- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 4, 2014

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - President Barack Obama has proposed cutting the funding for the federal coordinator's office for Alaska gas line projects.

Federal coordinator Larry Persily said Tuesday that it’s not just a matter of money but also of the office’s authority. The office was created as part of a 2004 law aimed at helping advance an Alaska gas pipeline project that would serve North American markets. The project has shifted focus in recent years, and the state Legislature is currently weighing whether the state should pursue an equity stake in a liquefied natural gas project that would be capable of overseas exports.

Persily said his office provides a service in educating the public and policymakers on how liquefied natural gas projects work. He said he doesn’t lobby or advocate, just provides information.

He recently testified before the Legislature’s Senate Finance Committee, which is considering a bill aimed at advancing the Alaska project into a stage of preliminary engineering and design, and on Tuesday he was one of the scheduled speakers on the gas line effort at a meeting of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

Persily said having the office around as a project progresses would be helpful. But he said if the office went away, it would not stop the project.

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, in a speech to state lawmakers Monday, said he was working to extend the benefits of the office to any Alaska gas project.

Matt Shuckerow, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Don Young, said Young is aware of the issue and looking at what could possibly be done. Shuckerow said a telling piece of this will be whether the state interest in a project persists.

In addition to Persily, the office of federal coordinator for Alaska Natural Gas Transportation Projects currently has three full-time and two part-time employees. The office had had a budget of $1 million a year, a figure that was zeroed out in Obama’s budget request for next fiscal year.

Persily said the office will have enough money to get through the rest of this fiscal year and for an orderly shutdown, if necessary.