JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The Alaska Senate late Friday passed one of the last major pieces in this legislative session: an in-state gas pipeline bill.
HB4, from Reps. Mike Chenault and Mike Hawker, is aimed at advancing a gas line meant to help meet energy needs of Alaskans. A version of the bill died last year when the Senate adjourned a special session without passing it.
Both Hawker and Chenault, the House speaker for whom HB4 is a priority, were in the Senate gallery for the 15-5 vote. Voting no were Sen. Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks, who is part of the majority, and minority Sens. Johnny Ellis, Hollis French, Berta Gardner and Bill Wielechowski, all Anchorage Democrats.
Supporters of HB4 said it contained the provisions the Alaska Gasline Development Corp., or AGDC, needs to get a project to an open season, at which point officials can gauge whether there is sufficient interest for a project to advance.
Critics said they understood wanting to get natural gas to Alaskans but argued HB4 was too far-reaching and had too-little oversight. Some argued, too, that a major liquefied natural gas project capable of overseas exports that is being pursued by BP, Exxon Mobil Corp., ConocoPhillips and TransCanada Corp. would better serve the state. The city of Valdez launched a PR campaign against HB4 to help make that point. The city issued a statement Friday night, saying it was "saddened and disappointed" by the bill's passage.
"While the City still has many of the same concerns we raised during the debate, we also recognize that the Legislature has now made its decision and we respect their collective judgment," the statement read in part.
Minority Democrats led eight failed attempts to amend the bill, including to remove a provision that would limit judicial review and give the Legislature a final say on any project before it's built.