One of the hallmark pieces of legislation from the 2014 Legislature — and perhaps one that will be remembered for generations — is set to become law today.
Republican Gov. Sean Parnell will sign SB138 at the Pipeline Training Center in Fairbanks at 2:15 p.m. The bill is the first step toward designing and build an 800-mile trans-Alaska natural gas pipeline.
“Fairbanks is the center of the state, and also one of the hardest-hit when it comes to energy prices,” Parnell told the Empire when asked why he planned to sign the bill there. “They know firsthand what a gasline can mean to Alaska communities.”
The proposed project would have the 800-mile pipeline connecting a gas treatment plant on the North Slope to a liquefaction plant in Nikiski that would prepare the natural gas to be shipped to market — likely in Asia.
The exact costs and details are not known, but the estimated cost for the megaproject is in excess of $45 billion. The state is teaming with ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, BP and pipeline-builder TransCanada in the undertaking.
“It’s also the jumping off place for all of the equipment,” Parnell said of Fairbanks. “It really is a hub of activity in our state — not only for gasline development, but also for oil development.”
He added that the long-held gas dreams of many Fairbanksans will begin to be addressed with a different project — one that will also serve as a precursor to the large pipeline.
“Their dream for cheaper, more abundant energy will start to be fulfilled within about two years with the Interior Energy Project, which is a gas trucking solution,” Parnell said. “As we build up the distribution system in Fairbanks and in the Interior for that gas, it will be ready down the road here when the large volume gasline comes through.
“It really is going to be a dream fulfilled,” he said, smiling.
After the 2014 legislative session adjourned, Republicans in both the House and Senate joined Parnell in calling the bill’s passage “historic” and a move that will be remembered for decades to come. Democrats agreed that it would be remembered, but not for good reasons — rather as time wasted.
Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, said the coming 18 months will be a study filled with concessions by the state of Alaska to its corporate partners in the project.
Parnell sees it in a slightly different light.
“This is huge,” he said. “It’s the first time we’ve been in this place as a state to have all the necessary companies and the state laying down money to do real engineering — real design work — to get this pipeline built.”