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Yukon Government to Lobby Alaska Pipeline

March 13, 2000
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Yukon Government to Lobby Alaska Pipeline

Foothills Pipe Lines Ltd. has recruited an early ally for its effort to revive the dormant Alaska Natural Gas Transportation System --- the government of Canada's Yukon Territory.

In Whitehorse, the Yukon capital, Economic Development Minister Trevor Harding announced a pipeline unit has been added to his department and is taking the initiative in starting discussions on reviving ANGTS.

The decision made it plain that the Yukon sides with Foothills in emerging competition to advance an Arctic gas transportation megaproject. The step followed two weeks of meetings between Yukon representatives and Foothills executives.

Harding said "our goal is to secure the Alaska Highway route." Foothills and its owners, TransCanada PipeLines and Westcoast Energy, continue to support the original ANGTS along the road through the Yukon.

Also in contention to deliver northern gas is a newer group called Arctic Resources (Alaska). Backed by Houston-based Municipal Energy Resources Corp., Arctic proposes a Y-shaped alternative to ANGTS with an underwater connection between the Mackenzie Delta and Prudhoe Bay, then a route south via the Mackenzie Valley. The rival to ANGTS is understood to be generating considerable support in the Northwest Territories, although its leaders have yet to take sides as plainly as the Yukon government.

The rivalry has been set off by growing belief in forecasts that the "lower-48" United States market will expand to 30 Tcf per year, generating strong prices for a decade or more. The projections have also set off an exploration revival in the Northwest Territories by a long lineup of producers ranging from Chevron Canada Resources to Alberta Energy Co., as well as a study revisiting the economics of tapping about 13 Tcf of reserves held in the Mackenzie Delta-Beaufort Sea region by Shell Canada, Gulf Canada and Imperial Oil. The exploration revival has begun going beyond acquisitions of drilling leases into field activity, with Schlumberger seismic-survey crews now being dispatched into Arctic terrain.

In Whitehorse, Harding said the Yukon government is also establishing a pipeline advisory committee. The economic development minister reported that while his department's new pipeline unit has begun work, invitations to join the committee have been sent to representatives of environmental, business, local government and labor organizations. An olive branch has also been extended to native leaders, for "government-to-government" discussions, accepting aboriginal insistence that their communities are self-governing equals of territorial authorities.

Gordon Jaremko, Calgary

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