A Summer On The Road
The Alaska LNG Project stakeholder engagement team visited more than 20 communities this past summer and fall and met with more than 600 people to talk about the project. Additionally, the team spoke with hundreds more at fairs, conventions and local events.
“From Nikiski to Barrow, we are hearing from Alaskans who are both excited and nervous about this proposed megaproject and what it could mean to the state,” said Lisa Gray, senior stakeholder engagement advisor for the Alaska LNG Project. “Alaskans want to know that they will see real and lasting economic benefits from this project without lasting impacts to the environment or their communities.”
This was the third tour the stakeholder engagement team has participated in over the last couple of years and the conversation with communities continues to evolve.
“When we first started visiting communities, people were skeptical about the project and curious about its proposed size and scale,” said Mark Jennings, senior socioeconomic advisor for the Alaska LNG Project. “Now, we’re having much more detailed discussions about things that matter to local communities.”
Issues raised at open houses and community information sessions focus on technical aspects of the project; job opportunities and workforce development; contracting opportunities for Alaska businesses; impacts on subsistence hunting; access to gas for Alaskans; and, ensuring minimal environmental impacts during construction and operations.
“When we talk about a $45-$65 billion dollar project and possibly 15,000 jobs during construction, it is clear Alaskans want to know how to maximize economic benefits,” said Gray. “The people we’re talking to want us to ensure qualified Alaska workers and businesses benefit from this project.”
Many communities along the proposed pipeline route are also concerned about potential land and environmental impacts and want to have an opportunity to weigh in on routing decisions.
“Everywhere we go, we bring a member of our lands team to walk through the draft pipeline routing maps with members of the community,” said Jennings. “We’ve had some meaningful input from Alaskans that we’ve taken back to the project and seen direct changes to the proposed route as a result.”
Some of the community meetings are more memorable than others, for reasons unrelated to the project itself. “We are so fortunate to have the opportunity to get out nearly every day and talk to Alaskans,” said Gray, a community relations expert with over 18 years of experience in Alaska. “I am constantly reminded about how unique and special these opportunities are.”
A recent experience in Anaktuvuk Pass on September 22 drove this home for the team. Anaktuvuk Pass is the last remaining settlement of the inland Inupiat, the Nunamiut. The village lies about 250 miles northwest of Fairbanks and southeast of Barrow.
Air travel by small plane is the only year-round access. There are no roads to the village, and snowmachines and ATVs are used for local transportation. Caribou is the main subsistence animal and single most important food source. If the caribou don’t migrate as expected through the area, the community experiences food shortages. This was the case when the Alaska LNG team visited the village.
The caribou had not arrived in the area as of September 22, and the project saw an opportunity to help. Both ConocoPhillips and Alaska LNG contributed food staples and the Alaska LNG team was able to deliver it.
When the stakeholder engagement team arrived at the community center to set up for the Alaska LNG open house meeting, the community had mobilized to accept the contributions and distribute them.
Several community members were already dividing the donated food into 88 different bags, one for each household. “Our team quickly jumped in to help,” said Gray.
After the food bags were filled and distributed, the Alaska LNG team turned the community center into a meeting venue to discuss the project with the community. The project presentation was made and questions were answered.
“Our work was accomplished but we all felt part of something much more important,” said Gray. “And then, the highlight for all of us was when, in the middle of the meeting, one of the men came in and announced that the caribou had been spotted and were headed into the area!”