Compass: Alaska finally has a clear path to gas line

For too long, Alaskans' dream of a natural gas pipeline has been just that -- a dream.

That changed last week with the groundbreaking passage of Senate Bill 138. For the first time in Alaska's history, we have alignment of all necessary parties for a project, authorization from the Legislature to proceed into the early engineering and design phase and a clear path forward on a gas line, the Alaska LNG Project.

In passing Senate Bill 138, legislators approved the framework developed by our administration to deliver gas to Alaskans first, then to markets beyond. Specifically, the legislation sets Alaska on a path to become a 25 percent owner in the project and empowers the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. (AGDC) to carry the state's interest in the project's infrastructure.

AGDC will also continue to pursue the advancement of an alternate project as a backup plan: the Alaska Stand Alone Pipeline (ASAP) Project. Alaskans' gas line corporation, AGDC, will advance both efforts to identify the project that is in Alaskans' long-term best interests.

In the coming weeks, Alaskans can expect work to ramp up on the Alaska LNG Project. Following the signing of SB 138, a formal joint venture agreement will be finalized by AGDC, the producers and TransCanada. This allows the project to advance into the Pre-FEED (Pre-Front End Engineering and Design) phase.

In May, a summer field season will commence. Across the state, millions of private-sector dollars will be spent, and hundreds of Alaskans will work on refining the cost and engineering aspects of the project. Work will continue in assessing where off-takes will be needed to get gas to Alaskans.

Additionally, the state of Alaska, as well as the producers, will begin exploring potential markets for North Slope gas, both in Alaska and abroad. Looking abroad, we will evaluate the market for Alaska liquefied natural gas (LNG), and work with potential Alaska LNG buyers in places like Korea and Japan, which have both shown keen interest.

This is a first: Never before has Alaska had producers in alignment, legislative authorization and a clear path forward. With the Alaska LNG Project, potential buyers around the world are already taking notice. This will be one of the largest projects in the world, and it will help get Alaska back on the map as an energy-producing powerhouse.

I commend legislators, especially Sen. Anna Fairclough and Rep. Eric Feige, for their outstanding work and thorough review of SB 138.

As we continue to advance the Alaska LNG Project, my administration will continue to employ a phased approach, taking commensurate, proportionate steps with our partners. This means the state will return to the people's elected board of directors -- the Legislature -- for review and approval at key decision points, just as the companies return to their boards of directors for authorization on moving forward during each major phase.

Alaska's future is bright, and with the passage of SB 138, we are closer than ever to getting Alaska's gas to Alaskans. We have made historic progress on a gas line, and our way forward will continue on Alaska's terms and in Alaskans' interests.

When communities across the state are able to heat their homes with North Slope gas, we'll look back at this juncture and be able to say: In 2014, the Alaska LNG Project was launched.

Sean Parnell has served as governor of Alaska since 2009.