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2009 LINKS: FERC Reports to Congress, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7....; USGS Arctic Gas Estimates; MMS hearings: RDC, Our NGP, AJOC, DH, ADN, KTUU; Enstar Bullet Line: Map and News Links; ANGDA; Alaska Energy Forum; Prosperity Alaska

2008 LINKS: Shell Alaska OCS Study; Mackenzie Gas Project EIS; Join the Alaska Gas Pipeline Blog Discussion; Governor Sarah Palin's AGIA Links; 2007 ACES tax bill links; Department of Revenue 2007 ACES tax documents;  2007 ACES tax Presentations; 2007 ACES tax news; Alaska Gas Pipeline Training and Jobs; Gas Pipeline and Economic Development; Andrew Halcro; Bjørn Lomborg; FERC's Natural Gas Website Links

WASHINGTON: Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline Act; History of H.R. 4; DOE Energy Bill Position, 6-02; Daschle-Bingaman Energy Bill (Alaska, Sec. 1236 & tax credit, Sec. 2503 & H.R. 4 Conferees), Tax Credit; See amendments, "Energy Policy Act of 2002";  "Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline Act of 2001 (Draft)" & Background Paper, 8-9-01;Alaska Legislature Joint Committee position; Governor's position; Governor's 10-Point Plan; Anadarko Analysis; U.S. Senate Energy Committee Testimony, 10-2-01 - text version;  U.S. Senate Energy Committee Testimony, 9-14-00; Report on the Alaska Natural Gas Transportation Act of 1971, prepared by staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 1-18-01

ALASKA: 1-23-03, Governor Frank Murkowski's State of the State Speech; 2002 DRAFT Recommendations to 2003 Legislature; '02 Alaska Legislation; Alaska Highway Natural Gas Pipeline Policy Council; Joint Legislative Gas Pipeline Committee; 9-01 Alaska Models: Canadian Routes, LNG, GTL; HR 4 Story; Cook Inlet Supply-Demand Report: AEDC; Commonwealth North Investigation & Our Article; Report: Backbone; Legislature Contacts; State Gas Pipeline Financing Study; 5-02 Alaska Producer Update; Kenai: "Oil & Gas Industry Issues and Activities Report, 11-02"; Alaska Oil & Gas Tax Structure; 2-27-02 Royalty Sale Background; Alaska Gas Pipeline Office opens, 7-01, and closes, 5-02; Betty Galbraith's 1997-1998 Chronology Our copy.

CANADA: 1-10-03, "Arctic Gas Pipeline Construction Impacts On Northern Transp."-Transport Canada-PROLOG Canada Inc.-The Van Horne Institute;Hill Times Reports, 8-30-02; 9-30-02, Cons. Info. Requirements; CBC Archives, Berger Commission; GNWT Economic Impact Study, 5-13-02; GNWT-Purvin & Gertz Study, 5-8-02; Alberta-Alaska MOU 6-02; Draft Pan- Northern Protocol for Oil and Gas Development; Yukon Government Economic Effects: 4-02 & PPT; Gas Pipeline Cooperation Plan Draft & Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board Mackenzie Valley Pipeline MOU Draft, 6-01; FirstEnergy Analysis: 10-19-01; Integrated Delta Studies; National Post on Mackenzie Pipeline, 1-02;Northern Pipeline Act;  Haida Nation v. British Columbia; Indian Claims Commission; Skeena Cellulose decision -- aboriginal consultations required, 12-02; Misc. Pipeline Studies '02

COMPANIES: Alaska Gas Producers Pipeline Team Newsletter, 7-27-01; APG Newsletter: 5-02, 7-02 & 9-02; ArctiGas NEB PIP Filing Background; NRGPC Newsletter: Fall-02;  4-02 ArctiGas Reduces Field Work; BP's Natural Gas Page; Enbridge Perspective; Foothills Perspective; Williams Perspective; YPC Perspective, 7-02

 MEDIA REFERENCE: Alaska Journal of Commerce; Alaska Inc. Magazine; Anchorage Daily News; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; Fairbanks Daily News Miner, Juneau Empire; Northern News Services; Oil & Gas Reporter; Petroleum News Alaska; Whitehorse Star, etc.

EXTENDED CONFERENCE NEWS: Alaska Support Industry Alliance, Anchorage Chamber of Commerce Canadian Institute, Insight Information, Inuvik Petroleum Shows, International Association of Energy Economists, Resource Development Council for Alaska, Ziff Energy Group











(This link will lead you to a .doc format but it takes longer to download)

“An Ex-Regulator Confronts Some of Alaska’s Energy Challenges”

Notes for a Presentation to Alaska Chapter: International Association of Energy Economics

February 23, 2009


Dave Harbour[1]

        Thank you for the introduction, Roger; it’s a great honor for me to address members I’ve admired for many years.  While I appreciate your interest in the remarks I offered to the International Law Seminars Energy Symposium in early December[2] and believe most of them to be applicable now, today I am offering updated comment based on our changing circumstance.  To cut down the number of words here, I’ll be using phrases and references familiar to Alaskan economists and analysts; so, please stop me if you want me to define any unfamiliar terms.

RCA Commissioner Wilson accurately characterized our present environment when, in her Concurring Statement on the recent Enstar Gas Sales Agreement docket[3] she observed that, “The commission decides this case in epically uncertain times, both globally and locally.”

        My objective today is to identify Alaska’s primary energy challenges—including RCA gas supply decisions--and interpret our progress toward solutions in these “epically uncertain times”.  I’m speaking today as an Alaska citizen and Anchorage ratepayer, not being constrained by the admonitions of government or an employer[4].  So I hope you’ll be charitable to me in return for the personal candor I offer.   As a technique, I’m going to quote from the thinking of smart people whom you know…and add some perspective.

        First, I observe that Americans are becoming entitlement citizens of a bankrupt nation--spending several trillion dollars we do not have and cannot possibly repay without deflating the future value of our payments to others or taxing our children to pay for our excesses.  We could have been somewhat different, in Alaska.  After all, we came from pioneering stock, didn’t we?  Tough, independent Native individualists and persistent pioneers were we.  But the nation’s various states, including Alaska, have recently responded to every loud political cry for wealth redistribution, as we saw with the so-called Alaska energy rebate last year and the equally popular and ineffective, federal tax rebate.  Alaska cannot spend money it does not have as the federal government can, but it can still spend all of its savings to satisfy popular entitlement demands while the price of oil falls and Alaska North Slope production declines at a steep 6% annual rate.  Today, you will witness more of this entitlement demand while watching the Gavel-to-Gavel hearing on SB 115 and SB 116 dealing with rural energy assistance[5].  We have mutated the meaning of our Constitution’s Section VIII (“…maximum benefit of the people”[6]) to mean that we should develop Alaska’s resources for the maximum benefit of today’s generation of people and not for those to come.  “Let the children fend for themselves”, could be a modern motto to justify more irresponsible spending.  Nationally and locally, we are living the fable of the grasshopper and the ant, as the grasshopper[7].  The ant’s initiative, self-reliance, prudence, courage and sacrifice are pioneering virtues that we once had but now diminish with every self-serving, public act.

        Had we taken last year’s taxable, energy redistribution money and matched it twice from savings (i.e. like Aesop’s prudent ant would’ve), we could have contributed the entire Chakachamna Hydroelectric Project output to utilities[8] leading to tens of thousands of dollars of savings for several hundred thousand Alaskan ratepayers over the next 20 years.  This would also have relieved pressure on dwindling Cook Inlet gas supplies.  But, grasshopper-like, we chose instant gratification and cash payments to ourselves rather than use a percentage of savings to prudently invest in cost lowering energy projects or payments to lower Alaska’s PERS/TERS liability.

        How might we apply this history to the future while it is still fresh in our memories?

        Last Friday the Senate Resources Committee met to consider South Central Alaska energy issues.  To the credit of the Senators and witnesses, a pretty complete array of today’s major energy challenges were exposed.

Ø  Senator Bill Wielechowski asked Governor Sarah Palin’s special assistant for energy, Joe Balash, to brief members on Administration energy positions.  Balash said that the state looks to the private sector under current statutes to supply Alaska but rightly cautioned that if the state is to be involved, various public policy questions should be addressed.  If public funds are considered for an ANS bullet line, for example, should the funds not be better used to import LNG or support a geothermal project?  (Comment: Considering alternatives as a principle is wise; however, the principle taking precedence now is that every additional day spent studying alternatives reduces the number of alternatives available.)

Ø  Balash noted that through AEA the state has a consultant preparing a Regional Integrated Resource Plan due the 3rd Quarter; three months from the time Chugach Electric could experience a mid-winter gas supply shortage.  Balash said that soon the Administration would present draft legislation proposing creation of a Greater Railbelt Electric Transmission Corporation, following development of an internal “white paper”.  (Comment: Later, in response to a question from Senator Charlie Huggins, Balash counseled that if South Central needs gas by 2014, and a project like a bullet line takes three years to construct, it would have to be designed and sanctioned by 2010, a year from now.  No one has negotiated for the purchase of any ANS gas for a bullet line to date, and no responsible entity would finance such a project without a supply guarantee.  Even if gas were available and proven, having the management entities and financing and engineering done by 2010 is optimistic.)

Ø  Senator Hollis French offered a frustration that he hasn’t “…figured out how to make the producers drill in the inlet”, as a solution for more supply.  (Comment: That attitude is chilling to investors.  It’s like the attitude of certain legislators promoting a gas reserves tax on ANS producers to, “make them build a gas pipeline”.  Government’s role is not to punish private enterprise with negative incentives into doing business a politically correct way, though creating tax advantages and regulatory stability are appropriate positive incentives to consider.  Balash was diplomatic, noting that producer decisions would flow from market based decisions and “wrestling” with the RCA on price.  Later, Senator Tom Waggoner observed that while companies may want to explore for gas, they won’t do so without a market, referring to RCA rejection of gas supply agreements.  Senator Wielechowski noted, however, that he “agreed” with the RCA decisions to reject the supply contracts.  This difference of opinion among lawmakers and Commissioners makes it even more essential that utilities themselves quietly, effectively and cooperatively work together and with producers to produce consensus decisions that—even with compromise—will be far superior to legislative mandates or commission imposed requirements.  In fact, whether they know it or not, I believe that for utilities and the ratepayers they serve, immediate cooperation is literally a matter of life and safety and, indeed, our economic survival.)

Ø  Wielechowski candidly observed that, “We’re on the precipice of running out of gas in South Central Alaska…,” and inventoried alternatives: bullet line; spur line; Cook Inlet drilling success; Nenana Basin drilling success; LNG imports.  Balash responded that the private sector is best equipped to deal with energy challenges.  He said the biggest impediment to Cook Inlet exploration is producers having confidence that if they discover gas it can reach market.  He pointed out that the LNG export extension supported by the Administration involved producer commitments to allow other producers to market gas through the LNG facility and to allow gas for sale to third parties.  He also observed that the state-producer agreement involved the drilling of additional wells by those producers.  (Comment: DOE’s LNG export extension assumed sale of gas to meet utility needs.  However, in a failed attempt to impose conditions on the Enstar gas supply agreements, the RCA has elevated a desire for unrealistically low prices and awkward pricing mechanisms over the value of having long term, secure gas supplies.  .  The 2001 gas supply agreement with Union Oil Company was properly approved by a wiser commission concerned about price and near and long term supply for citizens.  In their more recent APL-5 and APL-6 decisions, the majority of Commissioners have mistakenly concluded that their change in regulatory policy should result in an immediate improvement in prices and not adversely affect private investment decisions and results.  Rather, had the 2001, APL-5 and -6 decisions been consistent, exploration investments which often take 5-10 years to fully mature, would have reflected increased exploration interest.   As I observed in my 2006-7 dissents in response to majority decisions on APL-5, “…in the absence of easy, inexpensive home heating conversion (i.e. to wood or coal, etc.), a gas utility like Enstar must elevate its gas supply priority while endeavoring to maintain reasonable price,”[9] and, “…the supply squeeze that could materialize in the wake of APL-5’s rejection will not be fully realized for years.[10]”)

Ø  Later in the hearing on Friday, Balash noted that the RCA is ‘working’ with the parties.  He suggested that RCA efforts were “underway” and “taking place”.  (Comment: If his charitable interpretation of what the RCA is doing gave hope to legislators that the Cook Inlet energy challenges are well in hand, I should challenge what would be a false sense of comfort.  The Commission was created to be a responsible regulator, not an advocate or agent of change.  Yes, the RCA has held public meetings to provide forums for commissioners to be briefed on gas supply and other issues.  And, on its own motion or upon petition it can and has undertaken and is always considering rulemaking dockets.   But its all important, quasi-judicial role of maintaining “just and reasonable” utility and pipeline rates and services could be adversely affected if, with its short staffing and budget, it takes on too many policy initiatives.   And if it intends or is pushed to become the major energy decision point in the state, it will need general fund support for more staff.  Otherwise, the Regulatory Cost Charges (RCC) paid by water, telephone and other utilities would be subsidizing energy policy matters at a time when the Commission’s attention was improperly diverted away from matters affecting RCC payers.)  

Ø  Enstar’s John Lau said that by the 2013-14 timeframe, Cook Inlet may contain sufficient reserves but not the ability to supply peak, winter deliverability, requiring an ANS pipeline or LNG imports.  He said that with the RCA rejection of Enstar’s gas supply agreements his company was working with other parties in revising a 10-year plan that had anticipated approval of the agreements.   (Comment: Without assurance of the APL-6 gas volumes, we can now await an imminent announcement from Enstar as to whether they received proposals from any producer for any new gas supply agreements.  Also, Chugach Electric had earlier told the Commission that it expected to file gas supply agreements almost two months ago.  Hopefully, we’ll hear soon about that since Chugach’s gas supply crisis is even more desperate than Enstar’s, with current, volumetric contracts terminating in the next two years and with other utilities still dependent on wholesale purchases from Chugach, like MEA, HEA and the Seward Electric Department…and, GVEA to a smaller extent for ‘economy’ sales.[11]  …and, I’m wondering if any Chugach-producer contracts to come will mirror Enstar-producer contracts or accept Commission conditions.)  

Ø  The Alaska Natural Gas Transportation Authority’s, Harold Heinze cautioned that if the state and its utilities weren’t ready to commit to a North Slope gas supply in time for the summer 2010 AGIA or Denali open seasons, the pipeline capacity could be filled without state gas needs accommodated.  Balash noted that opportunities will still exist every two years to obtain throughput capacity for state needs.  (Comment: one requirement for making capacity commitments to an interstate pipe is assuring that when the intrastate transmission facilities are complete, there is an immediate home for up to a half-million cubic feet of gas per day.  Residual Cook Inlet contracts will likely preclude taking delivery on the full spur or bullet line capacity of ANS gas on any first day of delivery.  Also, if all of the ANS gas cannot be used in South Central Alaska on non-peak days, storage will be needed.  But the entities involved now can’t easily move ahead with financial commitments for storage when their efforts to contract for Inlet gas have encountered regulatory roadblocks.  Accordingly, regulators should bear in mind:  You may with the best intent reject Cook Inlet gas supply contracts negotiated among affected parties.  But efforts to impose price caps and strange indices on this market can backfire and hurt consumers in many ways; one of those ways is by obstructing the planning for storage facilities and the planning for a lifesaving ANS gas supply conduit to South Central Alaska.  Irrespective of the storage implications for supporting an ANS gas delivery system, one notes the recently rejected APL-6 agreements with ConocoPhillips and Marathon both provided price incentives for taking larger deliveries in summer months.  This feature embraced an understanding that Enstar would complete plans to employ storage facilities to hold the gas for peak demand winter months.  This is important because during the cold spell a few weeks ago, Enstar came close to not having sufficient supply for a number of peak demand, cold days and the LNG plant was even diverting all possible volumes from export to local consumer use.  Gas delivery in future winters will be more tenuous and interruptions will be more likely.  Chugach Electric Association and proponents of a North Slope Bullet or Spur line have also emphasized the future need for storage facilities.  With the RCA rejection of the APL-5 & -6 agreements, one sympathizes with these entities for financing and otherwise planning for long term storage facilities.  The expense of storage, after all, must be borne by ratepayers and is problematic in the absence of long term gas supply commitments: the chicken and the egg.)

On January 15 and again a month later, one of my favorite energy opinion columnist, Tim Bradner, produced two Anchorage Daily News columns addressing state energy challenges.  In the earlier piece, he noted that, “In 2001 the RCA commissioners approved one Enstar contract with prices linked to the Henry Hub index in Louisiana.  But since, they have balked at approving new contracts….   Since our regional gas industry competes for funds in the Lower 48, shouldn’t we want projects here to be as financially attractive as projects in Louisiana or Texas, to get capital for our Alaska projects?”  He concluded, “These are complex issues but we must face them.  If we dither, our only other option is to import gas….  For a resource-rich state like Alaska, that would be an irony.”  In the more recent, February 15 piece, Tim concluded an excellent summary of options and challenges with this: “What to do?  Can we sort it out?  It’s enough to give me a headache.  We’ve got to figure it out, though, because what’s the alternative?  The big freeze up?  Going back to fuel oil?  No thanks.”

Tim is more concise than I, but I would add several points:

Ø  Exploration and production are more expensive in Cook Inlet than in the Lower 48; intuitively, then, a prudent person should conclude that prices should be more robust in Cook Inlet, not the same or lower.

Ø  If the Commission had approved APL-5 and supported Enstar’s negotiation on behalf of its customers, producers could have been making long term exploration plans the last two years based on a more certain market.   Logically, there would be more active producers in the market, if not more producers, chasing the price signal and the certainty.  Utilities would be more aggressively pursuing storage and basing bullet line or other plans on that added certainty.  We ratepayers would be enjoying a secure supply of gas through 2016 and would have saved millions of ratepayer dollars in wasteful litigation and producer negotiations since then.  With the Enstar supply situation secured, more private and public attention could have been devoted to supporting the gas supply efforts of Chugach and its wholesale customers.  Also, ironically, our gas prices would likely have been moving lower.  The Commission Majority Members, as I suggested in my dissent, did the ratepayers no favors, however well intended they believed their judgment to be.  I don’t say this to “rub it in”, but to emphasize the importance of critical thinking; maintaining humility in the face of complexity; straying from precedent only when confronted with compelling proof; providing investment clarity.  The Commission made the same mistake again with APL-6; now, we are fast approaching a cliff and I have visions of commissioners following ratepayers into the gas supply void below, pleading, “But we tried to keep the prices down”.

After observing the drama as a commissioner and a ratepayer and a local taxpayer and a voter I’ll leave you with some thoughts:

Ø  END THE MADNESS.  Our top energy policy principle should be: ratepayers have a right to expect their electric and gas utilities to cooperate with each other and with producers.  Only the most egregious challenge should motivate my electric utility to charge me in my rates for challenging my gas utility in its Regulatory endeavors or sue it in court, causing my other utility to also charge me for defending itself.  (Side note: Maybe the legislature could go all-out in face of our crisis and order the public interest merger of all southern railbelt electric utilities into the, “South Central Alaska Electric Authority”, maybe on the model of the Alaska Housing and Finance Corporation.  Alternatively, and perhaps preferably, the Legislature could mandate a process whereby all cooperative and city owned electric utility ratepayers should be given one share of negotiable stock and let private companies compete to buy the shares and assemble a single, South Central Alaska Electric Company.  In any case, the cooperative model works for rural utilities and was fine in Anchorage and the Valley those early, pioneering days, for neighborhood utilities.  I now believe that amateur, politically-elected cooperative boards are unprepared, undereducated and lack financial incentives for running large, complex energy companies.)  

Ø  Ratepayers have a right to expect their electric and gas utilities to EFFECTIVELY plan ahead.  Our gas utility has diligently tried to obtain secure gas for us through 2016 and beyond and helps coordinate utility contingency planning meetings.  Chugach has carefully reported its gas supply status to the Commission in docket U-08-140.  MEA has kept the Commission current on status of AEA’s Railbelt Energy Grid Authority Study, and various commenters participate in the Commission’s G&T docket, R-07-001.  But our electric utilities are not as far along in their gas supply quests, though HEA and GVEA think they have a partial answer in the Healy Clean Coal experiment.  At this time, Chugach proclaims that in just 11 short years it wants to be an alternate energy utility but one is not clear in that time frame whether its ratepayers will be supporting a gas-fired utility (i.e. justifying acquisition of new, more efficient gas turbine and waste heat recovery generation), or a portfolio of as yet undisclosed alternative power schemes involving unknown, boutique technologies and perhaps higher costs.  I would share the frustration of fellow ratepayers and some Chugach managers who might want to better understand the utility’s strategic direction and specific tactics.   What defined steps will Chugach take to provide uninterrupted service via gas fired power while converting today’s 90% dependence on gas to a 90% dependence on alternate energy by 2020?   Will moving to more expensive alternative energy by 2020 achieve Regulatory Commission support, and will it strand some of the ratepayers’ gas turbine investment?  MEA’s coal fired electric power planning was frustrated by public outcry.  With its wholesale electric dependence on Chugach and an incomplete plan for a new Eklutna, gas fired power plant should we encourage Valley and Eagle River residents to stock up on wood stoves, propane appliances and candles?   Fairbanks Natural Gas is failing to obtain sufficient gas supplies to sustain and grow its fledgling operation from Cook Inlet or ANS gas sources.  It has sought to use pressure at the Commission or Legislative level to force Enstar to commit dwindling supplies to its Fairbanks constituency, which in the past was largely dependent on electric and fuel oil heat.  However, last I heard, Fairbanks Natural Gas remains economically unregulated and it may charge Fairbanks ratepayers what it wishes.  Interior residents better keep an oil furnace and wood stove on stand-by.  Seward’s electric utility is a department of the city and has local generation capability but if it ceases to be a Chugach wholesale customer the cost of locally generated electricity and the reliability of the generation facility can put the local economy at some risk.  Of all of these, GVEA, and Seward seem to have sufficient medium term planning in place while MEA and HEA are more subject to Chugach’s wobbly supply challenges.  Remember, too--for your own family planning purposes--that all of Enstar’s gas users require electric current to circulate warm, gas-heated air or water.

Ø  The Legislature should immediately enact legislation requiring the Regulatory Commission of Alaska or the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to develop a rulemaking applying to any party seeking to develop natural gas storage facilities. 

Ø  The Legislature should immediately enact legislation requiring the Regulatory Commission of Alaska to enact regulations to clarify a standard of review for gas supply and electric power supply agreements, somewhat along the lines that Commissioner Johnson recommended below.  However, departing from his recommendation, I would observe that the Legislature is less well equipped to create regulatory standards of review by law under political pressures, than the Commission would be to do it by due process rulemaking, as in R-03-03.[12]

Ø  The Regulatory Commission of Alaska should, on its own motion and in recognition of the impending gas supply disaster, issue an invitation to Enstar and Chugach to file any appropriate gas supply agreements with producers not prohibited by statute or regulation and without regard to previous precedent.  Since 2006, the Commission Majority has tried to force the parties away from previous Commission precedent and into different pricing methods than they had negotiated: risking gas supply uncertainty if the regulatory demands were not met.  The parties didn’t bite and the supply is at risk.  This regulatory judgment error has far more adverse impact than just on local gas prices and supply, as follows: 

o   How can CIRI complete its Fire Island wind project for power sales to Chugach when the delivered BTU cost could be much higher than the BTU cost the Commission rejected in the Enstar agreements?  Perhaps before it spends more money, CIRI and Chugach should ask the commission what its standard of review will be for approving a windmill power sales agreement—after all, the only big wind farm in the Anchorage area will surely have market power over the local supply of wind generated energy.  (And, we all know how concerned the RCA is about the concept of “Market Power” these days.)  One also wonders if Enstar or the Attorney General would intervene in that proceeding, urging the Commission to reject any agreement that gave unfair preference to Chugach’s wind power supply cost over its avoided, gas supply costs.  If I were CIRI, I’d also review how Marathon faired in APL-5, review the public statements by some Commissioners and ask now whether the commission will want to divine CIRI’s cost of wind generated power, including CIRI’s affiliated costs: in effect, to regulate CIRI.

o   How can Enstar approach the Commission with any Gubik gas sales agreement (assuming any commercial, sales quality gas reserves are found there) when the cost of gas delivered via a 700 mile transmission line to the Foothills may produce a cost per delivered Mcf higher than the costs represented in the rejected APL-5 and -6 gas supply agreements?  Perhaps, before it spends more money on a bullet line project this summer, Enstar should ask the commission what the standard of review will be for approving an ANS or Foothills gas sales agreement—after all, the only ANS gas conduit to Fairbanks and to the Anchorage area will surely have “market power” over local, depleting gas supplies.  Will the RCA want to investigate the cost of production before deciding the total gas cost is just and reasonable?  Fairbanks natural gas has reason to be concerned as well if it intends to piggyback on that or any similar ANS gas stream.

o   An LNG import facility may indeed be the single most logical short term solution to a South Central Alaska gas supply crisis.  It might provide gas to South Central Alaska quicker than any of the alternatives and at a competitive price, especially if negotiated now.  But what if plans are quickly made and executed and the Commission then rejects the sale of any LNG to Enstar which is higher than the weighted average of current gas prices?

o   Before HEA and GVEA complete their purchase of the HCCP, wouldn’t they be wise to ask the Commission if it would approve power costs from that plant which could have a higher BTU cost than South Central Alaska gas fired generation…especially at today’s Henry Hub prices?

o   What if MEA can’t obtain gas for its Eklutna project under Commission imposed Enstar gas supply agreement conditions?  Shouldn’t it question the Commission about its standard of review before investing more money in its project’s feasibility?

o   Before Mount Spur geothermal lessees spend any more money developing that resource, wouldn’t they be wise to ask the Commission if it would approve power costs from that plant which have a higher BTU cost than South Central Alaska gas-fired generation?

o   Wouldn’t it be ironic and fodder for lawsuits if ANS interstate gas sales to the lower 48 were based on FERC-approved Henry Hub pricing at the same time the Regulatory Commission of Alaska continued rejecting Henry Hub pricing as a basis for intrastate sale of ANS or Cook Inlet gas?  Even more ironic: what if Commission sanctioned “below WACOG” prices turned out to cost consumers MORE than Henry Hub prices?

Ø  Alaska should forever end entitlements like last year’s so-called energy rebate!  The world economic crisis is depleting Alaska’s invested savings and fund managers seem to be employing the same long term fund strategies that worked in the old days, not the new, post-meltdown world.  Some savings could be invested now into reducing consumer utility costs rather than increasing wasteful subsidies and the size of government:

o   This session of the Legislature members could create the Railbelt Electric Corporation or Authority[13] as Joe Balash recommended.   I would not limit it to Transmission and Grid objectives, however, but would provide it with sufficient capital to expedite building the Chakachamna and/or Susitna projects in phases and require it to be coordinating closely with all railbelt electric utilities so that they might use the hydroelectric projected output as a component of their own resource planning.  Unfortunately, these FERC-regulated hydroelectric projects have fairly long lead times and will be of little help in meeting near term gas supply and power shortages.  But better to start now than later. 

o   This Legislative session form the LNG Import Authority, or use or use Harold Heinze and the Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority (ANGDA), but have it defer to any, similar private sector initiative[14].  Fund it with sufficient capital to enable it to negotiate with foreign LNG producers and with Enstar, Tesoro, Agrium and Fairbanks Natural Gas for 10-20 year LNG supply contracts—if possible--at favorable prices with modest escalators.  Include in its portfolio, development of storage capacity for accommodating peak supply periods and delays in tanker arrivals.  There may never be a better time to obtain a long term supply of LNG from the largest LNG exporter in the world[15] when world supply is plentiful and demand is depressed.  Availability of LNG shipping has never been greater.[16]  Please consider that associating a new LNG import facility with an existing, approved LNG export facility may be the only project that can be undertaken and achieve regulatory approvals in time to meet looming, South Central gas shortages.  Of course it is counter-intuitive to plan for LNG imports to Alaska, especially when we have the only LNG export facility in America.  But one should ask oneself this question, “If Alaska could obtain Qatar or Sakhalin gas at $5/Mcf vs. ANS gas at, say, $7.50/Mcf, wouldn’t we rather import the cheaper gas for our use and export the more expensive gas?”  These assumptions may or may not be valid, but the point is that time is short and we should pursue the LNG import alternative with other choices while there is still time.

Ø  Folks, isn’t Alaska’s energy problem really a leadership problem?  We’ve conducted countless studies and public hearings for years on the subject of in-state energy supplies and myriad railbelt energy issues and debated ourselves breathless.  Yet, in our Self-righteous Alaskana Fervor, we’ve raised taxes on those providing energy to the highest levels anywhere, in one of the world’s highest cost of doing business environments.  We’ve twice threatened new reserves taxes on energy investors.  We’ve confounded utility efforts to resolve supply challenges with regulatory roadblocks.  As ratepayers, we’ve been complacent about the petty utility bickering that has increased our rates and decreased our supply security.  Still, we continue years of studying and studying…even as Enstar and Chugach and those who depend on them stand only a couple years away from interruption in service.  Yes, some of these suggestions may look presumptuous, requiring more study.  But may I challenge our thinking: what existing course of action do we see utility or state leaders taking that will give comfort to Alaskan ratepayers as we approach imminent gas supply shortfalls?  The answer is that there is no comfort or certainty now; there is no specific plan to meet the looming gas supply/deliverability deadlines beginning a year from now.  The time for study is behind us and the time for wise and decisive leadership is upon us.



Better we are criticized now as boring, prudent, disciplined “ants” preparing for Alaska’s unforgiving winters, than later labeled “grasshoppers”, foolishly assuming the approaching Alaska summer to be endless.

As we end, I am passing out to each of you an uncirculated, Alaska quarter as a reminder to my economist friends of our role in protecting the coin of the realm and the resources of Alaska.






“An Ex-Regulator Confronts Some of Alaska’s Energy Challenges”

Find complete presentation notes at:

Notes for a Presentation to Alaska Chapter: International Association of Energy Economics

February 23, 2009


Dave Harbour[17]


1.   South-central Alaska Natural Gas Storage/Supply Issues:  A Ratepayer’s Review of Our Gas and Electric Challenges, By Dave Harbour,


2.   Harbour APL-5 dissents:


Contact Information:


Dave Harbour, Publisher

Northern Gas Pipelines (

2440 E. Tudor Rd. #463

Anchorage, AK.  99507

(907) 227-7110

[3] U-08-58(8), Concurring Statement of Commissioner Janis W. Wilson

[4] Disclosure: no clients support or oppose or compensate me in any way for these comments; they are offered as a public service to fellow members of IAEE.  References to Regulatory Commission of Alaska are all based on the public record and my personal opinion o f Commission decisions.  I continue to have the highest respect for the Regulatory Commission of Alaska, its commissioner members and their staff.

[5] Note: $5 million to the Department of Commerce, Community and Regional Affairs for rural energy grants after developing regulations outlining grant qualifications.

[7] In the numbering system established for Aesopic fables by B. E. Perry, it is number 373.[1]

[8] Universal ratemaking principal absent extenuating circumstances: utilities receiving gifted assets should not receive a regulated rate of return of and on those assets, only a return of operational costs.

[9] U-06-02(15), Dissenting Statement of Commissioner Dave Harbour, 10-12-06.

[10] U-06-02(17), Statement of Commissioner Dave Harbour, Dissenting in Part, 12-29-06, p. 5.

[11] Chugach’s own gas supply crisis is more fully addressed in my earlier presentation, noted below.   In it, I took Chugach to task for spending too much time opposing Enstar’s gas supply agreement approvals before the RCA, and not enough time solidifying its own long term gas supply.  I do believe now that all of the utilities are working together more cooperatively; that is the only way they can most productively serve their ratepayers and eliminate the need for more deliberate intervention by the Commission and the Legislature.  South-central Alaska Natural Gas Storage/Supply Issues:  A Ratepayer’s Review of Our Gas and Electric Challenges, By Dave Harbour, Publisher, Northern Gas Pipelines, 12-9-08.

[12] U-0858(8), October 31, 2008, Concurring Statement of Commissioner Mark K. Johnson, p.2.

[13] I don’t believe that every one of our present utility managers and boards are equipped to perform efficiently and cooperatively in a G & T Cooperative or power pooling arrangement, requiring disciplined, voluntary cooperation.

[14] Hopefully, utility and industry discussions of an LNG import concept can materialize quickly, be announced and achieve support from political leaders: making moot the need for government intervention.

[16]The rate of tanker start-ups is outpacing the growth in LNG supply…,”


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