Alaska gas line group seeking federal funds for 1st phase

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A state-sponsored corporation has proposed seeking federal infrastructure funds to advance an initial phase of a mega-gas project to bring gas from the northern Point Thomson gas field to Fairbanks.

A resolution passed by the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. board Thursday states that the corporation has identified a “strategic party fit, willing and able to initiate and lead” that initial phase, including pipeline development, ownership and operation. The party wasn’t identified.

Frank Richards, the corporation president, estimated the cost at about $5.9 billion. In an interview, he said federal money would be necessary to advance the phase and an amount that was being looked at to come from federal funds was 75%.

His presentation to the board said stimulus or infrastructure funding would be key to attracting outside investment.

The initial phase is being pitched as a way to create jobs; provide cleaner energy, including to a part of Alaska that struggles with air quality issues; and seize on opportunities to advance energy or infrastructure projects under the Biden administration. Richards’ presentation to the board Thursday also touted its proximity to U.S. Department of Defense facilities.

The corporation has contracted with firms for consulting and communications assistance whose respective representatives are Democratic former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich and Republican former Gov. Sean Parnell. Richards said they will provide advice to the corporation on ways to work with the Biden administration, members of Congress and others who may be part of developing an infrastructure package.

Richards said there also could be potential for other federal dollars.

Parnell pursued a version of a gas line while in office, one of many iterations that have been chased in the state over the years — so far without success. He and Begich were tapped by Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy last year to lead a team tasked with working with Dunleavy’s administration on a plan to protect Alaska’s economy from the COVID-19 pandemic. Begich said the work he’s doing for the gas line corporation is separate from that done for Dunleavy.

President Joe Biden’s campaign had said he would make investments in the power sector, to move to generate “clean, American-made electricity to achieve a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035,” as part of a response to climate change concerns.

Begich said the Biden administration should see the phase of the project being pushed as a “win.” He said the Obama administration supported a version of the proposed mega Alaska liquefied natural gas project. Biden was Obama’s vice president.

Dunleavy teased developments on a gas project during his State of the State speech last month. He spoke of moving toward a privately-led project and of private investment.

The corporation has been looking to transition from state control of the estimated $38.7 billion liquefied natural gas project that would include an 800-mile (1,287-kilometer) pipeline to bring gas from the North Slope to liquefaction facilities on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. Richards said work continues to advance the project overall.

Joey Merrick, a former corporation board member, expressed concern about whether the initial phase of the project, outlined Thursday, pencils out. He said an export component is key for a project.

Merrick has been involved with efforts by Dunleavy’s immediate predecessor, independent Bill Walker, seeking to take on a role to advance the overall project.

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This story is corrected to show Begich is a former U.S. senator.