Pipeline chief urges decision

Noah says politicians must take stand on gas line to Lower 48

Posted: Thursday, December 17, 2009

ANCHORAGE - Gov. Sean Parnell's in-state gas pipeline chief said the tug-of-war among various gas line and hydropower proposals caused him much frustration but didn't prompt him to quit.

Harry Noah, who submitted his resignation last month, said Alaska politicians must decide if they're willing to do what it takes to get a natural gas pipeline to the Lower 48, or else concentrate on a smaller in-state gas pipeline proposal.

As it stands now, the state is putting money toward competing efforts, he said.

"Time to make some decisions, guys," Noah told the state House Resources Committee at a Tuesday hearing.

He was appointed by then-Gov. Sarah Palin last spring to lead the effort to encourage an in-state pipeline to bring North Slope natural gas to Railbelt energy users. It is seen as a backup if the proposed gas line to the Lower 48 fails to materialize.

Wasilla Republican Sen. Charlie Huggins said it looks like Noah is a "casualty of the civil war."

But Noah insisted the state Department of Natural Resources didn't obstruct his work in favor of the proposed big pipeline to the Lower 48. The official reason submitted for his resignation is true: He needs to deal with his cherry farming business in Oregon, he said.

Noah remains on the job until Parnell names a replacement. Noah said in an interview that the state is frozen waiting for a pipeline to the Lower 48 to happen. The only way it is going to happen soon is if Alaska provides oil companies with certainty on how much of financial bite it would take in taxes should the line be built, he said.

The state must also decide if it will fund renewable energy projects such as dams, Noah said. That would help decide the fate of the in-state gas pipeline, he said.

"If you use up a lot of your electrical energy needs by alternative energy, you don't need to sell your natural gas to them. So it just sucks up your market," Noah said.

Alaska Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Irwin, who is leading the state's effort on the pipeline to the Lower 48, disagreed with Noah's call for immediate decisions. Irwin told the committee that there isn't enough information yet on either the in-state project or the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act pipeline to the Lower 48.

"I propose you need to make decisions but you need to do it with more information," Irwin said.

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