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Begich Encouraged by U.S./Canadian Discussion of Gas Line


U.S. Sen. Mark Begich today praised talks between the U.S. and Canadian governments aimed at advancing construction of an Alaska natural gas pipeline project. Energy experts from both nations met in Ottawa today to review world natural gas prices, regulatory processes by both countries affecting gasline construction and ways to push for construction of what would be North America's largest private construction project.

"It's good news for Alaska that the federal governments in both nations with jurisdiction over the Alaska natural gas pipeline are talking about ways to kick-start the project," Begich said. "With natural gas prices rising and American and Canadian economies suffering high rates of unemployment, there's no better time to start construction of Alaska's gasline project."

The gasline talks were held during an annual Energy Consultative Mechanism in which energy and trade experts from the U.S. and Canada explore mutual issues.

In September, Begich wrote President Obama urging him to put the Alaska gasline project on the agenda for bilateral talks he was having with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. In response to Begich's letter, State Department Assistant Secretary Richard Verma wrote Begich and told him the issue would be explored during this week's meeting in Canada's capital.

"We share your interest regarding the exploration and production of Alaskan natural gas and the linkage of Alaskan gas with the North American market," Verma wrote. "With respect to facilitating construction and operation of the pipeline project, the State Department stands ready to engage the Government of Canada in a joint review of our bilateral treaties affecting pipeline construction, and to work with them in facilitating the expeditious processing of all requisite Canadian permits."

In his letter to the President, Begich said the Alaska gas pipeline project "is the single project which can have the greatest positive economic impact on both countries at a time when the U.S. and Canadian economies sorely need it." Begich noted that the 1,700-2,000-mile pipeline would deliver enough natural gas to supply about 7 percent of America's annual consumption of natural gas.

In addition to the economic benefits to both countries, Begich said the project "also makes a significant statement about our nation's willingness to decrease its production of greenhouse gases while reducing our reliance on foreign sources of energy."

Begich is working closely with the Obama administration on a new federal coordinator for the gasline project and other ways to advance the project.
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