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A path forward for the gasline

Posted: January 22, 2012 - 9:51am  |  Updated: January 23, 2012 - 9:58am

In his State of the State address last week, Gov. Parnell laid out a roadmap to realizing Alaska's long-held hope of natural gas development.

Important to us, and to the people of Alaska, that plan distinctly weaves together two goals: Alaska gas for Alaskans, and commercialization of a resource to generate multi-decade economic benefit. Will it work? We can hope so, while forging ahead with new legislation empowering the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. to continue its tremendous work to date. This legislation will strengthen the ability of AGDC to participate in an aligned project, and the ability for an AGDC line to stand on its own.

We applaud Gov. Parnell for recognizing the potential for an Alaska gas pipeline project unlike any we have seen on the table, a hybrid of multiple plans committed Alaskans have worked on for many years. We believe this alignment -- of stakeholders, of goals, of work done to date -- is the elusive answer to Alaskan gas.

We also commend the Governor for acknowledging the tremendous value AGDC brings to this new, aligned process. Since the legislature created AGDC almost two years ago, the organization has doggedly advanced an in-state line, delivering high-caliber work and meeting milestones laid out in a transparent, statutory framework. The momentum is strong.

While supporting this goal of aligning stakeholders and plans, we want to maintain that momentum in pursuit of instate gas for Alaskans and leave open all options for convergence into an aligned project, such as the governor is promoting. To that end, we will continue advocating for legislation and funding making AGDC flexible, nimble, and as responsive as possible to Alaska's needs.  If AGDC and the other stakeholders can converge this year, we support such alignment and AGDC will be the strongest possible partner working on behalf of Alaskans. If not, we are resolved to carry on with AGDC's core mission, an instate line that stands on its own.

The AGDC team has secured rights-of-ways from the North Slope to Southcentral, a valuable asset to a gasline project. The team has prepared the detailed route analysis supporting an Environmental Impact Statement, another asset that will keep a new, aligned project on schedule. In addition, AGDC has developed an aggressive timeline that promises key decisions sooner rather than later.

We are closer than ever to realizing Alaska's dream of gas, and AGDC has the momentum to keep advancing toward that goal. Legislation we will introduce this week will empower AGDC to develop or to participate in any project related to gas development within the state. AGDC will have the ability to negotiate on an equal footing with private-sector partners. The legislation will define reasonable, efficient regulatory processes, and will make the Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority an AGDC partner to centralize and strengthen the state's efforts. Looking past a large project, our legislation also postures AGDC for a future role extending the benefits of natural gas across as much of our state as possible.

It is in Alaskans' interests to solidify their support behind this new gasline concept. However, we can't wait forever. AGDC can serve as the catalyst to bring all stakeholders -- including Alaskans -- together in a gasline project, but will also be equipped to stand on its own.

We look forward to presenting our legislation this week in a major step toward ensuring Alaskans' interests are represented as years of work planning gas development finally come together as a tangible project we can all stand behind.

Rep. Mike Chenault, a Republican from Nikiski, represents that community and the rural areas of the Kenai Peninsula. He is in his fourth year serving as Speaker of the House. Rep. Mike Hawker is an Anchorage Republican who chairs the Joint Legislative Budget & Audit Committee.

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