House starts reviewing energy projects

$200 million for in-state pipeline missing from the list
The three co-chairs of the House Special Committee on Energy, Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, left, Rep. Neal Foster, D-Nome, center, and Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, listen to Mark Davis, Economic Development Officer for the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, talk Friday at the Capitol about a request for state funding of a coal to liquid gas project to provide aviation fuel for the military.

Energy projects began to get reviewed by the a House committee Friday, but that hearing notably excluded the $200 million House leaders say they want to set aside for a small in-state natural gas pipeline.


Other committees have already reviewed it, said Rep. Neal Foster, D-Nome, chair of the House Special Committee on Energy.

House Energy Committee Chair Neal Foster, D-Nome, said it had already been reviewed by other committees.

An attempt to put the $200 million in the just passed operating budget was blocked by the Senate, according to House leaders, but the said they hope to still include it in the yet-to-be approved capital budget.

House Finance Committee Co-chair Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, said a single senator was blocking the money, but Stoltze didn’t name the person.

“I don’t like the uncertainty of in-state gas (not being in the budget,) but we’ll play the cards we’re dealt,” Stoltze said.

As the Senate passed the budget, Sen. Donny Olson, D-Nome, expressed concerns on the Senate Floor about focusing huge amounts of money on Southcentral energy concerns, and leaving the rest of the state behind.

Gov. Sean Parnell has made the Susitna Hydroelectric Project his priority, and the private Mt. Spur geothermal project is also seeking support.

“I see those three major projects taking a lot of money,” he said.

Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, said he wanted to make sure that the energy needs of residents of eastern Alaska were not forgotten.

At the House Special Committee on Energy hearing Friday, Alaska Energy Authority Executive Director Sarah Fisher-Goad talked about how much the Susitna dam might be financed.

The governor has sought $65.7 million this year for Susitna, which would likely be in the planning process, mostly environmental and engineering work, for about the next two and a half years.

Construction, she said, is estimated to cost $4.5 billion

“There is an expectation, as we’ve testified before, that there would be state participation in the financing,” she said.

The Mt. Spur geothermal project is estimated at $400 million, and state assistance has been sought for the cost of drilling, AEA staff said.

The cost of the in-state natural gas pipeline is still under review, with more detailed information due this summer.

Parnell has proposed $10 million for a Southeast Energy Fund to provide grants to local energy projects. Fisher-Goad said the state would draft regulations establishing criteria for grant applications.

That money may not go very far. The Sitka’s Blue Lake Dam expansion is estimated to cost $100 million, the city’s Marlene Campbell told the energy committee.

Sitka and other communities have individual requests for their projects as well, which were reviewed by the committee Friday and Saturday.


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