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Tribal nations sign pact to protect gas pipeline interests

Posted: Wednesday, March 27, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Thirty-five tribal nations from the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, British Columbia and Alaska have signed a protocol to look out for each other's interests if a natural gas pipeline is built.

One plan being backed by Alaska leaders, as well as members of the Senate, calls for building a gas pipeline from Alaska into Canada along the Alaska-Canada Highway.

Thirteen Alaska tribes, whose villages are along the trans-Alaska pipeline, joined forces with the Canadian tribes in signing the pact last week at the First Nations Oil and Gas Summit in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory.

The tribes want federal, state and provincial governments and energy companies to consult with them prior to construction of a pipeline.

Natural gas producers in Alaska are looking at two routes to move natural gas from Prudhoe Bay to the Lower 48. The other would go under the Beaufort Sea to the Northwest Territories and then down through that territory to connecting pipelines in Alberta.

Work in Washington on the proposed pipeline is proceeding. The Senate recently approved an amendment, proposed by Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, mandating the southern highway route.

Murkowski has said when the Senate returns April 8 from its spring break, he will resume efforts to create financial benefits to improve the economic feasibility of a pipeline. One idea is to create some sort of tax credit for gas producers if prices fall below a certain level.

John Browne, BP's chief executive, has said the estimated $15 billion to $20 billion cost of building a pipeline puts it out of reach financially.

BP, Phillips and Exxon Mobil -- owners of most of the Slope's proven gas reserves of 35 trillion cubic feet -- have finished a $125 million feasibility study. So far, they've determined the project would not be profitable.



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