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Heed governor: Natural gas plan needs to offer hope to villages

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Posted: Friday, November 2, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 4:16 pm, Fri Jan 25, 2013.

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner editorial

As local business and civic leaders work to produce the best possible natural gas delivery plan for Fairbanks, they also should keep the needs of rural Alaska high in their minds.

Gov. Sean Parnell, who pledged to work with Fairbanks during a visit last month, emphasized that whatever aid state government might lend to the gas trucking effort also must offer potential benefits to other regions of the state. Specifically, he said, it must create opportunities for rural Alaska to benefit.

That’s a common-sense call on his part and one we should all heed.

While Fairbanks residents justifiably are focused first upon the costs we incur to heat our homes and businesses, those costs are sometimes just a fraction of what people in rural areas pay.

So when we seek assistance from the state’s coffers, how do our claims appear any more compelling than those made by rural villages? To put it bluntly, they don’t.

Yes, rural areas receive power cost assistance from the state. That helps with electricity costs in most villages, but it does little for heating costs. Those are primarily what Fairbanks seeks to address when it looks to the Legislature for help. That’s where rural Alaska could use some help, too.

While in Fairbanks, Parnell suggested a solution that already has received considerable attention. He noted that a North Slope gas processing plant under consideration for state assistance has the potential to generate propane in addition to liquefied natural gas.

Propane remains liquid at relatively low pressure and thus is portable and practical for distribution to villages, particularly those along the Interior’s rivers.

Fairbanks’ heating costs are awfully high, but we are by no means the hardest-hit community in the state. We need to keep that in mind and make room for other communities to share in any state-assisted solution.

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