It’s been two years since the Municipal Advisory Gas Project Review Board met. The group was formed in 2014 by former Governor Sean Parnell to give cities along the planned 800-mile route of the AK LNG line a voice in how the project is developed. And now, with a new administration in Juneau and a busy 2019 planned for the gas project, the group could be getting back together, and potentially with a new member.
A resolution before the Kenai city council, supported by all of the borough’s municipalities, recommends the MAG board add a member representing the borough’s cities. If added, the seat would be filled by the Kenai city manager or a designee.*
“The last time the board was put together, the borough had a seat and Mayor Navarre at the time was the representative," said Kenai city manager Paul Ostrander.
"We anticipate that there will still be a seat for the borough mayor on the board this time, assuming it is reconstituted, which we think is appropriate. The municipalities within the borough felt that there were some unique interests that it might be worthwhile to have (someone) to specifically represent the municipalities,” Ostrander said.
Calls to the Department of Revenue weren’t immediately returned to confirm when the board might begin meeting again, but the board’s web page remains active on the revenue department’s website. Ostrander says the cities in the borough, and in particular the city of Kenai, will have different issues to contend with if the gas line does end up in Nikiski at a new export facility.
“We have water service, sewer service, the city of Kenai has an airport, we have parks and rec. Those are all things that the borough does not provide as far as services. So there are some unique things the municipalities provide that the borough is not familiar with, so it makes sense to have a representative from a city on that board, particularly when one of the primary things this board looks at is what are the impacts of this project going to be on the governmental entities around the state,” Ostrander said.
There have been some changes behind the scenes in the two years since the board last met, and there continues to be hope that major progress will be made in 2019 toward both permitting and financing the $40-plus billion project. A draft environmental impact statement from the federal government is expected in February.
“(That’s) really the document that establishes the scope of the project. Until that’s issued, we don’t have a final picture of what this project really looks like. Once you have that, I think it’s much easier to measure the impacts municipalities are going to see.”
The Kenai city council will vote on a resolution supporting the appointment, which is also supported by the cities of Seward, Homer, Soldotna and Seldovia, at its meeting Wednesday night.
*This story has been corrected to clarify that a new seat on the Municipal Advisory Gas Project Review Board has not yet been created, and a new member has not yet been named. We regret the error.