Chairman Frank Murkowski (R-AK) said recently the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee plans to begin tackling the issue of transporting Alaska’s North Slope natural gas to the Lower 48 market when Congress reconvenes in September.

He said the time is ripe for Congress to begin discussing an Alaska pipeline system based on the ever-increasing demand for natural gas by electric power generators, which he believes will keep gas prices high enough to justify the economics of construction.

At a hearing, tentatively scheduled for Sept. 14, the Senate panel will begin reviewing the economical, environmental and strategic and international aspects of some of the pending proposals for moving gas from Alaska to the Lower 48 market. “It’s time for Congress to examine the proposals and determine the federal role to expedite developing the projects,” Murkowski noted. Some of the pending proposals include:

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) already is on record favoring the pipeline project that would follow the “Alaska Highway,” saying the competing Prudhoe Bay-to-Mackenzie Delta project would deny Alaskans access to the state’s huge gas reserves.

Murkowski would not say which project he favors, but it appears that he, too, is leaning towards the “Alaska Highway” proposal. Specifically, he said he would oppose any pipe construction through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or offshore in the Beaufort Sea that would deny Alaska towns access to the 34.4 Tcf of proven gas reserves in the North Slope.

The hearing “will give all sides a chance to clarify where things stand and allow Congress a chance to look at the policy implications of Alaska gas finally reaching markets,” Murkowski said in a prepared statement. “Given the changes in the national and international supply and pricing situation since Congress last considered the Alaska gas issue in 1977-78, it is time to get this project underway.”

Susan Parker

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