Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 6:43 PM on Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tell the governor: Community backs gas line to Homer

Kachemak City resident and council member Dave Weber is a man on a mission. He's telling everyone who will listen that they need to let Gov. Sean Parnell and legislators know that residents support a gas line from Anchor Point to Homer and out East End Road.

Weber is getting a little frustrated at the response he's getting, however. While people like the idea of cheaper, cleaner energy, they don't necessarily see why they need to get involved and take the time to write a letter. They don't see the urgency of the project. Some seem to think because it's a good idea it will happen — that government will just do it.

Weber isn't so naive and he doesn't want to leave the project to chance. After all, Gov. Parnell vetoed most of the money for the project last year. In the governor's defense, however, the gas line didn't show up on anyone's wish list last year. This year is different. It's the No. 2 request on the Kenai Peninsula Borough's Capital Improvement Project list, right behind funds to turn the Homer landfill into a transfer site. It's No. 2 on the city of Homer's list, behind sewer treatment plant improvements. It's Kachemak City's No. 1 priority.

There are plenty of good reasons that the project has moved to the forefront. For one, it's, as the feds would say, "shovel ready." For another, it's the biggest economic development project to hit the southern Kenai Peninsula in a really long time.

The savings natural gas could bring to the southern peninsula are mind boggling. Consider these numbers compiled by Bill Smith, who represents Homer on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly:

• The school district could save about $263,000 a year in heating costs for Homer schools.

• South Peninsula Hospital could save about $244,000 a year.

• Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center could save about $42,000.

• And the average homeowner could save about $2,200 a year in heating costs.

Those savings are based on a comparison to fuel oil; savings are even higher when compared to electricity and propane.

The southern Kenai Peninsula does a lot of hand wringing over the high cost of living and lack of jobs — lack of a future really — for young people and young families. While natural gas isn't a panacea to those ills, it certainly is part of the solution. Lower energy costs could help businesses expand, or, at the least, not go out of business. The savings to government, dare we hope, could mean lower taxes. Cheaper energy could mean cheaper prices for almost everything. It could mean more money for businesses and individuals to reinvest in the community.

No other near-time project will do as much to lower the cost of living and doing business here

So let's not pass up the opportunity. Tell Dave Weber you'll write a letter and then do it. Let the governor and legislators know you support the natural gas line from Anchor Point through Homer to the east end of Kachemak City.

The governor's address is: Gov. Sean Parnell, P. O. Box 110001, Juneau, AK 99811-0001 or e-mail governor@alaska.gov.

Public opinion messages can be sent to one or several legislators through Homer's Legislative Information Office. For help, give the LIO a call at 235-7878 or stop by the office at 345 W. Sterling Highway, Suite 102A.

And, while you're writing your notes, you might want to drop Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, a note of thanks. If it weren't for him, it's very likely we wouldn't even have this opportunity before us.

As Kachemak City Mayor Phil Morris wrote in a letter to his community's residents: "The bottom line is if you want the benefits of relatively inexpensive fuel for the next fifty years or longer you must take a few minutes to write or email the Governor and Legislators voicing your support. ... (T)he next move is up to you."