Murkowski Bill Would Assist Construction of an Alaska In-State Gas Pipeline

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today introduced legislation designed to help development of an in-state natural gas pipeline in Alaska.
The Denali National Park and Preserve Natural Gas Pipeline Act would give the Park Service authority to, subject to NEPA review, authorize a right-of-way for construction of an in-state natural gas pipeline along the Parks Highway for the roughly 7 miles the highway passes through Denali National Park. The legislation would remove a potential obstacle for proposals to construct a pipeline to deliver gas to Southcentral.
“Southcentral faces a serious gas shortage as early as 2014,” Murkowski said. “We can’t wait for construction of a larger gas line to the Lower 48 before we start addressing our own energy needs.”
Natural gas production in Cook Inlet, which provides fuel for the bulk of the power generated for Railbelt communities, has been slowing significantly in recent years. In order to continue to provide natural gas to the Railbelt, Enstar has proposed construction of a buried natural gas “bullet” line capable of carrying up to 500 million cubic feet of gas a day from the Brooks Range.
Murkowski’s bill would authorize the National Park Service to issue a right-of-way for the pipeline to follow the Parks Highway through Denali National Park. The alternative would be to build the pipeline around the park through remote and currently undisturbed land. The granting of a permanent 20-foot easement, and possibly a 100-foot construction easement, would also solve maintenance and other environmental issues associated with the proposed alternative routes through the area.
The intent of the legislation is not to determine which of the alternatives for an in-state gas line should be built. Instead, it’s meant only to remove one potential obstacle to a successful project. The Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority has proposed an alternative plan to build a pipeline down the Richardson and Glenn highways.
“It’s not my desire to prejudge the outcome of which project or route should be selected, since that decision will be made by Alaska state regulators and financial markets,” Murkowski said. “I’m proposing this bill simply to remove uncertainty about the cost of constructing a pipeline along the Parks Highway. Removing the uncertainty of permitting and regulatory delays will at least allow the Parks Highway route to compete on a level playing field with the Richardson and Glenn Highway routes.”
While reserving final judgment, the National Parks and Conservation Association, the Alaska Conservation Alliance, the Denali Citizens Council, The Wilderness Society, Cook Inlet Keeper, the Alaska Center for the Environment, the Wrangell Mountain Center and the Alaska Wildlife Alliance have identified the seven miles along the Parks Highway as the “apparent logical environmentally preferable choice for the gas pipeline through Denali National Park and Preserve.” The groups said the route “would seem to make the most sense from both an engineering and an environmental perspective, as going around the park would necessitate construction in currently undeveloped lands.”