Saturday, October 25, 2008

Palin’s Gas Pains

One of Sarah Palin’s big talking points has been that she’s a reformer who knows how to get things done. Case in point has been the gas pipeline deal she says she’s crafted for Alaska. But it turns out that not only has the pipeline not even been started yet, there were some sketchy dealings going on.

Beginning at the Republican National Convention in August, the McCain-Palin ticket has touted the pipeline as an example of how it would help America achieve energy independence.

“We’re building a nearly $40 billion natural gas pipeline, which is North America’s largest and most expensive infrastructure project ever, to flow those sources of energy into hungry markets,” Palin said during the Oct. 2 vice presidential debate.

Despite Palin’s boast of a smart and fair bidding process, the AP found that her team crafted terms that favored only a few independent pipeline companies and ultimately benefited the winner, TransCanada Corp.

And contrary to the ballyhoo, there’s no guarantee the pipeline will ever be built; at a minimum, any project is years away, as TransCanada must first overcome major financial and regulatory hurdles. In interviews and a review of records, the AP found:

-Instead of creating a process that would attract many potential builders, Palin slanted the terms away from an important group – the global energy giants that own the rights to the gas.

-Despite promises and legal guidance not to talk directly with potential bidders, Palin had meetings or phone calls with nearly every major candidate, including TransCanada.

-The leader of Palin’s pipeline team had been a partner at a lobbying firm where she worked on behalf of a TransCanada subsidiary. Also, that woman’s former business partner at the lobbying firm was TransCanada’s lead private lobbyist on the pipeline deal, interacting with legislators in the weeks before the vote to grant TransCanada the contract. Plus, a former TransCanada executive served as an outside consultant to Palin’s pipeline team.

-Under a different set of rules four years earlier, TransCanada had offered to build the pipeline without a state subsidy; under Palin, the company could receive a maximum $500 million.

What was that she was saying about being such a reformer?