State one step closer to gas pipeline, but not the one the Walker administration wants

The current route planned for the Alaska Standalone Pipeline — an in-state natural gas pipeline designed to bring gas from the North Slope to Alaska communities. (Map courtesy of the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation)

Alaska is one step closer to getting an in-state natural gas pipeline; though it’s not clear if the project will ever be built.

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Friday that it had released the final supplement for its environmental review of the Alaska Stand Alone Pipeline project. The final permit in that process should be released sometime in the next three months.

The in-state pipeline project has taken a backseat to the massive Alaska LNG export project.

Both projects would pipe gas several hundred miles from the North Slope to market, but the standalone pipeline is designed for in-state use, while the Alaska LNG project is designed to sell that gas to Asian markets.

Staff at the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation have repeatedly said that they are focused on building the larger project. Frank Richards is the senior vice president for both projects at the state’s gasline corporation. He said the in-state pipeline project is basically on hold, now that it has the permits it needs.

“It’s truly the backup plan,” Richards said. “It means we will have the permits and authorization to construct, should the need arise.”

Even though the in-state pipeline project is on hold, Richards said it can still help the state develop the Alaska LNG project. The pipeline projects are similar enough that federal regulators could use work done on one to guide permitting for the other.

Also, Richards said there is about $11 million left over from developing the in-state project that can now be used to fund the export project.

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Rashah McChesney is a photojournalist turned radio journalist who has been telling stories in Alaska since 2012. Before joining Alaska's Energy Desk , she worked at Kenai's Peninsula Clarion and the Juneau bureau of the Associated Press. She is a graduate of Iowa State University's Greenlee Journalism School and has worked in public television, newspapers and now radio, all in the quest to become the Swiss Army knife of storytellers.