Port authority renews pitch for an all-Alaska gasline

Posted: Sunday, August 27, 2006

FAIRBANKS - The Gasline Port Authority is renewing its pitch for an all-Alaska gasline while at the same time urging lawmakers to stop work on Gov. Frank Murkowski's natural gas pipeline proposal.

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Buoyed by Sarah Palin's win Tuesday in the Republican primary, representatives from the group addressed lawmakers Thursday during a Senate committee meeting in Fairbanks.

Port authority chairman and Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker urged members of the Senate Special Committee on Natural Gas Development and other lawmakers to stop work on Murkowski's proposal.

"We think it would be a mistake to continue with a contract that has some basic flaws," he said.

While port authority officials said Palin's victory over Murkowski would not change how they approached their project, they expressed optimism at the changing of the guard in Juneau.

"We have good reason to be optimistic that we will have a good working relationship with the next administration," said project manager Bill Walker.

An improved relationship could help both in acquiring gas from the oil companies and attracting partners to the project, he said.

"It sends a message to potential participants," Walker said.

Murkowski has described the port authority proposal as uneconomic and unfeasible. However, Palin has called an "all-Alaska" line her "preferred" line.

Former Gov. Tony Knowles, the Democratic candidate for governor, has said the state should consider all viable proposals.

Murkowski, whose term ends in December, is pushing a proposal to build a pipeline to the Lower 48 with BP, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil. He said Monday he would call lawmakers back to Juneau in September to work on the contract.

While lawmakers largely turned down Whitaker's plea to stop work on the administration's proposal, some took a tougher stance.

House Majority Leader John Coghill, R-North Pole, said Murkowski shouldn't expect much help from lawmakers on the contract unless he at least sits down with Palin to discuss the gas pipeline.

The port authority was also boosted by the new study, which supported its claims about the profitability of its project.

Anthony Finizza, a consultant with Econ One Research, told the committee that under certain circumstances, the port authority's "all-Alaska" pipeline would be at least as profitable for both the state and the oil companies as a pipeline through Canada.

The port authority is proposing to pipe gas to Valdez, liquefy it, and ship it by tanker to the West Coast. Its project could later be expanded to include a pipeline into Canada, according to port authority officials.

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