Knowles talks about Alaska oil and gas with Norton and others

Posted: Tuesday, February 27, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Gov. Tony Knowles is making the rounds in Washington, D.C., while attending a National Governors Association meeting.

Knowles asked Interior Secretary Gale Norton on Monday to support an Alaska Highway natural gas line, to help launch oil drilling on the Arctic coastal plain and ensure the trans-Alaska oil pipeline is reauthorized.

Knowles met with the former Colorado attorney general for about a half-hour. The governor, a Democrat, said he kept his talking list intentionally short.

''You never want to go in with more than three subjects if you want them to listen,'' Knowles said, joking, at a news conference after the meeting.

Norton was familiar with the Alaska issues and recognizes the important role the Interior Department will play in each, Knowles said.

The routing of a natural gas line and opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge have been much-discussed and controversial subjects in recent years, but reauthorization of the pipeline right of way has not received much public debate.

Knowles said he put it on his list because Alaska must make sure that nothing becomes an impediment. The governor said he would like the reauthorization to be done administratively rather than by Congress.

The breadth of the federal review is a matter of some concern. Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, said in November he was unhappy with a 1999 decision by the Bureau of Land Management, an Interior Department agency, to require an Environmental Impact Statement before reauthorizing the right of way.

That could require several years to complete, Murkowski said.

Regarding the gas line, Knowles asked Norton that the Bush administration make some sort of declaration that the Alaska Highway route would be in the national interest. He also asked that the Interior Department be declared the lead agency on permitting.

Knowles and a number of other governors had dinner Sunday with President Bush and a follow-up meeting with him Monday morning. Knowles said Bush brought up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in his remarks.

''He was very positive about the issues and (was) looking forward to the debate,'' the governor said.

Knowles was successful in getting the National Governors Association to pass a resolution supporting a gas pipeline route down the Alaska Highway to central Alberta before its meeting adjourned Tuesday.

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