Legislators, take a good look at plans

Posted: Friday, May 30, 2008

Twenty-five hundred pages.

We hope our state legislators are up for a good, long read. That's how many pages there are in the TransCanada proposal to build a natural gas pipeline for Alaska -- a proposal the Palin administration is actively pushing in appearances around the state.

Like the one for the joint Kenai-Soldotna chambers of commerce Tuesday at The Crossing in Soldotna.

The Department of Natural Resources attorney in charge of oil and gas leasing told the audience that despite a touted ConocoPhillips-BP pipeline proposal, TransCanada's plan is the only proposal that has met the requirements of Gov. Sarah Palin's Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, mostly known by AGIA.

Bruce Anders said the administration is "excited" about both proposals, however, "they've already told us some of the factors of AGIA would be (preferred) by (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission)," he said. "These are some of the same things the producers said they don't have in their project." TransCanada does, though.

ConocoPhillips and BP's coalition is called "Denali -- the Alaska Gas Pipeline." The companies have said they are doing field work this summer to build a pipeline to bring Alaska North Slope gas to market in the Lower 48, but the state says their project has failed to meet all the requirements of AGIA, Anders said.

FERC will only "certificate one project," he said, adding that among their preferences are rate-making methodologies and expansion provisions.

The state is touting other TransCanada benefits, too, such as a distance-sensitive rate, a 36-month open season -- during which supply contracts would be negotiated, the potential for a "Y" line to divert some gas to a tidewater port, a possible bullet line to Southcentral Alaska and five in-state takeoff points from the main pipeline.

"TransCanada ended up being the only company compliant for advancement to the next phase," Anders said. "TransCanada did merit the issuance of a license."

He said the state believes competition must be allowed for Alaska's vast natural gas resources on the North Slope, rather than have gas production be controlled "by just a handful of integrated oil companies."

"AGIA gets a pipeline built quickly; it opens the North Slope basin for long-term exploration and development; it's an open and competitive process; it mandates a low tariff; and it increases the predictability of production," he said.

That's a pretty heavy push from the state.

Lawmakers will have their hands full trying to sort out all the details when they meet for their special session on AGIA next week. On the other hand, that's exactly what we've elected them to do. And while it won't be an easy decision to make by any means, it's one we entrusted into their hands from the moment we stepped into the voting booth.

We think Alaskans would agree that in the end all we want is to get a pipeline built. Our advice to legislators is to keep it simple with one goal in mind: Do what's best for Alaska and get a pipeline built.

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