Next week will be a slow one at the Alaska State Capitol. Nearly half the Legislature is heading to Washington D.C., on the state’s dime, for an energy conference.
Members of both the House and Senate are planning to be absent from Juneau Wednesday until next Sunday.
Energy Council is an annual event where state lawmakers from resource-rich states like Texas, Wyoming, and Louisiana, among others, get together to talk about some of the changes or challenges they're facing. Canadian provinces and Venezuela also take part.
The scheduled events include presentations on pipeline infrastructure, natural gas vehicles, shale gas, and nuclear power plants.
Lawmakers will have afternoons free to meet with federal regulators and members of Congress.
“It was pointed out to me yesterday there are five new senators in D.C. who haven’t heard our story,” said Rep. Craig Johnson (R-Anchorage), who is on the Energy Council advisory board and helps organize the event.
Johnson’s priorities for the visit include a meeting with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, to talk about how Alaska can help turn the soon-to-be shuttered Nikiski LNG plant into a gas import and storage facility. The idea is to keep a steady supply of gas in the grid over the next few years, while Enstar constructs a permanent facility nearby.
He also plans to find out where things stand with development on federal lands, like the coastal portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).
“Of course there are people there that do not care. They want to see Alaska locked up. We could probably speak to them until the cows come home and not do any good, but I think there are some open minds,” said Johnson.
Gov. Sean Parnell last year questioned why the legislature has to essentially shut-down for Energy Council, but this year he seems to think it's a priority.
“Alaska needs to carry the message far and wide that we have the resources to meet this nation's energy needs, when you consider the Middle East is burning right now,” said Parnell at a weekly press conference.