Tag Archives: Prudhoe Bay

Todd Palin Resigns BP Oil Production Operator Job

Todd Palin, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's husband, holds their son Trig at the governor's picnic in Anchorage, Alaska. Todd Palin resigned as a production operator for oil giant BP PLC effective Sept. 18. 2009 to spend time with his family.

Todd Palin, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's husband, holds Trig Palin at the governor's picnic in Anchorage, Alaska on July 25, 2009. Todd Palin resigned as a production operator for oil giant BP PLC effective Sept. 18. 2009 to spend time with his family.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The husband of former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has quit his oil field job on the North Slope.

Todd Palin’s resignation as a production operator for oil giant BP PLC comes almost two months after his wife stepped down as Alaska governor and shortly before the release of her highly anticipated memoir in a deal rumored to be worth millions.

“Todd loved his union job on the Slope and hopes to return,” Meghan Stapleton, Sarah Palin’s personal spokeswoman, said in an e-mail Friday. “For now, he is spending time with his family.”

The resignation was effective Sept. 18, according to BP spokesman Steve Rinehart.

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Palin Pipe Dreams

Note: On July 26, Sarah Palin resigned as Alaska governor, citing concerns that ongoing ethical investigations and her decision not to seek a second term would limit her effectiveness in office. What she did (or didn’t do) to promote the development of a $40 billion gas pipeline will be a crucial part of her short history in office. This story, which was first published on March 17, delved into the long and complicated history of a pipeline that doesn’t exist.

Sarah Palin at Lake Lucille in Wasilla, Alaska, in 2008.

Sarah Palin at Lake Lucille in Wasilla, Alaska, in 2008.

For more than 30 years, a natural-gas pipeline had been the great white whale of Alaskan resource development. Tens of millions of dollars had been spent in the quest for it. The names of collapsed consortiums and failed legislative initiatives littered the tundra like the bleached horns of long-dead caribou. Then, last summer, Sarah Palin said she had harpooned the whale.

“I fought to bring about the largest private-sector infrastructure project in North American history,” Palin said at the Republican convention. “And when that deal was struck, we began a nearly $40 billion natural-gas pipeline to help lead America to energy independence.”

During the vice-presidential debate, she said it again: “We’re building a nearly $40 billion natural-gas pipeline, which is North America’s largest and most expensive infrastructure project ever.”

And to Katie Couric, she said, “We should have started 10 years ago, but better late than never.”

To many outside of Alaska, it may therefore come as a surprise to learn that not only does such a pipeline not exist, but—even as Alaska’s deep winter darkness gives way to the first light of spring—the prospect that it will be built within Sarah Palin’s lifetime grows dimmer by the day. ( View a slideshow hitting the highlights of Governor Palin’s travels.)

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Palin’s Blown Opportunity on Energy Independence

A central gas facility located in the Prudhoe Bay field on Alaska's North Slope, which was proposed as a starting point for an Alaska Gas pipeline to the Lower 48 states.

A central gas facility located in the Prudhoe Bay field on Alaska's North Slope, which was proposed as a starting point for an Alaska Gas pipeline to the Lower 48 states.

Sarah Palin promises to focus on energy independence if she becomes vice president, a mission she claims to be uniquely qualified for as governor of an oil and gas-producing state. “We must get there,” the GOP nominee said September 18 on Fox News. “It is a matter of national security and our future prosperity.”

But earlier this year, Palin missed an opportunity to help the US mainland obtain billions of cubic feet of natural gas from Alaska’s Cook Inlet. Her support of an effort by major energy producers to export the fuel to more lucrative markets in Asia came just as a facility that will provide the first practical way to bring the state’s natural gas to the lower 48 states was set to open on the Baja coast in Mexico.

Cook Inlet’s natural gas has been exported for years, and until this past spring, it pretty much had no alternative. Without a pipeline or even facility to receive natural gas on the West Coast, it had no way of reaching the lower 48 states. As a result, producers sent whatever wasn’t used locally – 28% of total output last year – to a Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) plant on the Kenai Peninsula, where gas was chilled to a liquid state and put on tankers for Japan and other Pacific rim countries.

But since this past May, some of Alaska’s gas could have wound up in domestic hands. San Diego-based Sempra Energy opened the first LNG terminal on the West Coast of North America. The Mexican facility, a $975 million project, is tied directly to the gas pipeline system that leads to California, Texas and Arizona.

The Alaskan LNG plant is owned by Marathon Oil and ConocoPhillips, which asked the Department of Energy in 2007 for permission to export about 100 billion cubic feet of gas to Asia over two years from the roughly 300 billion cubic feet of gas that is likely to be produced. The overseas connection not only provides an outlet for fuel produced beyond the limited needs of Alaska, it is highly profitable – LNG prices in the Pacific rim can run twice as high as those in the US.

Palin personally intervened in April, 2007, but her concerns were strictly local. She asked DOE to condition its approval on guarantees that gas needed in Alaska not be diverted to the better-paying foreign venues – a position she held until this past January, when the producers reached separate agreement with the state to meet its needs.

At no time did Palin or her government cite the desire to preserve Alaskan gas for the lower 48 states. The Sempra terminal began operations just four months after Palin announced unconditional support for the Marathon and ConocoPhillips request and a month before DOE approved their plans to export gas to Asia. The development of the Mexico plant was well-known and much anticipated in energy circles.

According to Senator Ron Wyden, the Alaskan gas slated for Asia between 2009 and 2011 could meet the annual consumption of 1.4 million American families. The Oregon Democrat has accused Palin of a “major contradiction” between her support for gas exports and campaign emphasis on more drilling to slake US energy needs. “It’s pretty outrageous to scare Americans about energy shortages while she has been approving export of billions of cubic feet of natural gas that could be providing energy to homes in Alaska and the lower 48 states,” he said.

Palin’s natural resource commissioner, Tom Irwin, said the governor didn’t push the Sempra option with DOE because “it never came up in discussions that there was a competing market or a competing desire.” But she didn’t raise the idea, either, he said. The volumes of gas were so small, it didn’t seem worthy of consideration. He said Palin has focused on a bigger payoff: construction of a 1700 mile pipeline to the lower 48 that could catalyze gas production on Alaska’s North Slope.

The pipeline is far from a sure thing, however, and the first cubic foot of North Slope gas years from production. Nevertheless, Irwin said, whatever quick help could have been provided from gas now headed for foreign markets pales by comparison.

Palin’s Blown Opportunity on Energy Independence