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Peninsula officials meet with Dow Chemical

Posted: Friday, April 15, 2005

Kenai Peninsula Borough and state officials met with a delegation from Dow Chemical Co. on Thursday to have a "preliminary conversation" with the company about possibly starting operations on the Kenai Peninsula.

The meeting was held at the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska. It was not clear what type of operations the discussions were about.

Bill Popp, oil, gas and mining liaison for the borough, said in a telephone interview the meeting was not open to the public. He said he had no information he wanted to make public on what happened in the meeting. He said it was a preliminary conversation with the company and too soon to provide details.

Sen. Tom Wagoner, R-Kenai, and Rep. Kurt Olson, R-Soldotna, also attended the meeting along with a representative from the office of Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski. Representatives from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Oil and Gas also were present at the meeting, among others.

Dow is an international company that makes chemical, plastic and agricultural products for consumer markets. The company has annual sales around $40 billion and serves customers in 175 countries, according to Dow's Web site. A Dow spokesperson said she could not comment on the meeting.

This is not the first time Dow has paid a visit to the Kenai Peninsula.

The city of Kenai tried to attract a Dow chemical plant to the area in the 1980s, said John Williams, former Kenai mayor and candidate for borough mayor. But a chemical plant scared the public resulting in an outcry with people speaking against the proposed plant, he said. Williams said at the time, chemical plants had a bad reputation for how they handled the environment. People were afraid of the pollution, he said.

In the end, Dow walked away from the deal because of local sentiment and fear, he said.

Williams said these companies have since learned how to run safer plants.

"The chemical companies today have learned how to clean up their act," he said.

Today, a Dow plant would probably be more acceptable to the public, Williams said adding that is contingent on if the region could produce enough feedstock.

He said he suspected the company may be interested in the area because they want access to feedstock, such as natural gas, for their plants.

To solve projected natural gas shortages in the Cook Inlet basin, the Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority has been working on building a spur pipeline that could bring about 1 billion cubic feet of gas per day to the inlet basin, double the amount currently consumed in the inlet. ANGDA officials have said there needs to be industrial customers to purchase that gas to make the pipeline economically viable.

Known natural gas reserves in the region have started to dwindle. The U.S. Department of Energy has projected there could be natural gas shortages in the region as early as 2012.

The peninsula historically has had cheap and abundant supplies of natural gas. The abundant and cheap natural gas attracted value-added manufacturing to the peninsula, such as the fertilizer plant, now owned by Agrium, and the Liquefied Natural Gas plant, owned by ConocoPhillips and Marathon Oil Co.



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