Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin sought help at the highest levels to craft a positive message over a plan to build a natural gas pipeline project, and fretted when she didn't feel her team was delivering the correct message, emails released Friday show.
Palin's signature legislation during her short term as Alaska's governor was the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, or AGIA, a framework for advancing a project to build a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope to ship natural gas to the Lower 48.
The Legislature approved the bill in May 2007, and five companies bid to build the multibillion dollar project. TransCanada Corp. ultimately won the application process, which included large government subsidies. Since then, TransCanada has missed its self-imposed target to secure shippers for the still-unbuilt pipeline.
Conoco Phillips and BP recently scrapped plans for a competing pipeline, leaving some to wonder if Alaska's long sought dream of moving natural gas from the North Slope, and to provide another revenue source as crude flowing through the trans-Alaska oil pipeline dwindles, would ever be realized.
The natural gas pipeline was a central theme among the 24,199 pages of emails released by the state of Alaska covering the first 21 months of Palin's term in office. Media organizations, including The Associated Press, sought the emails under an open records request.
Emails show Palin got help from the office of then-Vice president Dick Cheney on the plan.
Palin wrote in March 2007, two months before the Legislature passed the bill, that one of her top pipeline aides "will craft a letter for VP Chaney (sic) to edit -it shall be supportive of our agia process. (We'll see where Chaney's (sic) edits go, ultimately, but at least he took me up on the offer to voice his support of agia anyway.)."
Her official calendars show that she spoke with Cheney about the pipeline in January 2007.
On July 3, Palin appeared confident that she had enough support in the state Legislature to win approval of a state license for TransCanada Corp. to pursue a natural gas pipeline.
Palin said her team had already started brokering potential partnerships between the lease holders on the North Slope and TransCanada, even though the company had yet to win lawmakers' approval for the exclusive license.
"The day after TC is licensed we DO sit down with them, the all the players. We won't mandate partnerships but can facilitate," Palin wrote. "I'd assume at least BP would join in too, probably Exxon, and why not independents, too?"
TransCanada won the bid on Aug. 1, 2008.
The following summer, Palin wrote several staffers and the state's representative in Washington to step up messaging about her pipeline project.
"I agree that gasline team's messaging re: in-state has NOT been aggressive or passionate enough to remind Alaskans that my FIRST goal is, and always has been, taking care of AK first," she wrote. "I'm strongly encouraging AGIA team to tell Alaskans (and prove to all) that that IS the mission here with AGIA," she wrote July 1, 2008.
The morning President Bush's plane was scheduled to touch down a month later for a refueling stop in Alaska, Palin's special counsel John Katz emailed the governor to suggest she mention two talking points with "substantive and political value."
"If the opportunity arises, I would suggest mentioning progress on the gas pipeline to the President," Katz wrote the governor at her Yahoo email account on August 4, 2008. "You might also want to indicate your support for the request made by 10 U.S. Senators that the President authorize seismic work in ANWR."
That same day, Palin wrote aides from her Yahoo account about a speech by Barack Obama.
"He gave a great speech this morn in Michigan - mentioned Alaska. Stole out (sic) Energy Rebate $1000 check idea, stole our TC--Alaska gasline talking points, etc. So ... we need to take advantage of this a (sic) write a statement saying he's right on. (Glad he's flipfloppig on OCS, too.)," she wrote.
Just weeks later, Palin had been selected by Sen. John McCain to be his running mate on the GOP presidential ticket. In response to an email from one of the leaders of her gas line team, Palin wrote to deputy Natural Resources Commissioner Marty Rutherford: "Thank you-you rock- i love you- hold the fort down for me and kick TC in the butt as they hustle towards our gasline!!!"