ANCHORAGE - The head of the state's new natural gas authority made an impassioned pitch to state lawmakers for $2.5 million to help bring North Slope natural gas to market through liquefied natural gas sales.
Harold Heinze's request got a chilly reception from a top state revenue official, who called the money proposal premature.
Acknowledging that the state is facing tough fiscal times, Heinze, chief executive of the Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority, told members of the Senate Resources Committee to look at the money as a grubstake.
The authority, created by voters last November, would use the funds to complete design and marketing studies for a state-owned natural gas pipeline to Valdez. The authority also could start making serious offers to potential buyers of liquefied natural gas along the West Coast and in Asia, Heinze said. The money would be repaid once the gas starts flowing.
"You're rolling the dice for high stakes," said Heinze, a former Arco executive and former state commissioner of natural resources. "Timing is everything."
If the lawmakers cannot give him the money now because the full Legislature is not in session, at least write a letter of intent that they will approve the funds next year, Heinze urged.
Greg Bartholomew, director of strategic planning and analysis for Sempra Energy, echoed Heinze's sense of urgency. Sempra, of San Diego, is building a LNG terminal in Baja, Mexico, and is pursuing contracts with suppliers to service West Coast markets. If Alaska wants in on the action, now is the time, Bartholomew said.