Gas Caucus Gets Pipline Update, Already Crafting Legislation

State lawmakers today heard an update on a proposal to get natural gas from the North Slope to Southcentral Alaska. The project concentrates on in-state delivery, and involves a slightly larger gas line than previous plans. House Speaker Mike Chenault and Representative Mike Hawker have been pushing a pipeline in recent years and say they plan to reintroduce a gas pipeline bill this session.

The Joint In-State Gas Caucus met in Anchorage to get an update from the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation. Frank Richards is the Pipeline and Government Affairs Manager with the agency. He presented an update on the Alaska stand alone pipeline. He says the project still runs a pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Beluga/Point McKenzie, but it has a new design premise – the main feature being a slightly larger pipeline with lower pressure.

“What this also means is that we will be able to provide that gas to Fairbanks and the other communities along the way at a significantly lower cost,” Richards said.

Previous plans included a 24 inch pipeline, plus costly processing facilities and compressor stations along the way to handle higher pressure. Richards says the plan still calls for moving 500 million cubic feet of gas per day, the AGIA limitation.  But Richards says the changes have many benefits.

“We’re going to eliminate costly facilities along the line. We’re gonna have industry standard pipes fittings and equipment. And we’ll have a lean gas case that will still allow for the inclusion of propane if there are propane needs along the line to meet interior Alaska’s needs. And then the lean gas means greater access for Alaskan communities along the way. No need for expensive straddling facilities, greater access, lower operating costs,” Richards said.

Richards also reported that the environmental impact statement for the more than 700-mile long pipeline is complete and that his agency has acquired the necessary state rights of way. Federal rights of way are still being sought. The legislature created the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation to advance a stand alone pipeline in 2010.

State Representative Mike Chenault pushed for the gas line along with Representative Hawker last year in the legislature. It passed the House but died in the Senate. Hawker says its an important measure.

“We have to look at getting natural gas into the hands of Alaskans as a public works project. Just like highways and sewers, water and sewer systems are public works projects. Right now, with the cost of energy in the interior and the looming natural gas shortage here in Cook Inlet. I can insure every one of as elected officials that the first time that you flip the switch and the lights don’t go on that the public is going to be asking, ‘why didn’t you make this a sufficient priority,'” Hawker said.

Hawker says legislators are trying to get a jump on the session preparing new pipeline legislation and already have a new 42-page bill.

Officials estimate the project will cost $7.7 billion. The AGDC is asking for 400-million dollars from the legislature in 2013 to fund the pipeline.

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Daysha Eaton is a contributor with the Alaska Public Radio Network.

Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage.

Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email.

Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.

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