While the fate of the Alaska pipeline project remains far from certain and any federal application for its construction could be years away, the federal government is wasting no time preparing for the application process. The Department of Energy (DOE) said Thursday that it has joined 14 other federal departments and agencies in signing an agreement to expedite the permitting and construction of the project.

“We need to do all we can to increase our domestic supply of energy, including natural gas, and the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline will help us do that,” noted Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman. “Alaska’s North Slope is a valuable natural resource that has tremendous potential to provide a significant portion of our nation’s natural gas needs to help heat homes, and build industry.”

The agreement establishes a project management framework for cooperation among participating agencies to reduce bureaucratic delays that would retard construction of the pipeline, DOE said. It is designed to provide a streamlined regulatory and environmental review processes.

The agreement was signed by the departments of Energy, Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, Council on Environmental Quality, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Inspector for Alaska Natural Gas Transportation Projects, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline Act, enacted on Oct. 13, 2004, established the requirement for an expedited federal review. President Bush nominated former Alaska State Senator Drue Pearce as federal coordinator for the project. Until her confirmation, the position’s temporary authority is vested in Bodman.

Meanwhile, Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski has called a second special session of the state Legislature to begin on July 12 to consider a new oil and gas tax structure, amendments to the Stranded Gas Act, and the gas pipeline contract. If the gas transportation contract and related legislation are passed by the Alaska Legislature, the state will join with ExxonMobil, BP and ConocoPhillips to form a corporate entity that will build the 4 Bcf/d pipeline.

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