Bills propose adding legislators to gas line board

JUNEAU — Two Republican lawmakers want to add legislative oversight to the board of an organization that plays a key role in Alaska’s natural gas pipeline project development.

Both Sen. Mia Costello and House Speaker Mike Chenault have proposed adding two non-voting lawmakers to the board of the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. The state-sanctioned gas line corporation would hold portions of Alaska’s interest in the liquefaction facilities. The Senate is expected to consider her bill on Wednesday.

As lawmakers, stakeholders and the governor’s office look for ways to move the project ahead amid low oil prices, Costello, who is from Anchorage, said the Legislature struggled to discern Gov. Bill Walker’s vision for the gas line.

Calling the gas line the “bright spot on the horizon,” Costello said during a Monday Senate majority press conference that the aim of her legislation is to improve communication and move the project forward.

The Alaska LNG project is the latest attempt to develop natural gas found on the North Slope. If it proceeds, the project, which includes an 800-mile pipeline, would be one of the largest projects of its kind. But low oil prices have been a concern for the state and its oil-company partners in the project, with Walker announcing last month that the state and its partners would look at different options for moving forward.

“It’s a viable project at this point but we’ve got to get to a point where we know whether it’s really economical or not,” said North Pole Republican Sen. John Coghill.

Costello wrote in her sponsor statement that having legislators on the board would helpful for discussing project financing and understand the types of budget decisions needed to meet the state’s cash obligation for a gasline project.

Chenault’s bill goes farther than Costello’s, in laying out requirements for the public board members. It requires that the governor appoint board members who have experience and expertise in natural gas pipeline construction or other experience that is relevant to gas line projects.

“Most of the board members, whom I respect, do not have the qualifications of previous board members,” Chenault said in his statement.

Adding legislators to the gas line corporation board would give lawmakers better insight into issues facing the board, he said in the statement.

Chenault’s bill is currently on hold as Chenault’s office waits for Costello’s bill to make it to the House, said Chenault’s chief of staff, Tom Wright.

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