FERC Chairman Joseph Kelliher Monday said he backed Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's new proposal to bring about the construction of the long-awaited natural gas pipeline from the North Slope to the Lower 48 states.

Kelliher expressed his support after meeting with Palin in Washington, DC. "We talked about her efforts on the Alaska natural gas pipeline, which I believe represent the best hope for building a pipeline to bring Alaska's vast natural gas resources to the energy-consuming lower 48 states," he said in a statement.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission "looks forward to her efforts on the Alaska gas line being successful and we stand ready to help to the extent we can," Kelliher noted.

Kelliher's favorable remarks come less than a month after the agency sent a report to Congress in which it concluded that the "prospects of an application [for the project] are more remote than a year ago."

In a speech to the Alaska legislature last Thursday, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) urged state legislators to act promptly on legislation that would clear the way for construction of an Alaska gas pipeline (see Daily GPI, Feb. 26). "I firmly believe that Alaska's window of opportunity is closing and action on a gas pipeline is needed now," she said. "If the promise of Alaska's gas continues to remain in limbo, investors will look elsewhere for development opportunities, and consumers will look to other supply sources."

Palin is visiting Washington to convince Congress and regulators of her administration's resolve to move ahead with the natural gas pipeline. She is expected to unveil shortly her gas pipeline bill, which will offer incentives to companies to build a gas line.

The Alaska pipeline project has suffered several setbacks during the past year. Probably the biggest came when the Alaska legislature failed to approve a draft contract that was negotiated between Alaska and North Slope producers ExxonMobil, BP and ConocoPhillips. Approval of the draft contract would have resolved key issues that are holding up producers' plans for an Alaska gas pipeline project.

The producer-sponsored Alaska pipeline project, which is considered the front-runner project, would add roughly 1,800 miles of pipe to already existing infrastructure for delivery of North Slope natural gas to markets in the Midwest and West. The overall length of the system, including the already constructed segments, would be about 3,500 miles and would flow about 4.5 Bcf/d. Two other Alaska gas projects have been proposed as well -- the Alaska Natural Gas Transportation System and the Trans-Alaska Gas System, an LNG export project.

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