FAIRBANKS — A visit from Gov. Sean Parnell has local leaders optimistic about the future of bringing low-cost natural gas to the Interior’s homes and businesses.
Parnell wrapped up two full days of meetings with local utilities, mayors and other community leaders on Tuesday as part of an effort to determine where state money and resources could be best used to develop North Slope’s gas for in-state use.
“I’m really pressing the companies to tell me — with the state’s participation in some form — what’s your plan to build it out as soon as possible and as low a price as possible,” he said. “I’m trying to find the optimum commercial structure and timeline that provides the lowest cost to most Fairbanks-area consumers as soon as possible.”
Parnell sat down with representatives from Golden Valley Electric Association, Fairbanks Natural Gas and Flint Hills Resources, each of whom are exploring natural gas trucking projects. He also met with the three local mayors, the Fairbanks Economic Development Corp. and members of the informal organization that has recently dubbed itself the Lowell Group.
Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins said he was particularly pleased to see the governor take into consideration the system as a whole, from the resources needed to process, transport, distribute and use the fuel.
“I think that he’s looking at the whole picture, which is the most important to us,” he said. “The distribution part has to be happening as quickly as possible.”
Parnell also said that any major project on the North Slope that benefits from state funding will need to be developed to best serve not just the Fairbanks area but also communities in the rest of rural northern Alaska, both on the road system and on the rivers.
“I really think that Fairbanks, and taking care of the needs in Fairbanks, can drive a larger-picture Alaska solution for lower-cost energy,” he said.
He said ensuring long-term access to a North Slope processing plant to benefit all Alaskans will play a key role in how the state is involved.
The Alaska Energy Authority recently completed an analysis showing low-cost financing from the state would provide the lowest price for consumers, Parnell said.
The next step, Parnell said, will be to take the information collected in his meetings back to the state agencies to review.
Parnell said he likely will be coming forward with a handful of plans for the local stakeholders to consider.
“The Alaska Energy Authority and I are doing the due diligence on the state’s participation,” he said. “Where we’re being asked to participate, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars in some cases, we have to make sure that it’s in Alaskans’ interests both here in Fairbanks and beyond.”
Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544 or follow him on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.