The Post has done its readers a great disservice in its condescending editorial on the proposed Alaska Natural Gas Transportation System ("That Gigantic Pipeline," Nov. 16).
There is no disagreement about the need to get Alaskan gas delivered to the lower 48 states as expeditiously and economically as possible, but it is very difficult to see how the paper can support a $40-billion pig in a poke where consumers will be left holding the bag--whether or not gas is ever delivered. That unhappy result would come from the "pre-billing" provisions in the proposed waiver package, which also forbids the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from making changes in rates after its initial decision on prices for the Alaskan gas.
To suggest that the "risks are pretty small" in shifting "more of the financial risks of this enormous investment from the lenders to the consumers" is extraordinarily far-fetched. A $40-billion risk is no small potatoes!
If the sponsors and Alaskan gas producers had evidenced more willingness themselves to take risks (they haven't), if the sponsors had promised to build the pipeline if this waiver package was approved (they haven't), and if the sponsors had promised never to come back for more waivers or for financial support (they haven't), the waiver package proposed by the president would be more acceptable.
To assert that defeat of the waiver package will constitute a "gross betrayal of the Canadian government" assumes that adoption of this waiver package is the only way the pipeline can be built. This simply is not the case. First, the Canadians expect the United States to support a privately financed project, not one financed by consumers, which would result from the proposed waivers. Second, the Canadians want the project to succeed. The waivers don't ensure that it will. Third, any other action that brings about construction of the project--and there are many alternatives--will fulfill our commitment to Canada.
The Post evidently doesn't fully understand the breadth of the waiver package and the fact that it contains major, substantive changes in law. And, unfortunately, Congress has no opportunity to make any amendments to the waiver package.
There is only one issue on which we are in complete agreement with The Post, and that is the need to get the gas out of Alaska for American consumers. We are committed to achieving this goal and believe it can be done faster and better than proposed in this waiver package. The majority of members of Congress should see the wisdom of that course and, contrary to The Post's advice, reject this package now before Congress.