Nikiski faces uncertainty over gas project

JUNEAU — Nikiski residents say they’ve been left in limbo by the state and its partners’ decision to suspend plans for a giant natural gas liquefaction plant in the Kenai Peninsula community.

Several homes in the area were razed to make way for the project. The state’s oil company partners — ExxonMobil, BP and ConocoPhillips — bought about 630 acres to build a plant where North Slope natural gas would be processed and exported.

But those plans are on hold after the oil companies announced they won’t invest in the project’s next stage. The decision was brought on by low oil and gas prices, Alaska’s Energy Desk reported.

Resident Bill Warren said the project “ruined” the village and left community members feeling uncertain about how the area will look going forward.

“We were a bona fide village here with people and businesses, and they just cut a swath through here. Cut 600 acres out, tore the houses down and left us, and I don’t like it,” Warren said.

To move forward with permitting the project, the state must prove to the federal government that it has access to the land, through ownership, a long-term lease or the option to buy it, said Larry Persily, an oil and gas adviser for the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

“Without land, just like without a pipeline, without gas, without financing, you don’t have a project,” Persily said.

The state has released no details on how it plans to move forward. It’s also unclear whether the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation, which is heading the state’s effort, has the money to buy nearly $30 million worth of land.

Corporation spokeswoman Rosetta Alcantra said in a statement the organization is in negotiations with the producers.

Warren, who has lived in Nikiski for nearly 50 years, has been speaking out against the project’s effects on the community.

“I’m fearless. What the hell can they do to me? I’m 75 years old, and they can’t withdraw me from work or anything, and I pay my taxes, so they gotta listen,” he said. “Imagine cutting a swath through Anchorage like that.”

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