Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 3:29 PM on Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Write governor about natural gas line project


Although Gov. Sean Parnell last year vetoed $10+ million for a natural gas pipeline to Homer and Kachemak City, Homer officials aren't abandoning their efforts to extend the natural gas line from Anchor Point.

They are working to convince the governor to include the project in his capital budget, which would virtually guarantee a green light for the project.

There are plenty of reasons to bring natural gas to Homer, not the least of which is economic development. Quite simply, a cheaper source of clean energy will lower the cost of doing business on the southern Kenai Peninsula. That will help the bottom line of businesses already located here as well as make the Homer area more attractive for startups and businesses looking to relocate.

For some businesses, cheaper energy could mean the difference between celebrating a good year and closing their doors for good. It could allow some small businesses to hire more employees and expand.

Cheaper energy translates into a lower cost of living, which helps everyone who lives here. Goodness knows, Homer-area residents could use some energy relief. Natural gas could make Homer more affordable for young families, who now often struggle to make ends meet. It could mean senior citizens wouldn't have to close off rooms in winter because they're too expensive to heat.

Homer has allies in the borough administration, when it comes to getting natural gas to town. Borough Mayor Dave Carey and Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member Bill Smith of Homer recently talked with Gov. Sean Parnell about the natural gas line. In his report to the city council after that meeting, Smith said: "The governor did say he liked the things that had been done and thought it was moving in the right direction. He didn't say he'd put it in his budget, but he didn't say he wouldn't. It wouldn't hurt if people write to him and told him we could sure use that gas line."

Smith is intimately acquainted with the gas line project and has done a lot of work to educate residents about the benefits of bringing gas to the area. Last spring he compared the costs of heating public buildings in the Homer area with natural gas and with fuel oil. The difference is staggering. Smith's numbers show more than $1.1 million could be saved every year if public building such as Homer schools, city hall, the library, Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, the U.S. Post Office and South Peninsula Hospital were converted to natural gas.

Homer also will have an ally if Mike Navarre, currently the frontrunner for the borough mayor's job, wins the seat. Navarre knows first hand about Homer's high energy costs. His family owned the Arby's restaurant that was located here. Navarre said part of the reason it was not successful was because "I grossly underestimated the cost of energy for that operation." If elected borough mayor, Navarre said he would try to convince the governor that there are good reasons to bring natural gas to Homer.

Homer residents, however, should not leave it to others to encourage Gov. Parnell to include the project in his capital budget. They need to let the governor know that not only will the natural gas line be important to economic development and quality of life, but that it also should be considered necessary infrastructure.

Residents will bear some of the costs of the gas line. Getting gas here is one thing — and it's reasonable to expect the state to help pay for that pipeline. But hooking into the distribution system is rightly the responsibility of homeowners, who will enjoy big savings with gas when compared to the current cost of electricity, propane and No. 1 fuel oil. Last spring Smith figured the cost to provide heat and hot water for a typical family home averages about $471 per month with electricity and about $120 per month with natural gas. At those prices, the costs of hooking into the gas line can be quickly recouped at those savings.

If you want the governor to include funding to extend the gas line from Anchor Point to Homer and Kachemak City, let him know now.

You can email him at Governor@alaska.gov, fax your comments to 1-907-465-3532 or write to him at P.O. Box 11001, Juneau, AK 99801.