The Speaker believes the smaller in-state line has the best chance of success, because a large diameter line may not be politically possible, due to size limits imposed by the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, or AGIA.
The legislation, which gave TransCanada a license to build a pipeline to the Lower 48, also has an option for a stand-alone gas line but restricted its capacity to 500 Mcf, which is only enough gas to supply Anchorage and Fairbanks, with a small amount left over for industrial development and export.
Parnell says he hopes to use the AGIA framework to develop a large capacity in-state line, but gas producers and TransCanada would have to agree on raising the threshold for the amount of gas that can be shipped.
Chenault says, if the governor comes forward with a project that aligns the producers with an in-state line, he said he would get behind it.
“If all of these corporations come together and form a project, I don’t care what that project looks like,” said Chenault. “I’m interested in getting gas to Alaskans.”
But Chenault believes the small capacity line, known as the “Alaska Stand-Alone Pipeline,” or ASAP, is more likely to happen.
“I think it may be the only proposal at the end of the day that comes forward,” said Chenault.
Rep. Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage, says the ASAP project is also more necessary.
“We have an absolute need to take care of the citizens of this state, the Interior, South Central,” said Hawker. “This is about the security of our homes, our families and our communities.”
House leaders also singled out Fairbanks, a community that hasn’t had the benefits of natural gas from Cook Inlet but is dependent on diesel fuel for electricity and home heating.
“You had those two together, and it’s becoming more than peoples’ mortgages are, said Rep. Tammy Wilson, R-North Pole. “It’s getting to a point to where, ‘How high can it go before I just can’t live there anymore and have to move to some other area?’”
“If Anchorage was paying the cost that Fairbanks pays today, we would have had a gas line ten years ago,” said Chenault.
Rep. Bob Herron, D-Bethel, says the ASAP project would also benefit communities outside the rail belt.
“There’s a potential for using that gas for a major mineral extraction,” said Herron, referring to the Donlin Gold mine project in the Upper Kuskokwim region. “There’s gas that could generate low-priced propane that could be shipped down the Yukon.”
Herron believes the ASAP project also needs to stay on track, to keep the pressure on producers to develop Alaska’s gas.
“It’s just jabbing the other plans in the ribs and saying, ‘Come on. You can do something,” said Herron.
Anchorage Sen. Lesil McGuire agrees. The Republican lawmaker believes competition will result in a merging of the projects.
“Really, in the end, the goal is to get the best, biggest line for Alaskans – and the best deal with the lowest tariff for Alaskans we can,” said McGuire. But she also warns that the window for export to an Asian market is closing quickly.
Governor Sean Parnell’s press secretary, Sharon Leighow, says Parnell is not opposed to the house leadership’s plans to pursue the smaller gas line.
“The governor is open to all options that will lead to commercialization of Alaska’s gas, gas that will supply Alaska and points beyond,” said Leighow.
The House Speaker says he plans on introducing legislation that will expand the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation’s authority. The legislature created AGDC to expedite the in-state line.
Four other bills have been introduced that pertain to design and development of the pipeline, financing, project management and right-of-way issues.