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Interior lawmakers want to see cheap energy arrive sooner

Posted: March 31, 2012 - 11:07pm

JUNEAU — Interior lawmakers were happy with the news about a planned liquefied natural gas pipeline to the North Slope, but say they’ll need relief from high energy costs long before then.

They are considering trucking, an energy voucher program and other short-term solutions. The pipeline isn’t expected to have gas flowing until the end of the decade.

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell said Friday that the state has reached a settlement in the long-running dispute over leases to develop the Point Thomson gas fields, clearing the way for progress on a major pipeline project.

Exxon Mobil Corp., BP PLC and ConocoPhillips have said they agreed on a plan to focus on a large-scale liquefied natural gas project, capable of overseas exports, which would serve North America.

Rep. Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks, said a pipeline following the Parks Highway to Fairbanks could be completed well before a big pipeline, perhaps as soon as two or three years.

“I’m sure that when you start building a big line, the permitting and process is going to take forever — we could still be waiting 15-plus years,” he said. “We need to do something, and trucking could be a good bridge project to a big pipeline. It’ll bring us better prices than we’re paying in Fairbanks, and it will bring us to a place where we can build out a distribution system.”

Rep. Bob Miller, D-Fairbanks, says Fairbanks needs energy relief soon.

“(The big pipeline is) going to be an absolute godsend for Fairbanks and the Interior,” he said. “But Fairbanks needs it right away. ... The trucking and an energy voucher program will sustain us in the near-term.”

Clearing the way for a large oil pipeline made the construction of a proposed small-diameter pipe less likely, something Sen. Joe Thomas, D-Fairbanks, still believes is possible.

“This line we could have built in two to three years and it’d be ready for the big line,” Thomas said.

Little, however, could dampen the buzz at the Alaska Capitol on Friday.

“This is exciting,” Thompson said. “It’s good to see we have things coming along. It’ll take a number of years, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”

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