Senators: Bill would quicken gas-line appeal

Posted: Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Two Alaska senators are trying to speed up the contract process for a natural gas line - a process mired in a legal battle over development of the state's second largest natural gas field.

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A bill filed Tuesday could quicken Exxon Mobil's appeal of a denial of its proposal for the Point Thomson unit, a field believed to hold about 9 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves.

Senate Bill 26, filed by Senators Tom Wagoner, R-Kenai, and Gene Therriault, R-North Pole, could save time by moving the appeal out of the Alaska Superior Court and into the Alaska Supreme Court.

A proposed contract with Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips and BP failed to receive the Legislature's approval last year.

Gov. Sarah Palin reopened the negotiation process shortly after taking office last month, speaking with any group interested in the project, not just the big three oil companies.

Wagoner and Therriault are calling their bill one of the most important pieces of legislation that could be passed this year.

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"It's going to expedite the legal matter surrounding the cancellation of the unit agreement at Point Thomson and the taking back of those oil and gas leases. This legislation will keep the appeal from dragging on and on in the courts," Wagoner said.

"We're interested in working in a bi-partisan manner with the members of the Legislature, and cooperatively with the Department of Law, to hammer out a reasoned and meaningful bill that will help accelerate the process," Therriault said.

Lawmakers Tuesday did not discuss further plans for the gas line. Gov. Sarah Palin has yet to announce her plans for either the process or the contract.

• Brittany Retherford can be reached at The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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