US House bill would ban Prudhoe Bay gas pipeline off northern Alaska


Sam Fletcher
OGJ Online

HOUSTON, July 23 -- A US House of Representatives bill that bans construction of a gas pipeline off northern Alaska will be challenged in the Senate, proponents of the line said Monday.

The proposed northern route for the pipeline would extend from Prudhoe Bay field across the Arctic Ocean to the Mackenzie Delta in Canada, and then down the Mackenzie River valley to gas pipeline interconnections near Edmonton, Alta.

The competing proposal, favored by Alaskan officials, would follow the trans-Alaska oil pipeline to Fairbanks and then the Alaska Highway to connections in Alberta.

W.J. "Billy" Tauzin (R-La.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, introduced an amendment banning an offshore Alaska gas pipeline last week as his panel marked up the Energy Advancement and Conservation Act of 2001.

Jack Jacobson, a spokesman of Arctic Resources Co., said there's no chance of deleting the ban when the House bill goes to the floor. Arctic Resources, which is promoting the northern route, says its project would cost $6.1 billion, half that of the Alaskan route.

Jacobson told OGJ Online that proponents for the northern pipeline route will lobby senators against such a ban in their own energy reform legislation, and also to delete the ban when a House-Senate conference committee merges the two bills.

Jacobson said the unexpected amendment was approved in committee deliberations late Wednesday. It states, "No license, permit, lease, right-of-way, authorization or other approval required under federal law for the construction of any pipeline to transport natural gas from lands within the Prudhoe Bay oil and gas lease area may be granted for any pipeline that follows a route that traverses (1) the submerged lands beneath or the adjacent shoreline of the Beaufort Sea; and (2) enters Canada at any point north of 68° N. Lat."

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) later said Tauzin had offered the amendment on his behalf.

Young said, "A gas pipeline that stays in Alaska, creates jobs in Alaska, and provides gas for Alaska is the right thing to do for Alaska. This resource belongs to the people in my state and the people of America and they're the ones that should benefit from it. The Alaska state legislature has already said they will not tolerate a northern route, and the governor has said he will not back a northern route."

Although proponents of the northern pipeline route claim it would be less expensive, Young said, "It doesn't matter if you can't get it built. A north-south route through the state is the most realistic way to build a gas pipeline, and it's the most realistic way to ensure that Alaska gains the most benefit from its own gas."

The Energy and Commerce Committee agreed to the amendment by voice vote. Its energy bill will be bundled with those from the Resources, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Ways and Means committees into comprehensive national energy policy legislation.

Contact Sam Fletcher at samf@ogjonline.com

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