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Democrats Move to Improve Small Gasline Proposal

Without fixes, bill could undercut development and lead to high gas prices for Alaskans

JUNEAU – Before voting on House Bill 9 (HB9) tonight, House Democrats offered a number of amendments to protect consumers, resource development incentives, and the state’s interests as the state moves forward on a small gasline from the North Slope.

“I am all for getting a gasline to get Alaska’s gas to market and to Alaskans. A small line should be our last option. With alternatives that bring cheaper energy to Alaskans moving forward, it’s premature to rush ahead with a bill that undercuts development and puts the state and consumers at risk.”

Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage) introduced an amendment that would require the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation to report to Alaskans on how its small gasline proposal compares to other available options for getting energy to Alaskans. Currently, estimates from tapping Cook Inlet gas or building a big gasline with off-takes for Alaskans would provide cheaper energy for Alaskans and would provide more incentive to develop North Slope and Cook Inlet oil and gas resources.

“Alaska has so many better options for getting gas to Alaskans. Cook Inlet is experiencing an exploration revival, and gas from Cook Inlet, or gas from the big prize, a big gasline, would be cheaper for Alaskans and bring more benefits to the state,” said Rep. Gara. “This amendment says ‘go forward, and once you spend $200 million, come back with a report to answer the question: is this still the best option for Alaska?’ before you spend any more of the people’s money.”

Representative David Guttenberg offered amendments to prioritize getting gas to Interior residents, to ensure the gas rates are fair to Interior residents, to encourage Alaska-preference in hiring.

“As it is, this bill would repeat many of the mistakes Alaskans have made in the past,” said Rep. David Guttenberg (D-Fairbanks). “We have an oil line right through the Interior and we still pay some of the highest energy prices in the nation, and without significant changes, this bill would let us watch a gasline go by without any real benefit to Fairbanks.”

Because all estimates of the cost of gas from this proposal are higher than what Alaskans are paying now or can expect to pay later through the status quo or new energy sources, Representative Pete Petersen offered an amendment to make sure Alaskans would not have to pay higher prices for gas from a small pipeline than they would otherwise.

“If we’re building this thing for Alaskans, we have to make sure it’s a good deal for Alaskans,” said Rep. Pete Petersen. “Right now, it’s not clear in this bill, and we need to make it clear that this bill won’t lead to higher energy prices for Alaskans.”

Overall, most House Democrats felt the bill gave away too much for a project with too many unanswered questions.

“We are making concessions too early. We need to maintain our bargaining strength until we know what is really needed to get cheap, reliable gas to Alaskans,” said Representative Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage) who offered amendments to help Alaskans get the jobs and contracts associated with the project.

Democrats offered other amendments to give Alaskans more oversight, to guarantee Alaskans have first access to the gas, to restore autonomy to the voter-created Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority, and to ensure the southern half of the route between Cook Inlet and Fairbanks is built first to get gas to Interior Alaska fastest.

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