Gas group submits suggestions for launching gas pipeline

Posted: Sunday, December 02, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A state task force has come up with 61 suggestions on how to advance the construction of a multibillion-dollar North Slope natural gas pipeline to the Lower 48 that would pass through the state and along the Alaska Highway.

The Alaska Highway Natural Gas Policy Council released the report Friday.

The report is the state's latest nod to oil and gas companies that it will support only the Alaska Highway route.

The companies also are considering a route that would transverse the Arctic through the Beaufort Sea to Canada's gas-rich Mackenzie Delta. Alaska leaders oppose that path, saying the southern route offers more construction jobs for Alaskans and the chance to tap the gas for the state's communities.

Among the findings from the council Gov. Tony Knowles formed to advise him: the state government should avoid becoming an owner of a gas line unless there's no other way to maximize economic benefits.

Other key suggestions are to give government agencies enough money to speed up the permit process and give Alaska a role in reviewing fees charged to move gas to Alaska communities.

Knowles presented the report Friday at the Resource Development Council's annual conference in Anchorage.

''At 30,000 jobs a year . . . this is the kind of project that could help put America back on the growth curve,'' Knowles told an audience packed with people who make a living off natural resources.

A $15 billion to $20 billion North Slope natural gas pipeline is far from a sure thing. The project faces hurdles over which Knowles has little control.

Gas producers have yet to commit to the project, let alone choose a route.

BP, Exxon Mobil and Phillips own most of the North Slope's proven gas reserves of 35 trillion cubic feet. They have said it could be cheaper to build a gas line east into the Canadian Arctic than along the coveted Alaska Highway route.

More important, the companies' preliminary analysis shows that neither route would give them enough profits.

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