Former Alaska Gov. plans run to stop pipeline

Former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles said on Tuesday he plans to seek another term in office, pledging to undo a deal for a controversial $20 billion natural gas pipeline contract negotiated by Republican incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski.

The proposed contract negotiated by Murkowski with major oil producers provides no assurance that any gas pipeline will be built while making sweeping concessions that violate Alaska’s interests, Knowles, a Democrat, told reporters at a news conference in Anchorage.

“We just need to start from scratch,” said Knowles, a Democrat who served as governor for two four-year terms, from 1994 to 2002. “(The state needs) to open it up to all parties who express an interest, to lay out conditions under which we want to see it developed and take the best proposal.”

Murkowski negotiated a deal with ConocoPhillips, BP and Exxon Mobil that proposes to freeze oil and gas taxes acceptable to the companies for up to 45 years.

The governor argues such terms are needed to give the companies the financial assurances necessary for such a massive and risky project. Critics say the deal, being considered by the state legislature, gives away too much of the state’s resources and authority.

“I think people are very disturbed that we would attempt to give away or lock in a set price so that we could induce somebody to build a gas pipeline,” said Knowles, who did not run for re-election in 2002 because state law does not allow a governor to serve more than two consecutive terms.

At Knowles’ side during the news conference was House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz, who had been until Tuesday the leading Democratic gubernatorial candidate. Berkowitz filed paperwork to run instead for lieutenant governor and said he expects to be Knowles’ running mate.