WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today approved new national energy legislation that will provide a number of benefits to energy development in Alaska.
The American Clean Energy Leadership Act of 2009, which passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee by a 15-to-8 vote, boosts the federal loan guarantee for a North Slope natural gas pipeline to Alaska and Lower 48 markets to $30 billion, plus inflation.
It also allows the use of the Federal Financing Bank to finance the gas line, reducing administrative costs and interest rates on the loan to lower the total cost of the project by hundreds of millions of dollars.
“There’s no project more important to Alaska than the construction of a pipeline to deliver the North Slope’s clean-burning natural gas to consumers throughout the state and the Lower 48,” Murkowski said.
“While I had hoped this bill would do more to increase domestic production, it does contain a number of notable provisions beneficial to Alaska,” Murkowski said. “Overall, this bill represents a balanced compromise that will improve our national energy policy.”
Attempts by Murkowski and others on the committee to permit the use of directional drilling technology to extract oil and gas from ANWR without any surface presence, and revenue sharing between states and the federal government from oil and gas production in the OCS, were blocked by Democrats.
Murkowski said she would continue to fight to increase domestic production on the Senate floor.
“Renewables are an important part of our energy mix, but the reality is that we will remain dependent on conventional fossil fuels for decades to come,” Murkowski said. “We should not be importing oil and gas that we can produce here at home. Taking responsibility for our own energy needs will create good jobs and improve our energy security.”
Among the provisions beneficial to Alaska:
- establishes a one-stop federal permitting office in Alaska to regulate oil and gas activities on Alaska’s outer continental shelf (OCS). The provision will reduce permitting costs and increase federal manpower in Alaska’s permitting office;
- grants a right-of-way through Denali National Park and Preserve for an in-state “bullet” gas line. The right-of-way provisions for a line along the Parks Highway clears a procedural problem and would allow a fair comparison between the Parks Highway and Richardson-Glenn Highway routes;
- authorizes the Arctic Energy Office research center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and expands the scope of its research;
- exempts utilities that generate less than 4 million megawatts a year, including all Alaska utilities, from the renewable electricity standard (RES), expands definition of biomass and eligible hydropower projects, allows Alaska utilities to sell credits for any renewable electricity they generate to companies in the Lower 48;
- aids expansion of marine and hydrokinetic energy projects – tapping the tides, currents and waves to generate electricity;
- extends federal research into the use of methane hydrates as an energy source. Alaska likely leads the world in methane hydrate reserves;
- modifies Section 526 of the Energy and Independence Security Act of 2007 to allow the federal government and military to continue to use oil from Canada’s oil sands deposits;
- exempts trans-Alaska oil pipeline from being declared a national historic landmark, allowing it to be dismantled at the end of its useful life, and easing design issues for a natural gas pipeline that would be sited within the oil pipeline corridor.
The energy bill now goes to the Senate floor for consideration and final passage.