When word broke two weeks ago that GOP presidential nominee John McCain had picked Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, among the few San Diegans to have actually met her was a small coterie of executives from Sempra Energy. It happens that back in May 2005, the giant San Diego–based utility holding company was seeking to build a pipeline to bring natural gas from Alaska’s North Slope down to Valdez on the coast so it could be liquefied, loaded into tankers, and shipped to Sempra’s liquefied natural gas terminal near Rosarito in Baja California. The project was sponsored by the Alaska Gasline Port Authority, a government agency whose members included the City of Valdez as well as the Fairbanks North Star Borough — akin to a county in the Lower 48 — where the city of Fairbanks is located.

But Sempra wasn’t alone in coveting the project. Other big energy outfits, including oil giants Conoco, BP, and Exxon, were also in the hunt for the pipeline concession that could provide billions of dollars of new revenue. Enter Palin, then ex-mayor of the small town of Wasilla, who was recruited by the Sempra backers for their TV, radio, and newspaper ads — paid for by Sempra — promoting the project as the “all-Alaska gas pipeline.” Palin was joined in the spots by former Alaska governors Jay Hammond and Walter Hickel, as well as retired state senate president Rick Halford. According to the Anchorage Daily News, Sempra was paying Halford $25,000 a month to lobby the project through the state legislature.

The big oil companies, which wanted to pipe the gas down the Alaska Highway and then through Canada to Chicago, attacked the Sempra ad campaign, claiming that the West Coast was too small a market for the natural gas from Alaska and that it needed to be piped directly to the American Midwest and East Coast.

The resistance was so fierce that Sempra, having paid $6.25 million to the port authority to promote the project, eventually ran up the white flag and pulled out of the deal. “The protracted political wrestling taking place in Alaska is costly and very time consuming,” said Darcel Hulse, who runs Sempra’s liquefied natural gas operation, in a June 2005 letter to the authority. “While all this is taking place, the West Coast market is being actively pursued by others.” Hulse’s letter added that then-governor Frank Murkowski and U.S. senator Ted Stevens had also hindered the effort.

Ironically, after Palin was elected governor as a reform candidate in 2006, her administration backed a plan by a Canadian company, TransCanada, to build a 1715-mile pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to an already existing pipeline hub in Alberta; last month she signed the bill awarding TransCanada a license to proceed.

Sempra spokesman Art Larson said nobody at the company, including Hulse, would discuss their relationship with Palin. A longtime Sempra executive, Hulse has contributed $5000 to Proposition 8, the measure on November’s California ballot to ban gay marriage in the state. Alaska public records show that he has long held a hunting and fishing license there.

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Comments

paul Sept. 10, 2008 @ 4:46 p.m.

Fred,

More like Sempra tried to play with the big boys and got thumped, so they went home and kicked the dog. We're the dog.

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Fred Williams Sept. 10, 2008 @ 4:37 p.m.

Enro...oops, I mean Sempra just keeps on corrupting America. Even Alaska isn't free of their greedy grasp.

And...surprise, surprise, yet ANOTHER Sempra executive is so filled with bigotry that he feels compelled to give big bucks to Proposition H8.

With right-wing evangelicals from Enr...oops, I mean Sempra meddling in political causes, no wonder they always have such good access to local, state, and national politicians who will do their bidding while the rest of us watch in disbelief.

If anyone has missed it, I highly recommend the documentary "The Smartest Guys in the Room", which details how Sempr...oops, I mean Enron, ripped off California and not only profited but caused rolling blackouts in our state.

Matt, I wonder just how many former Enron staff are now employed at Sempra...

Best,

Fred

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a2zresource Sept. 10, 2008 @ 5:12 p.m.

We may find it interesting how Sempra Energy's report to investors from 2000 described that corporation:

"Led by the success of Sempra Energy Trading, our newer businesses expanded in 2000. Our wholesale trading operation is a key driver of Sempra Energy’s retail strategy, providing the trading, hedging and risk-management capabilities necessary to execute complex energy transactions. It provides sophisticated solutions that few others in the industry can match."

Compare with contemporary reports of Enron running training seminars as an industry consultant in the "gaming" of California's electricity distribution grid for maximum profit with minimum effort. With the above corporate statement to investors, I am not positive but fairly certain that Sempra Energy Trading employees had contact with Enron regarding "gaming" the grid "to execute complex energy transactions."

Given that the same financial statement describes Sempra Energy's "acquisition and development of [power] generation" that "gives Sempra Energy a natural hedge against unanticipated and severe fluctuations in market prices and demand", I wonder just how much California electricity was produced here for pennies, only to be sold out-of-state and repurchased at inflated prices by us as consumers?

Precisely when do "complex energy transactions" that likely involved overloading the ISO become "wire fraud"?

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Russ Lewis Sept. 14, 2008 @ 12:30 p.m.

C'mon, Fumber, you're just getting started. Give it to him.

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ushi Oct. 8, 2008 @ 5:14 p.m.

A man and a woman get married and their marriage is supposed fertile generally. When a man or woman marry, they discuss children and sometimes not wanting children and they often change their minds when they choose not to have any. Nature has clearly designed man and a woman to be be parents. NATURE has discriminated against gays by not giving themchildren. Homosexual men have a quarrel with nature and the natural law, not those of us who understand and accept it. The sexual act of buggery is not akin to intercourse. A birth canal is not the same as a rectum. Excrement is not the same as a living human although the abortion industry seems to think so. Any one whether celibate or sisters should be able to transfer their property like married people do especially if they are living in the same. Rights for a friend, even if one is celibate, to visit and have a say in the medical decisions in a hospital should be lawed for. Why discriminate aginst celibate friends? Homoosexual siblings do not have the same impediment to being together sexually as would heterosexual siblings and that is because a gay relationship can never be fertile in the way that marriage is. If we changed the meaning of everything we would not know what to say. Someone born with a penis and XY genes is male however many operations he has and a woman born without male genitals and with female ones with xx genes is female, whatever. Change the truth but it is still there. You are changed.

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