The Alaska State Senate approved, by a unanimous margin, a bill that would transport natural gas from the North Slope to Fairbanks.
"This bill finally cracks the egg on North Slope gas,” said Senator Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks). “It gets gas to where people need it, it doesn't have a pipeline to do it, but it accomplishes the objective to do it."
The project is estimated to be up and running by mid-to-late 2015 and is expected to reduce the cost of heating in the Fairbanks area by about 40-percent for those who convert from fuel oil to natural gas. Kelly says some areas of the interior may see natural gas even before 2015.
"You're creating a market because you're putting a distribution system in," adds Kelly. “When the pipeline gets built you're going to have an immediate customer base, that wouldn't be there otherwise."
The project is funded through Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority bonds, general funds, and credits passed by the legislature last year.
Democrat Hollis French voted for the bill, but is worried about the lack of oversight the legislature will have on the project.
"What you saw today was really the last time we will vote on this project, and that's of a concern," said French. “We're concerned that they [AIDEA] make the right decisions down the road, and know that they have to pull the plug on this if it's not going to work."
Senate Bill 23 now heads to the House, where a companion bill has been pending for several weeks.
"I appreciate the Senate's work to jump start this project and provide energy relief for Alaskans by developing Alaska’s gas," Governor Sean Parnell said in a statement Wednesday.
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