Alaska Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Ted Stevens Wednesday introduced legislation that seeks to speed up the permitting and construction of a natural gas pipeline from Alaska's North Slope to the Lower 48 states.

The measure gives the Office of the Federal Pipeline Coordinator more flexibility in hiring personnel, allows the federal coordinator to establish reasonable filing and service fees, and clarifies the intent of a 2004 law (the Natural Gas Pipeline Act) with respect to legal challenges to the Alaska gas pipeline.

In the 2004 law, Congress provided tax credits and loan guarantees to spur the construction of an Alaska gas pipeline, created the Office of Federal Pipeline Coordinator to oversee the 15 federal agencies that will play a role in the construction and financing of a pipeline system, and established a streamlined permitting and expedited court review process to limit unnecessary delays in the project.

The Murkowski-Stevens legislation, which would augment the 2004 law, "will make certain that the federal government continues to be ready to work with potential contractors and the state of Alaska through the permitting process needed to construct a gasline," Murkowski said. "The project is too important for our nation's energy security and Alaska's economy to be delayed any further," she noted.

"In order to get Alaska's gas to market in time to compete with foreign LNG, we must ensure the federal review process is not overburdened or unnecessarily prolonged. A fully functioning office for our federal pipeline coordinator is essential to achieving this goal," Stevens said.

Specifically, the bill would:

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