What have been seen as uncoordinated — or at times even competing — efforts to move an in-state gas pipeline project forward were centralized April 26 when Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell signed House Bill 369.
HB 369, sponsored by House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, creates the Joint In-State Gasline Development Team and puts Dan Fauske, the chief executive officer and executive director of the Alaska Housing Finance Corp., in charge of that team. The effort will be housed at AHFC and run as an AHFC subsidiary.
The purpose of the team is to develop an in-state natural gas pipeline plan, to be delivered to the Legislature by July 1, 2011, providing for a natural gas pipeline that is operational by Dec. 31, 2015.
While a spur line from a main line taking North Slope natural gas to markets outside the state is generally accepted as the most economical way to provide gas for in-state use, there is concern that a main line may be delayed, and in any event that it might not be operational before Cook Inlet is faced with a natural gas shortage. The Fairbanks area is served primarily by diesel fuel, although some natural gas is available, trucked from Southcentral as liquefied natural gas. A plan is under way to supply LNG to Fairbanks by truck from the North Slope.
Alternative leadershipA Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, would have put the Alaska Railroad Corp.’s President and Chief Executive Officer Pat Gamble in charge of the project, but that effort faltered when Gamble was named to head the University of Alaska, leaving the railroad in search of a new chief executive.
The effort then became collaborative and McGuire said in an April 26 statement, “We each had to make compromises but the final version of the bill is something that we can both be proud of.”
Chenault said it was “a good day for Alaska — a good step forward” when the governor signed the bill and said in a statement that HB 369 provides an opportunity for job creation and energy security in the Railbelt and in other regions of the state.
“With Dan Fauske as the head of JIGDT, we think we put together a solid organization with all the key components to move an in-state gas line forward,” Chenault said.
Parnell called it “a significant step toward bringing Alaska’s gas to Alaskans and markets beyond.”
“Our existing in-state gas pipeline team has worked aggressively on identifying the costs and the regulatory challenges for the bullet line option that would supply natural gas to the Railbelt for in-state use.”
An effort begun by former Gov. Sarah Palin has been housed in the governor’s office. The in-state gas pipeline coordinator remains in the governor’s office.
The team, in addition to AHFC’s Fauske, includes Bob Swenson, the in-state gas coordinator; John Binkley, the chairman of the board of the Alaska Railroad; Harold Heinze, the CEO of the Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority; and the commissioner of the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities or a designee.