Jan. 10, 2003 Fairbanks Daily News-Miner says gasline authority should be funded

Posted: Monday, January 13, 2003

The guy with the gas line idea, Anchorage longshoreman Scott Heyworth, has approached Gov. Frank Murkowski with the expected follow-up question after the passing of Ballot Proposition 3 in November's election.

He is seeking $2 million to fund a new Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline Authority.

This newspaper came out against the ballot measure prior to the November election. We said to vote ''no,'' but couched it with the admission that we knew it was going to pass because, hey, Alaskans have wanted to see construction of a natural gas pipeline since they finished building the oil pipeline back in the '70s.

Ballot Proposition 3 creates the natural gas pipeline authority and gives it power to issue bonds to build a gas pipeline from Prudhoe to Valdez with a spur to Anchorage, a liquid natural gas plant and transportation infrastructure. The authority will take effect March 1.

Murkowski spokesman John Manly told The Associated Press that the governor has not developed a position on the new authority and that the state attorney general is reviewing the ballot language. However, Manly said the governor backed the ballot idea during the election and, ''I believe he even voted for it.'' Sounds like a lot of Alaskans who voted for this idea probably did so without full knowledge of the possible implications.

We still don't believe that our state government is the right entity to take on construction and operation of this multi-billion-dollar venture anymore than it would have been the right entity to build the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.

But, naturally, Proposition 3 was approved overwhelmingly by the voters. And, naturally, Gov. Murkowski's administration should find $2 million in the budget to create the office, appoint a board of directors and start studying the gas line question.

Certainly, it cannot hurt for this state to fully evaluate the potential for Alaska's natural gas and explore the possibility of developing a line. The knowledge gained can only put the state in that much stronger a position to develop strategies and work with the companies that should be the ones to develop the gas line.

Unless the attorney general uncovers some unforeseen legal snag, to do anything other than fund creation of the office would be to deny the will of the voters -- whether the majority really knew what they were asking for or not.

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