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Governor expresses reservations about gas pipeline bill

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Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013 12:00 am

JUNEAU — Gov. Sean Parnell said he can’t currently support legislation that would enable a state agency to move forward with the development of an in-state natural gas pipeline.

Speaking to the media Wednesday, Parnell said he has several concerns with House Bill 4, which he believes won’t provide project accountability to the state and Alaskans. He said he supports the goal of the bill — building a pipeline to deliver gas to Alaskans — and would support it with amendments.

“I cannot support and would not support the original bill as filed,” he said. “Those concerns centered around requiring Alaska Gasline Development Corporation accountability for the people’s money. ... The original bill gave AGDC limitless authority to issue moral obligation debt, and I don’t think that’s appropriate.

“I told them I wanted to see AGDC accountability for cost of service to consumers.”

House Bill 4 is sponsored by Reps. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, and Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage. The bill is designed to give the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. more freedom and power to pursue development of the Alaska Standalone Gas Pipeline, a small-diameter line designed to bring North Slope gas to Fairbanks and Cook Inlet.

Chenault said both his office and Hawker’s office are in talks with Parnell to address the concerns.

“We’re working to alleviate or eliminate those concerns and we believe at the end of the day, we’ll have a project that the governor and the Legislature will be comfortable with,” he said.

Parnell’s concerns of maintaining project accountability surfaced last year, when a similar bill was moving through the Legislature. House Democrats voiced worries before the bill died in the Senate.

The House Resources Committee has held two hearings on the bill so far and several questions have surfaced from AGDC’s ability to bond for the project to how it absorbs a gutted version of the voter-created Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority.

House Resource Committee member Rep. Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, said not a whole lot has changed from last year.

“The same concerns are still there from last year; the only difference is that they rounded the edges a little bit,” he said. “We’re giving all these powers away to a corporation that lets that five-member board decide what’s the best for Alaska.”

Tuck said he believes the small pipeline, which is expected to deliver gas at a price higher than Anchorage currently pays, should only be considered as a last resort if larger projects, like the large-diameter privately backed pipeline or the Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Dam, fall through.

“It’s going to take real leadership not to rush things,” he said. “We heard the speaker say we need to make a decision. No. We need to make a proper decision.”

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

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