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Kenai lawmaker says Interior gas trucking plan lacks public support

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Posted: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 12:05 am | Updated: 1:39 pm, Wed Mar 13, 2013.

JUNEAU — Legislation backing Fairbanks’ natural gas trucking project is making progress in the Legislature — it’s on the Senate floor today and a House committee approved adding it to the budget Tuesday.

However, a key committee chairman isn’t convinced there’s enough support to write a $355 million check to truck North Slope gas to the Interior.

Rep. Kurt Olson, R-Soldotna and chairman of the House Labor and Commerce Committee, chided the public for not speaking in support of House Bill 74, which lets the state back the trucking project, and said it won’t be leaving his committee without hearing public testimony.

“We’re not going to have $350 (million) to $500 million leave this room without an adequate amount of public testimony,” he said before gaveling out of a testimony-free 20-minute meeting Monday. “We’ve been led to believe there was some interest in Fairbanks for it. I don’t see anybody. ... Until we have adequate public testimony on both sides hopefully or at least on the side that wants it, I don’t see the money leaving the room.”

Committees in the Senate have held lengthy public hearings on the bill already and could vote on passing the bill today.

Olson’s committee has scheduled two more meetings to review HB 74 this week, one today and one Friday. Both meetings are scheduled for 3:15 p.m.

The online schedule for each of the three meetings doesn’t explicitly say the committee would be taking public testimony, as most meetings typically do.

However, a handful of Fairbanks groups have sent out messages urging testimony at the upcoming meetings.

“The chairman, Rep. Olson, has positively asked for public comment from the community and it is critical he receive it — strong statements regarding the need for lower-cost, clean burning natural gas in our community and strong statements of support for HB 74,” an email sent out by the Fairbanks Economic Development Corp. reads.

Interested Fairbanksans can phone in from the Fairbanks Legislative Information Office, which is located at the third floor of the Alaska USA building at 1292 Sadler Way.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly has a resolution urging the Legislature to support the trucking plan on its Thursday night meeting agenda.

Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, said Senate approval of the legislation is certain.

“It’ll pass,” she said.

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

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