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Walker pushes for natural gas pipeline to Valdez

Posted: December 8, 2011 - 9:43am

According to proponents, a natural gas pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez isn't meant to supersede Cook Inlet development.

In fact, such a pipeline could enhance liquified natural gas exports from Nikiski, Bill Walker said Wednesday at a joint Kenai and Soldotna chambers of commerce luncheon.

"Congratulations to all that's happening here," Walker said.

Walker spoke about the line proposed by the Alaska Gasline Port Authority, which he has represented for a number of years. That entity is proposing a large-volume pipeline to carry natural gas from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, following the same route as the trans-Alaska pipeline, which carries oil. Trucks, ships and pipelines would help distribute the gas from that line to communities all around the state, including Southcentral Alaska.

Walker said that a spur line could also supply ConocoPhillips Liquified Natural Gas plant in Nikiski, allowing that facility to increase its exports. Sending the mainline to Valdez to export LNG is largely to allow for the large volume that makes the project economical, he said. It also helps that a natural gas pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez has been permitted already, by Yukon Pacific.

"The key is to have the largest volume possible in that main line," he said.

The line Walker and the authority are proposing would require one major change in the state's current plans: to back out of the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, which is in the permitting phase for a pipeline to carry natural gas from Alaska to the Lower 48.

"We've long felt that we need to control our destiny," Walker said.

The state could get out of AGIA through a clause that allows for arbitration if the state no longer feels the project is in its best interests.

Walker said its time to activate that option.

"We need to get access to the gas," he said.

The Port Authority commissioned studies looking at the feasibility of the project. So far, they have shown that the project would lower energy costs, and generate significant revenues for the state. A jobs study due out in the near future paints an optimistic employment picture, too, Walker said.

"It'd be lots of jobs," Walker said. "There'd be no question about that."

Currently, Valdez and the Fairbanks North Star Borough are members of the authority. Walker said other municipalities also have the option to join, although Anchorage declined an invitation to do so.

"We need to take the lead and not look back," Walker said.

Molly Dischner can be reached at molly.dischner@peninsulaclarion.com.

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