- Associated Press - Friday, December 4, 2015

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Gov. Bill Walker said Friday that he didn’t want to hold up a vote to continue work on a major gas line project that Alaska is pursuing while still seeking from Exxon Mobil Corp. a commitment on gas that he got from two other project partners.

In a news release Thursday, Walker announced that BP and ConocoPhillips had committed to sign a gas-availability agreement and agreed to continue negotiating terms under which their gas would be made available to the project if either of them pulled out. The project partners - BP, ConocoPhillips, Exxon and the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. - on Thursday also approved a project work plan and budget for 2016. The state-sanctioned corporation holds Alaska’s equity interest in several project components.

The release did not mention Exxon with regard to any gas agreement. An Exxon spokeswoman, Kim Jordan, said by email that the company has been working to find mutually acceptable terms to advance the project and remains committed to doing so. Exxon has been negotiating with the state and has a confidentiality agreement in place to discuss other agreements that would advance the project.

“We, and many others, have communicated to the state, these agreements take time to negotiate and complete,” Jordan wrote.

Walker told reporters Friday that he felt comfortable moving forward with the commitments he had. He said he did not know if there was an agreement with Exxon forthcoming.

The fact that Exxon supported the work plan and budget is a good thing, and the company continues to spend money on the project, Walker said. The state will continue working with Exxon in good faith, he said.

Walker has sought assurances that the producer partners could not withhold their gas from the project if they’re no longer involved. He decided not to introduce a gas reserves tax during the recent special legislative session after BP and ConocoPhillips committed to working with the state on terms by Dec. 4.

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