The federal coordinator for the Alaska natural gas pipeline project predicted Monday that Gov. Sarah Palin will have a gasline bill on her desk by the end of the state legislative session and likely will issue a request for proposal in July.

Drue Pearce, who was the luncheon speaker at the Pipeline & Gas Journal magazine's Pipeline Opportunities Conference in Houston, said she is optimistic that an acceptable version of Palin's Alaska Gasline Inducement Act (AGIA) will pass the state legislature during its regular session this spring.

The Alaska legislature is holding hearings this month and into April on the AGIA, which was introduced by Palin earlier this month (see Daily GPI, March 5).

"The bill will pass in the regular session or it will be helped with a special session," said Pearce. "The legislature is eager to have progress on a pipeline. The people of Alaska want a pipeline to happen."

She said the "state is going to push for an open season as quickly as possible." Then, she said, it will be up to the producers to "step forward" and decide whether they also want a pipeline.

A native Alaskan, Pearce was named the first federal coordinator for Alaska Natural Gas Transportation Projects last year, and in the post she reports directly to President Bush. She is the liaison for the integrating activities of 18 federal agencies, Congress, Alaska officials and Canadian neighbors with respect to the permitting and construction of the long-proposed pipeline that would bring North Slope gas to the Lower 48 states.

"Trying to create a bureaucracy is more difficult that I expected," she admitted to the audience. She estimated that the pipeline, once it is approved, will require "10,000 different permits of different sorts to make the project work. It's creating its own weather."

Because an Alaska gasline has been on the drawing board for at least 30 years, Pearce said she is able to tap what has worked and what hasn't worked in the past as the latest endeavor moves forward. She now is preparing to work on a gap analysis with Canadian officials, and she also is readying a memorandum of understanding with Alaskan officials on who will be responsible for what and for how long.

"We've probably never been more ready on the federal side," Pearce said.

However, she said there is a mindset about the pipeline among those who have and haven't been involved in the process. And, she said, it is a mindset that needs to change.

"This is a national project," she said. "This is not just an Alaskan project...Collectively, we need to understand the importance of the gas to the nation.

"We need to think about this not as an Alaskan pipe, but as a national pipe," she said. "This is an opportunity for all of the industry, and we need this gas for our national security...This is important not just to Alaska, but to each and every one of you."

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