Revenue from gas pipeline is no sure bet for Alaska

JUNEAU — Many Alaskans think a natural gas pipeline to the Lower 48 would give the state new riches in the form of taxes and royalties.

Don't bank on it, some state senators say. In fact, under some scenarios presented to the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday, if the big gas pipeline is built, and gas starts to flow, the state could make nothing off the gas and might even see a drop in oil revenue.

The loudest alarm is coming from Sen. Bert Stedman, a Republican from Sitka who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, but he's not alone, and many lawmakers are paying attention to hearings he's conducting to get to the bottom of the situation.

"Two billion," Stedman told reporters recently. "That's how much is on the table, per year, ballpark. Two billion, that's to the red, by the way. That's not added to the treasury. That's out the treasury's door."

The hit comes when oil prices are high and natural gas prices are relatively low -- because the complicated current tax formula links the two values.

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