JUNEAU — The bill putting a proposed in-state natural gas pipeline into the hands of the Alaska Railroad rolled through its first Senate committee Monday, after a chorus of legislators said that pipeline dreams going back more than 60 years need to give way to action.
The Senate Resources Committee, co-chaired by the measure's author, Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, passed the railroad bill 4-1 after amending it to make clear the railroad wasn't being told to build and operate the line -- yet.
The measure directs the railroad to plan the design, construction, financing and overseas gas marketing for the line. What happens next would be determined later, though the bill speaks both of a private company doing the construction and operation, and of the railroad having the authority to do that itself.
After meeting with Gov. Sean Parnell and getting his conditional support, McGuire also softened language from the original bill about removing authority for in-state gas line development from the governor's office and the Department of Natural Resources. That authority still goes to the railroad, but the new version politely refrains from saying where it's coming from.
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