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Hoffbeck: Gas line amendment may not make this year’s ballot

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — State Revenue Commissioner Randall Hoffbeck said Tuesday it doesn’t appear that gas line contracts will be in place in time for the legislature to be able to review them and get a constitutional amendment on the ballot this fall.

Hoffbeck said something could break in the next few weeks that could allow that to happen. If a constitutional amendment is not on this fall’s ballot, the soonest it could appear is 2018.

The state is pursuing a major liquefied natural gas project with the North Slope’s major producers — BP, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil Corp. The state-sanctioned Alaska Gasline Development Corp. holds the state’s interest in various parts of the project.

The producer partners have said they want predictable and durable tax and royalty terms. The attorney general has said a constitutional amendment to support these terms would be needed, Deputy Natural Resources Commissioner Marty Rutherford told lawmakers last month.

Hoffbeck said talks are continuing but not progressing fast enough to hit a timeline that would allow for the constitutional amendment. “The issues are big, they’re hard and they’re made even harder by $28 (a barrel) oil,” he said.

If an amendment didn’t make the ballot, the partners would have to decide whether they’re willing to move into the next stage of the project without the certainty that a constitutional amendment would give them, he said.

Gov. Bill Walker has scheduled a news conference for Wednesday morning about the gas line project. In January, he sent a letter to the producer partners lamenting the pace of progress in negotiating agreements. He said he wanted agreements reached on eight issues before the end of the regular legislative session.

If agreement isn’t reached he said he would have “no other choice but to consider other options for commercializing Alaska’s gas.” He said he could not say what all those options might be.

In related news, Low oil prices prompt Alaska hiring restrictions.

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