JUNEAU — An Anchorage lawmaker believes the state may need to invest more money in a major natural gas pipeline if efforts to bring it to fruition falter.
State Rep. Les Gara, speaking at a news conference by minority Democrats on the first day of the legislative session Tuesday, said it would be a “big mistake” if Alaska fails to commercialize gas from the North Slope.
Competing pipeline projects are seeking shipping agreements from producers for a major line— though, in one case, that of Alberta, Canada-based TransCanada Corp., the effort is taking longer than first thought.
The state, under an exclusive license with TransCanada, already promised to pay up to $500 million to help the company move a project forward. But Gara believes a state stake or guarantee might be in order to help make a pipeline a reality if that effort, under what’s known as the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, falters for some reason.
The competing project, a joint effort by BP and ConocoPhillips, is getting no state support. It’s widely believed that only one line will be built — if one is built at all.
Several Democrats, including Gara, noted the process under the inducement act is moving forward. Minority Leader Beth Kerttula of Juneau said the state is further along than its ever been in realizing a long-hoped-for gas line, and said lawmakers remain “very seriously focused” on securing one.
Gara didn’t say at what point the state might need to step in or the level of funding the state might need to consider contributing.
A colleague, state Rep. David Guttenberg of Fairbanks, also suggested pushing to make a pipeline a public utility if the effort with TransCanada fails. But Kerttula said that’s not an official caucus position.
Gov. Sean Parnell has been adamant that he believes a pipeline should be pushed by private industry, not government. Spokeswoman Sharon Leighow called the rhetoric “premature given that private sector parties are still at the table.”
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