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ANCHORAGE Gov. Tony Knowles says he's convinced a pipeline to send natural gas to the Lower 48 is in the wings, and he's planning legislation and administrative steps to clear the way for such a project.
"Because of new conditions, I believe that within two years, Alaskans can be on the working end of a shovel, breaking ground on a natural gas project," he told the Resource Development Council in Anchorage today.
Knowles said he would introduce legislation to change the tax structure to aid construction of a gasline to the Lower 48 and projects converting the gas to a marketable liquid. In addition, Knowles said he would start the state right-of-way process immediately in anticipation of a Lower 48 gasline application.
Knowles' speech came just after another Alaska politician added his support for a gas pipeline to the south.
U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski said in Fairbanks that the price of natural gas has climbed roughly 60 percent in the past year, making gas from the North Slope economically viable.
The Alaska Republican said he's had a number of meetings with companies interested in developing natural gas.
Alaska's North Slope has 35 trillion cubic feet of known natural gas reserves. Finding a market for the gas has been a dream for more than 30 years, but projects have foundered on high cost and low gas prices. Murkowski and Knowles joined U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, who last week opposed any route that bypasses Alaska and goes through Canada.
Any natural gas pipeline that's built should be routed through Alaska, Murkowski and Knowles said.
"First of all, we've already got a corridor and now it's half owned by the state," Murkowski told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. "Second, we've got the permits already. Thirdly, we've got a market for gas in the U.S. That's probably the most important factor."