Governor Palin Works Toward Getting In-State Gas Line Built

As if a 1,715 mile natural gas pipeline stretching across Alaska and Canada wasn’t enough, Governor Palin recently submitted two pieces of legislation to the Alaska House and Senate rules committees in an attempt to spur in-state gas line construction in the next five years.

Governor Palin in an official press release on February 27, 2009 commented:

“Alaskans have been excited about the progress made toward our big gas line, which will secure our fiscal future as we take this abundant resource to Lower 48 markets,” Governor Palin said. “But we know that we cannot wait for that project to come to fruition before addressing our own heating and power-generating needs. My administration is committed to getting the ball rolling now on a pipeline strictly for Alaskans.”

The first piece of legislation expands the responsibilities of the Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority (ANGDA), a public corporation established by the State of Alaska to bring natural gas from the North Slope to market. The ANGDA has a mission statement that includes developing a pipeline to tidewater where it can be shipped to market (e.g., as liquified natural gas or LNG), as well as, delivering gas to Southcentral Alaska. It appears that the proposed legislation will broaden the scope to include the development of natural gas pipelines to include more communities than just Southcentral Alaska.

The second piece of legislation proposes changes to various State regulations to address and clarify issues in an attempt to speed the pipeline design and construction along.

The Alaska Journal of Commerce reported March 2, 2009:

The large pipeline project cannot be built until 2018 or 2020 but utilities in Southcentral Alaska are running short of gas because gas fields in the region are being depleted. Enstar Natural Gas Co., the regional gas utility, said it will be short of supplies beginning in 2011 and would like to get gas from the North Slope by 2015 at the latest.

Enstar is working on its own plan for a $4 billion, 20-inch pipeline to the North Slope that would move as much as 500 million cubic feet per day. Palin’s idea is for the state, through the gas authority, to aid Enstar’s effort or to do its own pipeline….

Petroleum News reported recently at the start of the 2009 Alaska Legislative session:

Throughout much of last year, high heating oil prices in Fairbanks and dwindling natural gas reserves in Anchorage created public outcry for a new in-state supply of natural gas.

Now, as state lawmakers reconvene in Juneau, the issue is suddenly a high priority item.

In the first three days of the new session, a Senate committee heard testimony from three groups hoping to build smaller gas pipelines, Gov. Sarah Palin pledged to get gas flowing in five years and a Fairbanks task force gave recommendations for meeting that deadline.

Another example of Governor Palin’s leadership on the in-state natural gas pipeline was reported in the Peninsula Clarion:

As recently as [the] summer [of 2008], Gov. Sarah Palin challenged ANGDA to find a way to supply the city of Fairbanks with Cook Inlet natural gas via a temporary high-density plastic pipeline that would run from Delta Junction into the city.

While there has been less talk of shipping natural gas north from the Cook Inlet fields (west of Anchorage) there has been much talk of tapping into existing natural gas reservoirs, such as those located on the North Slope or the newly discovered Gubik Field on the south-side of the Brooks Range. In addition to the obvious benefit of a natural gas pipeline or system of pipelines that can provide cheaper energy to communities in Alaska, the building of infrastructure stands to lower the cost of bringing other natural gas fields to market and may stimulate exploration and development.

In an Anchorage Daily News article from July 2008, Governor Palin summed things up by saying:

The goal is to provide affordable gas to Fairbanks and other parts of Alaska facing high energy costs, Palin said.

The pipeline would complement a much larger proposed pipeline to carry North Slope gas into Canada and the Midwest, the governor and [Enstar Natural Gas Co.] company spokesmen said.

The smaller line would be reversible — that is, capable of carrying gas south from the North Slope or north from Cook Inlet, where it’s possible drillers could find big new gas fields, they said.

More details of Governor Palin’s ambitious plan are to be made available March 3, 2009.

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