Natural gas authority seeks more money, cites voters' support

Posted: Thursday, January 22, 2004

ANCHORAGE - The Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority is seeking more money to carry out its mission and as it does so, will remind the governor and legislators of how many Alaskans voted for creation of the body.

Harold Heinze, chief executive officer of the gas authority, last week passed out lists to authority board members showing the 2002 vote totals in all 60 House and Senate districts.

It's good to remind legislators how well the ballot initiative did in their own districts, Heinze said.

Alaska voters created the natural gas development authority by initiative in 2002. It's supposed to present a plan to the Legislature by June for construction and operation of a state-owned natural gas pipeline to Valdez, where gas would be liquefied and shipped to potential buyers in the Far East or on the U.S. West Coast.

Alaskans approved the authority be a 2-to-1 margin.

"I think Ballot Measure 3 beat almost every legislator," said David Cuddy, one of seven men Gov. Frank Murkowski appointed to the gas authority last year.

Board member and initiative sponsor Scott Heyworth compiled the list. Heyworth has been critical of what he believes is the state wasting its time waiting for the three major North Slope producers to build their preferred gas pipeline from the North Slope, through Canada to mid-America markets, while he sees an LNG project at Valdez as Alaska's best hope to get its gas to market.

Heyworth sent a note Jan. 11 to Heinze and others informing them of a recent opinion poll - paid for by the Alaska Democratic Party - that showed Alaskans continue to support the LNG project over a pipeline to the Lower 48 by a 2-to-1 margin.

"Our numbers are holding, easily!" Heyworth said in his e-mail. "Frank is cooked meat on this one." Heyworth acknowledged to Petroleum News his e-mail referred to Gov. Frank Murkowski.

"If the governor is going against the will of the people, it's not a good sign," he said of Murkowski's continued encouragement of a producer-led pipeline project instead of coming out solidly in support of a state-owned LNG project.

Murkowski has scheduled a press conference for 4 p.m. today in Fairbanks regarding a natural gas pipeline.

The gas authority has gone through all of the $350,000 in state funds it was given for this year and is asking for an additional $2.15 million from the Legislature for the balance of the fiscal year that ends June 30.

Heinze has said the authority could need $200 million more for next year if the authority board and the Legislature decide to proceed with designing a pipeline, liquefaction plant and tanker terminal.

The initiative placed before voters in November 2002 did not include estimates of how much state money would be needed to plan and design the project.

The vote totals show the initiative's strongest support was in Fairbanks, along the pipeline route, in Valdez and in parts of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. It did not lose in any of the state's 40 House districts, but came closest in downtown Juneau, downtown Anchorage, the upscale Hillside area of Anchorage and the North Slope and Northwest Arctic districts.

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