Ex-Assembly members mostly back gas-trucking plan

Posted: Tuesday, May 18, 2010

FAIRBANKS - The Alaska Gasline Port Authority's plan to truck natural gas to Fairbanks is supported by most of the Fairbanks North Star Borough assembly members who helped form the entity 11 years ago.

Only two of nine members from the 1999 Assembly remain on the panel today.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner contacted those no longer on it to gauge their view of the plan in which the port authority would buy a utility, borrow hundreds of millions of dollars and truck liquefied natural gas from the North Slope.

The plan deviates from the port authority's original mandate to advance a gas pipeline.

"From my viewpoint, conditions change, ideas are generated and new proposals make sense as a result," said Dave Veazey, a former assemblyman.

Eileen Cummings, also a member of the 1999 Assembly, said she needs more information on the plan, but believes it could be a solution: "If it is necessary to change the direction of the goals of the port authority to get cheaper energy for Fairbanks, it should happen."

Mike Young sponsored the ordinance which laid the legal groundwork for the port authority. The assembly unanimously approved the proposal and Fairbanks voters supported it in a landslide.

Young said the port authority's existence has accomplished much, even without a pipeline. The authority, he said, has presented enough potential competition to push oil companies such Exxon, BP and ConocoPhillips - which hold petroleum leases on the North Slope - toward action plans.

Mike Prax said the port authority's plan sounds reasonable, but he is concerned about its ability to manage it. The authority, he said, has struggled with past requests for simple financial records, a sign it might need stronger management to run a big gas utility.

But Karen Parr and Cole Sonafrank agree with Young's assessment that the authority's mere existence has pressured big energy firms toward large-scale natural gas production. Parr said an "interim" trucking plan will ready Fairbanks for a pipeline, regardless of who builds it.

Guy Sattley, a holdover from the 1999 panel, told the newspaper he strongly supported the ordinance, but now questions if it was the right move. Sattley said he's skeptical the authority needs to buy Fairbanks Natural Gas and said he's awaiting detailed justification of the sale's proposed $64 million price tag.

"Lots of questions, not many answers," Sattley said.



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