Saturday, February 5, 2011

Alaska lawmakers propose ditching Palin's pipeline plan

JUNEAU – Leading state lawmakers introduced legislation Friday to abandon a centerpiece of former Gov. Sarah Palin’s administration: a state-sanctioned effort to advance a major natural gas pipeline.

The measure from Alaska House Republicans underscored the impatience and skepticism that many lawmakers have expressed about the current process and a belief the state is no closer than it was several years ago to realizing the long-hoped-for line.

Under the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act championed by fellow Republican Palin, the state promised TransCanada Corp. up to $500 million to advance a line. TransCanada won the exclusive license in 2008.

The state has reported that reimbursements so far have topped $36 million.

The company missed a self-imposed target for reaching agreements with shippers at the end of 2010 but has cautioned against reading much into that, noting that negotiations are complex and continuing.

But a number of lawmakers are losing patience — and faith — that this process will succeed in getting a line built this decade, if ever. The measure Friday was the first such introduced by the Legislature.

The bill, introduced by Republican Reps. Mike Chenault, Mike Hawker, Craig Johnson and Kurt Olson, would presume the project is uneconomic if TransCanada cannot show proof to Gov. Sean Parnell’s administration before July 15 that it has received firm shipping commitments.

Parnell has stood behind the process, saying he supports efforts by private industry to build a line that could carry gas from the North Slope to market.

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