Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 6:29 PM on Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Gas line forum discusses how to make it real

Staff Writer

Going into the third attempt to get state funding for an Anchor Point to Homer natural gas transmission line, local and state officials speak tonight at 7 p.m. at the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center about efforts to lobby Gov. Sean Parnell and the Alaska Legislature. Presented by the Homer Chamber of Commerce, "A Citizen Action Forum: Bringing Natural Gas to Homer" discusses ways locals can help the city work to get the estimated $10 million in funding to build the line.

In prior years the Legislature passed bills funding the line. In 2010 Parnell vetoed all but $525,000 of a grant. That amount built a pressure reducing station and got a transmission line as far as Chapman School in Anchor Point. In 2011, Parnell vetoed the entire $10 million to bring the line to Homer.

Tonight's meeting includes an update of current proposals by Homer City Manager Walt Wrede. Wrede also will talk about potential savings in utility bills for public buildings. That's an important point about the gas line, said Homer Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Monte Davis.

"Even if this natural gas never made it into an individual's home, there should be enough public savings for this to pencil out," Davis said.

The legislative grant would only fund the transmission line. Local governments would have to fund distribution lines to homes and businesses off the main line, and property owners also wouldhave to fund the line from distribution lines to buildings. Distribution lines would be funded through local improvement districts. Kachemak City voted in October to raise the mill rate to fund distribution lines there. The proposed transmission line would end at Kachemak City on East End Road.

Although the Legislature doesn't start until January, the issue is timely now because Parnell introduces his budget on Dec. 15. If the city can convince Parnell to add the gas line to his budget, that will increase its chances of passing.

"If we're going to convince the governor to consider putting this in his capital budget, we need it now," Davis said of lobbying efforts.

Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, also will speak at the meeting and talk about ways for citizens to write effective letters.

"The purpose of the meeting is to talk to folks about what the status is on things and my and others' suggestions for effective communications with governmental officials," he said.

"We're looking at a state contribution to get the 11th largest population in the state other alternatives than diesel."

Seaton said recent developments in natural gas exploration and development have changed the picture for supplies in Cook Inlet, making prospects look better. He cited a gas storage facility being built and new discoveries in downtown Kenai and the Swanson River gas field.

"I think everybody's excited that it's not looking to be the crunch that it was," Seaton said.

Under a grant from the Multiple Listing Service, the Kachemak Bay Board of Realtors funded the presentation, with the chamber of commerce organizing it.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.