCanada.
If Murkowski’s deal fails to pass the Alaska legislature, a pipe built by TransCanada would present a “realistic alternative,” Kvisle added.
There is already an agreement in place between Alaska, Yukon, British Columbia and Alberta to work on a “collective strategy” to build the pipeline, said Fentie.
“Our position is this: maximizing benefits for Yukoners and mitigating all the social challenges that would result from a major project of this size.
“It includes involvement of First Nations in a meaningful way and benefit, and addressing those social challenges.”
Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition withers
The White River First Nation is withdrawing its membership from the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition.
The coalition is a group of Yukon First Nations that have traditional territory along the Alaska Highway.
The coalition receives a modicum of funding from the Yukon government, and should ostensibly carry some clout in developing policy for the construction of an Alaska Highway pipeline, because the pipe would pass through seven traditional territories.
However, White River does not have a signed land claim agreement with Ottawa, and is therefore “in a unique position and wishes to take a forward looking approach with respect to protecting WRFN aboriginal rights and title for future generations,” the First Nation said in a news release last week.
“WRFN is formally withdrawing from the APC as a member and as an observer until our legal counsel and WRFN have had the opportunity to review the status of the project and the role of the APC with respect to WRFN.”
About 20 per cent of the proposed 2,800-kilometre natural gas pipeline would run through White River traditional territory.
The First Nation will now analyze how the pipeline could impact its way of life, said the release.
Several calls to the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition were not returned. (TQ)