Lawmakers hold hearings Monday on pipeline, SB 91 rollback

In a pair of hearings Monday, the Alaska Legislature will consider the past and the future.

At 10 a.m., the House Judiciary Committee will hear invited testimony on Senate Bill 54, a measure that intends to roll back part of last year’s criminal justice reform known as Senate Bill 91.

At 1 p.m., the House and Senate resources committees will hold a joint meeting to consider the future of the trans-Alaska natural gas pipeline. The Alaska Gasline Development Corporation will speak to legislators as part of a statutorily required update.

Both hearings are in Anchorage but will be streamed online at http://akl.tv.

The House Judiciary Committee is expected to use Monday’s hearing to get a jump-start on the special session scheduled to begin Oct. 23 in Juneau. SB 54 is on the agenda alongside a tax proposal.

The Senate approved SB 54 in a 19-1 vote earlier this year, but the House failed to advance the bill before the end of the regular session. Last week, in a town hall meeting held in Juneau, Rep. Sam Kito III, D-Juneau, said he expects the coalition majority in the House will speed the measure’s progress.

He said he believes the biggest obstacle to its passage will come from Republicans who want to see SB 91 repealed entirely. The state Republican Party’s central committee voted overwhelmingly in favor of its repeal last week, even though both SB 91 and SB 54 were the work of Senate Republicans.

The afternoon gas pipeline hearing is likely to showcase the increasing skepticism of lawmakers about the trans-Alaska gas pipeline project.

With natural gas prices low and competing projects advancing around the world, it remains unclear how a cross-country pipeline will break even financially. Earlier this year, members of the Alaska Senate attempted to divert funding from the pipeline project for more immediate needs, including public safety.

Though that diversion didn’t happen, it is a sign that lawmakers are reconsidering their support for a project that may no longer be viable.


• Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com or call 523-2258.


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