This editorial was first seen in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:
Gov. Sean Parnell on Dec. 7 did what needed to be done with the serious problem of high energy costs in the Fairbanks area: He laid out a proposal that aims to speed the arrival of natural gas to the Interior by uniting a fractious group of competing entities.
And in doing so he also signaled to our neighbors elsewhere in the state that he is acutely aware of the economic damage being wrought here. People are moving away. Business decisions are being affected.
Gov. Parnell’s $355 million plan consists of a mix of bonds, cash and tax credits to build a natural gas liquefaction plan on the North Slope and a residential and industrial distribution system. Gas would be trucked to Fairbanks from the North Slope plant.
Gas could be delivered to Fairbanks, likely to power plants and existing gas customers, late in 2015. Homes and businesses that aren’t yet piped for gas would come online later. Those beyond the reach of a distribution system would be able to acquire propane.
The result for most everyone around here would be an end to crippling winter energy costs.
The governor’s plan isn’t just about Fairbanks, North Pole and the homes and businesses in between, though. His plan could lead to natural gas being provided to Interior river communities and to Southcentral, which is running low on its supply of Cook Inlet gas.
The plan will require legislative approval for nearly all of the financial outlay. A fraction — $30 million in tax credits — was previously approved. Legislators need to conduct their due diligence on the plan, of course, but they need to respond quickly. The Legislature opens its session in just over five weeks. The fact that the governor has put out his proposal now gives legislators time to begin forming questions and seeking answers.
Having Gov. Parnell involved at the center of the search for a solution is key. He needs to maintain that involvement, and bring others along to his point view, until the warmth of a blue natural gas flame begins spreading across the land.