Task force to discuss pipeline

Posted: Thursday, August 16, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A task force is meeting in Fairbanks to consider issues surrounding the building of a proposed natural gas pipeline from the North Slope.

State lawmakers over the two days of hearings will discuss a variety of topics, including recent political maneuvering by Canadians who favor a pipeline route that would bypass Interior Alaska.

The hearings are being held in the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly chambers. The legislative committee includes Fairbanks lawmakers Hugh Fate, John Davies, and Pete Kelly.

Lawmakers on Wednesday were to hear from representatives of the major companies that hold natural gas leases on the North Slope. Those oil and gas companies are in the midst of a study of whether the line should be built and what route they favor.

U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens might also address the legislators, said Sen. John Torgerson, a Kasilof Republican who chairs the Joint Legislative Committee on Natural Gas Pipelines. The hearings began Tuesday. The Alaska Department of Revenue told the panel that a report of whether the state should consider an ownership role in the proposed gas pipeline is in its early stages.

Revenue Commissioner Wilson Condon said his department has contracted with private consulting firms for the study of pipeline ownership and financing. The report is to be submitted to the Legislature by Jan. 31.

In a Tuesday luncheon speech to the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce, Torgerson said some legislators are attracted to the idea of the state taking at least some ownership of the proposed line. Having an ownership seat at the table for a natural gas pipeline could afford the state additional influence on route decisions and on local hire issues, he said. However, others believe state government already is too dependent on oil and gas revenue and should focus elsewhere for economic development, he said.

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