U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens on Monday urged Alaska lawmakers to act this year on Gov. Sarah Palin's plan for a natural gas pipeline.
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"Alaska's gas resources - 35 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, an estimated 200 trillion cubic feet of conventional gas resources and 32,000 trillion cubic feet of gas hydrates - will help chart the course for the next generation of energy development for our whole country," he told a joint session of the Alaska House and Senate.
However, time is of the utmost importance since Alaska's proposed pipeline faces competition from liquefied natural gas terminals being built around the world, he said.
Obstacles include the lengthy permitting process a pipeline faces in Washington, D.C., but Stevens pledged help with that from Alaska's influential congressional delegation.
"When the state has acted, our delegation will do all we can to accelerate federal review of the final design, precise location and approval of the project," he said, noting it will take time since 16 different agencies will be involved.
"It's imperative that all Alaskans look beyond the short term and focus on what this project means for our future," the Alaska Republican said.
"We should not ask what this project can do for us, our generation," Stevens said. "Instead, we must know what it will do for our children and future generations of Alaskans."
The answer is simple, Stevens said. "We ensure their solvency," he said.
Lawmakers will continue hearings this week on Palin's Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, which establishes project criteria which energy companies must meet in exchange for inducement incentives from the state to build a pipeline.
It also affords tax incentives and royalty breaks for the first group of companies who commit to supplying the pipeline with natural gas, a process known as open season.
The governor's energy team believes the perks will induce companies to vie for rights to the project.