09 May 2007

Back to business

Let us steer our eyes away from Bill Allen et al. and direct our eyes to other matters in Juneau. After all, the session ends in a week and there's plenty of work still to be done. Both the House and Senate have had extensive calendars lately and numerous bills are moving through the chambers.

Let's take a look at one: HB229. This bill, as near as I can tell it, allows up to 2.9 billion dollars to be bonded to fund the transport of coal by the Alaska Railroad for gasification to fuel Agrium.

So a couple of questions:

  • Isn't 2-point-9 billion dollars a lot of money? Who's ultimately responsible if somebody defaults?
  • Doesn't coal-burning contribute to climate change? What's the difference between gasification and regular ol' coal-burning?
  • What has been Agrium's role in all this?
I am sure there are good answers to all these questions. After all, in less than a month and a half a bill that spends nearly the amount of general fund spending in last year's capital budget (admittedly, not of state dollars... at least, not directly) has moved through the House and on to the Senate floor with nary a voice of dissent. That surely must mean this is good policy and all the questions about it have been answered.

And they surely could have been. But this strikes me as a fairly major bill that has a fairly significant impact and has not been covered by any members of the press (can anyone provide any links to stories about this bill?). Surely, with the links between some members of the Republican party and energy businesses under scrutiny it makes sense to take a look at this bill.

Actually, my point is not so much about this bill. It's about all the many bills flowing through the House and Senate at the end of session as the media engages in some collective hand-wringing about VECO without looking at what else is going on. I sure hope we can trust our lawmakers to be taking a good, unbiased look at these bills with only the best interests of Alaskans at heart. They've proven so good at it in the past.

UPDATE: Thanks for the links to the news stories on this bill. I had overlooked those. Take a look at how much support this is getting in the Senate Finance committee, though. Not much.


Anonymous said...


You'll see it was covered by the only paper that matters, got some national attention and even made it through to the all-powerful Senate Finance Committee.

The first entry, for the Alaska Journal, shows the one-trick daily news wasn't the only railbelt paper to cover it. The Kenai Peninsula Clarion did too, as did the Homer Tribune. Maybe you just need to read more than the ADN.

Jed said...

What I don't understand is with all of this climate change momentum building worldwide, how can these utilities be talking about new coal plants? Are they factoring in potential emissions restrictions or some sort of carbon credit trading regime into their business plan? Seems to me they would be doing their customers and investors a disservices if they aren't.