FAIRBANKS (AP) -- U.S. Rep. Don Young accused oil producers Thursday of playing games by not choosing the Alaska Highway route for a natural gas pipeline.
Young also predicted permitting trouble for a possible northern Canada route, which would run offshore from the North Slope and bypass Alaska. Producers are considering both routes.
Building a gas line is the most important issue the state faces, said Young, the new chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He spoke impatiently about Exxon Mobil Corp.'s seeming reluctance in picking the Alaska Highway route favored by Young, U.S. Sens. Ted Stevens and Frank Murkowski, and Gov. Tony Knowles.
''I don't like this slow-and-delay tactic,'' Young said.
Exxon, Phillips Petroleum and BP are the three North Slope oil producers considering building a gas pipeline.
BP spokesman Ronnie Chappell said Friday that the gas pipeline is not a ''slam dunk'' and producers are carefully reviewing the project.
''We're going to spend $75 million to determine its economic viability,'' Chappell said. ''We're going to look at all the options available to us.''
Chappell said it is too early to close off any options.
''Alaskans will be part of the process when the time comes to make a route selection,'' he said.
Young warned that federal gas line permits on a northern route would be harder to obtain than those required for opening the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.
Exxon has leases on natural gas deposits in the Mackenzie River Delta, and a northern route would pick up that gas for market. Young said he understands Exxon's interest in Canada but that it would be unacceptable for Alaskans not to benefit from the jobs and the cheap source of energy Alaska natural gas would bring.
Young said the Legislature should be tougher on producers if they continue to balk at choosing a route. The state could impose a hefty tax on gas if producers chose a northern route, he said.
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