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Finance Committee receives positive public testimony on natural gas trucking plan

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Posted: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 1:00 pm | Updated: 1:35 pm, Thu Mar 28, 2013.

JUNEAU — After hearing wave after wave of positive public testimony, the Alaska Legislature has got the message that Fairbanks likes natural gas trucking.

The House Finance Committee, on Monday, closed out public testimony on legislation that would enable the state to put millions behind a project to bring North Slope natural gas and propane to Fairbanks and rural Alaska.

The House Finance Committee is the last to see Senate Bill 23 before it heads to the floor for a vote. The legislation passed the Senate with unanimous support.

The previous committee to hear the bill, the House Labor and Commerce Committee, had been flooded with testimony from Fairbanks after its chairman had complained about the lack of apparent support for the project when no one phoned in during the first public hearing.

More than 30 people called in to that committee, and the members of the House Finance Committee had been paying attention.

After hearing from the dozen who lined up to testify on Monday, committee co-chairman Rep. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, said the Legislature had “heard fairly, decisively and

convincingly from the Interior and a lot of Anchorage people as well.”

Stoltze joked about the unanimous positive support for the bill.

“Does anyone want to rain on this parade?” he said before he closed the public hearing. “We haven’t had any negative testimony.”  

Many of the committee members, including Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, said they saw widespread support for the measure among the members of the House.

“I think there’s overwhelming support for this among the committee,” he said.

That doesn’t mean the committee will give Senate Bill 23 — and its $355 million of bonds, low-interest loans, tax credits and cash grants — a rubber stamp before the Legislature gavels out on April 14.  

Stoltze said the committee will hold a more “substantive” hearing on the bill on Wednesday. Part of that discussion will include a more detailed overview of what the project means for rural Alaska.

Many of the people who called into testify asked for the committee to pass it out as soon as possible, but Stoltze often reaffirmed that “the goal is to pass it before April 14.”

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

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