At hearing, public support for gas pipeline

Alaska senators listened to over an hour of public testimony Wednesday on a bill that enables the Alaska gas pipeline to move forward.

The vast majority of the testimony expressed admiration and appreciation for the people who have been working on Senate Bill 138.

“We are counting on you to pass enabling legislation this session so that the parties involved can move forward with the front-end engineering and design portion of the project,” said Krista Gonder, a board member of the Alaska Support Industry Alliance.

Rachel Petro, president and CEO of the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce, praised state officials who drafted the legislation by highlighting state participation and gas share percentage components.

Legislation to facilitate such a large-scale project in partnership with the private sector “must include necessary tools for confidentiality to develop the various project-enabling arrangements that any business needs to do,” Gonder said.

She added that the legislative oversight included in the process is a significant bonus.

SB138, introduced by Gov. Sean Parnell, effectively kills the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act in favor of an in-state natural gas pipeline to Southcentral Alaska. Current plans call for the pipeline to end at a liquefaction facility, allowing gas to be exported by tanker.

Doing the LNG project well could have a significant impact on business growth in Alaska, Petro said.

“The cost of doing business in Alaska depending on where you are has lots of drivers, but the cost of energy is absolutely a driving force,” Gonder said.

Still, not everyone was backing the proposal.

George Pierce of Kasilof blasted the bill as a giveaway to special interest groups.

“You give consent to oil companies to produce our resources without any timeline or commitment, and then they want to give us our gas back for payment for the subsidized taxes you just gave them,” Pierce told the lawmakers. “Who are you representing?”

Two municipal mayors also chimed in with their opinions on the bill. Both supported the project and the overall scope of the proposal, but requested a change in the way taxes are negotiated for the project.

“We will be living with the impacts long after the project is finished and we see the initial ramp-up for construction jobs,” said Mike Navarre, mayor of the Kenai Peninsula Borough. “So we’d like to know what those terms might be.”

Navarre told one senator that the borough’s primary concern was being able to be a part of the negotiation for property tax rates.

“We don’t want to stand in the way of the project,” Navarre said.

Still, “Local governments are capable of negotiating on their own behalf,” he added.

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