Lawmakers push for gas pipeline support

Posted: Tuesday, June 22, 2010

FAIRBANKS - Alaska lawmakers who support an in-state natural gas bullet pipeline say they will push for community backing that could help the state defend the proposed project during a federal review.

The lawmakers say they're talking to community groups, from policy boards at city and borough governments to business and retiree groups.

State Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, said the campaign will be modeled partly after a cruise ship industry campaign fours years ago against proposed regulations and industry-specific taxes.

"This is the number one issue facing our state," McGuire said of the pipeline plan.

Pipeline critics say an intrastate line would need a huge customer base, a big public subsidy or both to work. Some prefer a larger pipeline through Canada, but that option faces market challenges, including whether natural gas prices remain low.

The state and consultants expect to issue a detailed analysis of the bullet project's potential routes later this month.

State Rep. Jay Ramras, R-Fairbanks, said organized, formal shows of community-level support also will help when supporters approach the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission with a related request to leave oversight of a bullet pipeline in the hands of the state.

"Our whole argument was we don't want to see this go to the FERC, we want this to stay with (state regulators)," Ramras said.

Rep. Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake, said he's canvassing much of the state and expects to address an Anchorage energy task force, led by Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, next month.

Neuman has said he hopes a bullet pipeline also could spur construction of a gas-to-liquid synthetic fuel processing plant.

An early 2010 estimate from Anchorage-based Northern Economics, which gauged demand as it studied the larger, transcontinental pipeline option, suggests combined commercial and household use of natural gas could double in Fairbanks, Anchorage and other road-system communities during the next decade given increased supply.

"People need to know the truth," Neuman said. "(And) we need to make sure we don't drop the ball on this one."

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