Alaska Gov. Parnell's natural gas-to-Asia plan has lawmakers intrigued

Alaska politicians are interested in Gov. Sean Parnell's push to try to export the state's natural gas to Asia rather than the Lower 48, with influential lawmakers saying the state should consider paying to help to make it happen.

The state has worked for years toward building a pipeline from the North Slope through Canada for North American markets. But Parnell said last week that the effort led by the pipeline firm TransCanada appears stalled, with commercial negotiations at an impasse.

So Parnell announced that he wants a pipeline from the North Slope to a Southcentral Alaska port where the gas would be liquefied and shipped overseas in tankers. Pacific Rim markets could hold more promise than North America for Alaska's gas, he said.

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she welcomes Parnell's announcement and thinks the state should consider investing in a pipeline from the North Slope to Fairbanks, where the gas would flow whether headed overseas or to the Lower 48.

"The world is seeing massive changes in terms of natural gas supply and markets, and Alaskans must be able to adjust to those changes," said Murkowski, who is hosting a Senate hearing Nov. 8 on developing natural gas.

Parnell isn't ruling out the state helping to build a pipeline to Fairbanks. "The governor is open to considering all options to commercialize the state's gas reserves," said his spokeswoman Sharon Leighow when asked about Murkowski's suggestion.

State Sen. Lesil McGuire, an Anchorage Republican, said Parnell is correct and "the future for Alaska's gas lies in Asia."

State Sen. Hollis French, an Anchorage Democrat, described Parnell's announcement as interesting and timely: "I think he's right the market has fundamentally shifted in the Lower 48 and people want to see progress on a pipeline."

State Senate Majority Leader Kevin Meyer said he's intrigued. "I think everybody's come to the conclusion, and many people have a long time ago, that shipping our gas down to the Lower 48 isn't going to work. They don't need it down there."

Meyer, an Anchorage Republican, also said he was interested in the state being a part owner in the new pipeline.

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