Murkowski to Call 11th-hour Special Session for North Slope Pipeline


Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski (R) will call a new state legislative session toward the end of September he said yesterday, in an effort to push through his $25 billion North Slope natural gas pipeline one last time before leaving office.

Murkowski -- who lost Tuesday's GOP primary to Sarah Palin -- has been negotiating with BP, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil Corp. and state lawmakers over a final contract to allow future construction of the project to tap the slope's 35 trillion cubic feet of reserves.

The governor, according to published reports, said he would continue working with the state's Legislature to try and complete the plan despite his lame-duck status. The two politicians left standing -- Palin and Democratic primary winner Tony Knowles -- also support the pipeline but have said they will take different approaches should they become governor (Greenwire, Aug. 23).

Murkowski needs to take a break to recover from the unsuccessful campaign, his spokesman said. "We're going to let him go duck hunting but we're going to get him in here in September," Will Vandergriff said. "He's very determined to get this contract moving now because he believes and we believe it's the best deal that's ever going to come down the pike." Vandergriff said the state's negotiating team ignored Wednesday's legal deadline for presenting the revised contract with the oil companies because it was not completed and there is no penalty for breaking the deadline.

BP Alaska gas business unit leader Ken Konrad said his company would likely stick around even if it has to wait. "If people decide they want to open [negotiations] back up and wait a few more years, that's not our choice," he said. "If it doesn't happen this year, we'll work wherever and whenever because it's good for us and we think it will be good for Alaska and for the rest of the nation."

ConocoPhillips spokeswoman Natalie Knox said, "We look forward to working with whoever is the new governor and his or her administration to make it a reality."

"I interpret the vote of the people to say we want a more sensible project to be considered," said Palin, who won the primary easily. "As soon as Gov. Murkowski can take a deep breath and puts his guns away from his hunting trip, I think he would also take it upon himself to invite me into the negotiations and allow me the information the Republican nominee needs to help advise the Legislature" (Matt Volz, AP/Anchorage Daily News, Aug. 24). -- DK

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