Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 3:37 PM on Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Parnell's gas line veto disappointing, but area still fares well

"You can't always get want you want," goes the Rolling Stones song, "but if you try sometimes, well you just might find, you get what you need." Last week, the southern Kenai Peninsula got a taste of Mick Jagger's philosophy when Gov. Sean Parnell announced his capital budget vetoes.

Need: $9 million for a Homer solid waste landfill transfer station. OK, said Parnell.

Want: $10 million for an Anchor Point to Homer to Kachemak City natural gas pipeline. No go, said the governor.

Of course, pretty much everyone on the southern peninsula thought a gas line that would slash home heating costs by two-thirds sounded like a need. Liberals, conservatives, moderates, Republicans, Democrats and independents lobbied hard for the big energy project. City officials, borough assembly members and legislators pushed hard — really hard — to get that dream project.

Everyone buckled down and did the difficult work, trying to meet the objections Parnell raised in last year's capital budget vetoes. While the landfill proposal consisted of a few pages, the gas line pitch was an inch thick with hundreds of supporting emails and letters.

Try again next year, Parnell said.

It's disappointing.

A natural gas line would have lowered business and home fuel costs, providing good jobs and stimulating the economy. Businesses trying to keep the heat on would have seen profit margins expand. Governments trying to balance the budget would have had an easier time.

Oh well. As philosophical Jews have said every year at Passover, "Next year in Jerusalem."

We won't be seeing Jerusalem this year, but we can take solace in the projects that did pass. Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dave Carey noted the peninsula got $104 million in capital projects from the state. Compared to $30 million in sales tax and $30 million in property tax revenues, that looks pretty good.

While that dream of cleaner, less-expensive natural gas to Homer got spiked, the southern peninsula did OK in the capital budget. At the top of the borough's wish list is that landfill, a big need for the solid waste management operation that goes out of business in 2013. Handling garbage is one of the main functions of government, right up there with roads, cops and firefighters, so it's good that need will be met.

Homer also did well with $6 million in cruise ship dock improvements. Since funding came from the cruise ship head tax, that's money already dedicated that should come back to the community. Cruise ship passengers will get a more pleasant visit when they disembark at the Deep Water Dock. No slippery gull guano, for starters, and a dry place to get out of summer rains. Not only will the dock have bathrooms, but Pioneer Avenue gets some public restrooms, too. Talk about your needs. ... These projects benefit cruise ship passengers, other visitors and residents.

Airport improvements in Homer, Port Graham and Nanwalek, safe drinking water for Ninilchik, East End Road expansion, trails around the harbor and a fire station on Diamond Ridge: It all adds up.

In his explanation for why he vetoed the gas line, Parnell encouraged the borough and the city to seek out other funding.

"Exploration for natural gas in the area could help offset the cost of the extension to reach a new supply," Parnell's spokesperson Sharon Leighow also said.

It also might be the time to no longer hitch our wagons to the star of a dream fuel that could be obsolete in the near future. New advances in tidal power, super energy efficient buildings and other renewable sources of power could cut costs just as dramatically as natural gas.

And who knows? If we keep trying, one of these days we really might get what we want — and need.