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New-look Legislature to prioritize energy projects

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Posted: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 11:31 pm | Updated: 12:08 pm, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — After sweeping victories for Fairbanks Republicans in the November elections, the upcoming Legislature will look quite a bit different.

Along with new leadership in the Senate comes a new set of committees that could shine a spotlight on Alaska’s energy woes.

The Senate will create an In-state Energy Committee, which will be chaired by Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, and Sen.-elect Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks.

Coghill said the new committee is intended to help prioritize a slew of competing energy projects throughout the state.

“We’re going to try to put together an in-state priority plan. Obviously there’s a great need, but we’re going to try to put them in some sort of context,” he said. “There’s the gas trucking plan, there’s the pipelines, there’s hydro opportunities, we’ve got on the road system, we’ve got rural areas and we’ve got remote areas.”

The committee doesn’t necessarily ensure a legislative answer to Fairbanks’ ongoing energy woes, but Coghill said the committee will help weigh where exactly Fairbanks stands in the grand scheme of the state’s energy issues and provide more movement than previous sessions.

When asked if the committee could potentially delay critical legislation by creating extra steps for bills that would still need to make stops in the Resources and Finance Committees, Coghill said it will be important for the Senate to stay on task.

“That’s a fear, and we talked about that,” he said. “If you’re going to go to the regular committee for Resources and to Finance, things are going to have to go fairly rapidly.”

But he said the extra step will provide an opportunity for more people from throughout Alaska to sound off on potential projects and the priorities set by the Legislature.

“At least that way we’ll include a broader range of people into the discussion, so a lot of it depends if we can keep ourselves disciplined,” he said.

Another new Senate committee will focus on declining pipeline throughput.

Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544 or follow him on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.

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