By Sean Parnell
Since becoming governor, my administration has relentlessly pursued natural gas for Fairbanks and other Interior communities. Transitioning away from high-cost diesel and heating oil to affordable natural gas and propane will create the foundation for a prosperous future for the region.
We proposed an Interior Energy Plan during the most recent legislative session. It included a financing package for natural gas liquefaction on the North Slope and distribution in the Fairbanks area to be launched with a trucking option that eases the transition to piped delivery. The Legislature unanimously passed our plan, and I signed it into law in May.
For the first time in the history of our state, Alaska is on a path to putting North Slope natural gas to work for Alaskans, while preparing Interior communities for an Alaska gasline.
With natural gas providing affordable energy for the Fairbanks and North Pole area, we also set the stage for other Interior communities to lower their energy costs with propane that will become available as LNG is produced.
A year ago, we urged the two entities vying for the service contract, Fairbanks Natural Gas and the municipal Interior Gas Utility to come together, join forces for the good of the entire region, as well as their companies. Unfortunately, they have not, and now the Regulatory Commission of Alaska is in the process of determining which of the two will distribute gas to which areas.
With two competing proposals and a lot at stake, among the things the RCA is considering: Are the entities capable of serving the area? Which proposal will offer gas to the people of Fairbanks and North Pole at the lowest rate? Which proposal is in the best interests of Alaskans?
These are all important issues and they deserve significant, but prompt consideration.
For the sake of Interior Alaskans' skyrocketing energy bills, the process cannot be drawn out. If it is, the overall success of the project could be at stake.
Let me be clear: It is critical a service provider is chosen swiftly (or agreed to) so the project can move forward and meet our goal of getting gas to the greater Fairbanks/North Pole area by the end of 2015.
The RCA can, and I believe will, rise to the occasion and choose a provider so the Interior Energy Project can progress in a timely fashion.
For the first time in years, Fairbanks and Interior communities are poised to see energy costs drop. The Interior Energy Project is too important to the economic future of the Interior for it to become mired in delays.
We continue to make progress on the Interior Energy Project. The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority has continued to pull together the business deal for the construction of the North Slope LNG plant. At the same time, the Alaska Energy Authority (AEA) continues to work on a conceptual design for distribution.
AEA is working to determine how quickly and how efficiently the distribution system can be built out, and more importantly, how quickly customer demand will grow.
We are on the cusp of putting Alaska's gas to work for Alaskans. By acting promptly and working to resolve this issue, the parties and the RCA have the ability to keep the Interior Energy Project advancing, so Interior residents can start harnessing North Slope natural gas as scheduled.
Alaskans are ready. The framework is in place, and delay would be a reckless option, costing people in lost economic opportunity.
For decades, there was just talk about natural gas for Alaska, but today we are finally realizing the dream. Let's keep advancing this vital project and bring much-needed energy cost relief to Interior residents who have waited long enough for access to our abundant, Alaska natural gas.