Senate passes bill allowing gas line through Denali National Park

The US Senate approved legislation allowing a natural gas pipeline to be built along existing highway right-of-way in Denali National Park. S. 302 would allow a gas line to be buried in the shoulder of the Parks Highway for the 7 miles that the road extends through the national park, sponsor Lisa Murkowski (R-Alas.) noted.

“This bill clears a key hurdle…and allows decisions on the best route to be based on economic and commercial grounds, rather than out of fear of lengthy permitting delays to win access rights across federal lands,” she said following the Jan. 1 vote.

S. 302 also would allow any high-pressure pipeline to run through the existing utility corridor at the park’s entrance, provided no compression stations are placed inside park boundaries. It would allow distribution and transmission pipelines to be placed inside the park at the National Park Service’s request to provide natural gas to park facilities.

The measure also would require the US Interior secretary to issue a permit for a line if it is consistent with utility ROW construction within national parks; is in accord with the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act requirements that govern access through conservation units; and if it clears required environmental reviews.

Murkowski, who is the Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s ranking minority member, said that a coalition of environmental groups supported the bill when she introduced it on Feb. 8, 2011, because it could allow the park and local transportation facilities to use less diesel fuel.

"A natural gas pipeline route through the park would not only be less expensive to build, but could also take advantage of the existing utility corridor, preventing disturbances to wildlife and environmental impacts on undisturbed lands further to the east or west of the park boundary," she indicated.

The bill now awaits US House consideration, Murkowski said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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