Republican News

WASHINGTON -- The Senate tonight unanimously adopted a series of amendments proposed by Alaska Sen. Frank H. Murkowski tonight that would faciliate construction of a new natural gas pipeline to move Alaska’s North Slope natural gas to market. The amendments, unveiled earlier this week for review, clarifiy how the state will control the gas to promote economic development within Alaska, how any gas line will be permitted (setting up a federal coordinator to oversee construction), how it will be reviewed by courts if there are legal challenges, and how a pipeline will be expanded if new gas supplies are found. The amendments also revise a loan guarantee proposal for the pipeline to make it more workable. The amendments repeat a ban on a northern route and include Alaskan job training provisions that were adopted to national energy legislation earlier in the month. “Adoption of this complete rewrite of the gasline section of the energy bill represents major progress in solving a host of thorny technical issues. This clears many of the roadblocks that could have blocked construction of an Alaska gasline. It is a real step in the right direction,” said Murkowski after the amendment’s passage. Murkowski said the new gasline title (now Title Seven of the bill) resolves most issues, except whether a financial incentive can be adopted to improve the economics of the line’s construction. That will be tackled when the Senate returns from its Easter recess on April 8. The bill sets up a parallel system for permitting of a gasline, allowing companies to seek to build a pipeline either under the old regulatory system created by the 1976 Alaska Natural Gas Transportation Act (ANGTA) or under the current Natural Gas Act. The bill updates the permitting process under either law and creates a streamlined review and expedited court review process. “Provisions within this legislation expressly prohibit the over-the-top route, ensuring the maximum amount of Alaskan jobs inmoving Alaskan gas. It guarantees that Alaskans will get jobs during construction of a line and authorizes $20 million for pipeline job training programs for Alaskans,” said Murkowski. “By working with the goal of moving Alaska’s natural resources, I’m confident we’ve made headway in bringing this project from the drawing board to the ground in Alaska,” said Murkowski after passage. Further debate on the energy bill will resume on April 8 in the Senate. “There is still much work to do to make this project a reality. I hope to continue working with all interests to continue to improve this legislation and the opportunities for this project,” said Murkowski. -30-