Berkowitz: Let citizens invest in gas pipeline
Anchorage Daily News -Saturday August 28, 2010
Gubernatorial candidate Ethan Berkowitz wants to give individual Alaskans a chance to own a piece of the proposed North Slope gas pipeline.
Berkowitz, a Democrat, rolled out on Friday the idea of allowing Alaskans to decide to invest all or a portion of their Permanent Fund dividend check in a new state corporation that would help finance the pipeline.
He said the idea is already spelled out in a 2004 federal law -- the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline Act -- that, among its provisions, encouraged the state to allow individuals, Native corporations and Alaska-owned businesses to become investors in the pipeline.
That provision had the support of U.S. Sens. Ted Stevens, Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young but so far hasn't been picked up by any governor, Berkowitz said Friday morning at a press conference.
"If we take advantage of this opportunity, we have a greater likelihood of seeing a pipe come true," he said.
Berkowitz stressed that Alaskans would be allowed to choose to invest and it wouldn't subtract from the actual Permanent Fund from which dividends are drawn. He said the Alaska investors' money would be held in escrow by a new state corporation until a pipeline is financed and under construction. If a pipeline is determined to not be viable, their money would be returned, he said.Once a pipeline is built, the state corporation would distribute profits from tariffs and revenue earned on the pipeline to Alaskans who invest in the line.
He estimated that Alaskans could raise $800 million toward the estimated $40 billion cost of building the gas line over the next five years.
"If we are going to be an independent and self-reliant state, I think we're best living up to the traditions of the owner state that we agree that we live in. ... We have to have a stake in our resources," he said.
For the Berkowitz proposal to work would likely require both state and federal legislation.
To read his proposal, go to www.ethanberkowitz.com/issues/plan/index.php
This is a developing story. Please check back later for updates.
Find Elizabeth Bluemink online at adn.com/contact/ebluemink or call 257-4317.