Sheffield Stumps For Instate Gasline

Former Alaska Governor Bill Sheffield says it’s time for Alaska to build its own gas pipeline.

Sheffield has been stumping the state on his own dime to promote the Alaska Stand Alone Pipeline – or ASAP.  The acronym is appropriate, he says, because Alaska is on the threshold of an energy crisis and needs the gas As Soon As Possible. Sheffield says some communities are already over the edge.

“Too many of our residents are struggling to deal these days with bills to heat their homes and cook their meals that add up to the price of a monthly mortgage,” he told the Juneau Chamber of Commerce Thursday.

Once called the Bullet Line, the current proposal under the Alaska Gasline Development Corporationwould take natural gas from Prudhoe Bay  to Southcentral Alaska.

Sheffield says the decline of Cook Inlet production is driving up commercial and domestic energy costs.  He says the instate gasline could help those plants reopen, rejuvenate the Flint Hills Refinery near Fairbanks, and spur other business and industry along the way.

Sheffield, a Democrat, served as governor from 1982 to 1986.  For several years he was CEO of the Alaska Railroad Corporation; now in retirement, he is still on the board of directors.

He says he knows how the lack of natural gas has changed the economics of the railroad.

“In the past, Flint Hills, when they had all three stacks working, (they only use one stack at the refinery now),  used to send 130 railroad cars a day down to the port of Anchorage with product –  jet fuel to the Anchorage airport, gasoline for Southcentral Alaska,  and other products like NAPTHA to South American and to Asia.  Now instead of the 130 railroad cars, there’s 20 cars five days a week,” he says.

While the gas pipeline would mainly serve the Interior / Southcentral region of the state, Sheffield believes surplus gas could be shipped to other parts of Alaska,  including Southeast. He says surplus gas also could be sold to other countries.

The Alaska Gasline Development Corporation was funded by the state legislature in 2010.  Since then it has received $72 million  in state funds  toward the $400 million needed to get the project to open season then sanctioning.  During an open season, natural gas producers indicate their interest in shipping down the line; the sanctioning stage is when the corporation decides if the project should move forward.

The cost of 737-mile pipeline and facilities is estimated at $7.7 billion.  AGDC Public Affairs Director Leslye Langla says the pipeline would be financed and not paid for by the state.

AGDC last month awarded a contract for design of facilities, to include a North Slope Gas Conditioning Facility and Cook Inlet Extraction Plant.  The Final Environmental Impact Statement is done, and state lawmakers are working on legislation to establish AGDC as an independent public corporation of the state (House Bill 4).

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Rosemarie Alexander is a reporter at KTOO in Juneau.

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