Juneau, Alaska -- House Democrats say they are hopeful that a large-diameter natural gas pipeline is not just a pipe dream anymore and that real progress can be made this legislative session on the major project.
The leaders of the minority caucus met with reporters on Tuesday morning to talk about what they see as significant issues in the 90-day session that began Tuesday with formal ceremonies in the House followed by a similar event in the Senate.
The gas line that is being developed under the controversial Alaska Gasline Inducement Act (AGIA), envisions a 48-inch diameter pipeline from the North Slope into Canada or Valdez, depending on where potential customers would rather ship. A "Y line" would take the main gas line into Canada with a spur into Valdez. The Legislature chose a joint venture of Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp. as the state's preferred project, and agreed to subsidize the effort with up to $500 million for pre-construction studies and engineering work. A second project is being pushed by a partnership between BP and ConocoPhillips and is moving ahead without state assistance.
"I think we will make a big mistake if we don't do everything possible to commercialize North Slope gas," Rep. Les Gara, a Democrat from Anchorage, told reporters. "I hope we make real progress on the gas line instead of sniping over which project we want."
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