FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Last night, the Interior Gas Utility voted to acquire gas provider Pentex, bringing expanded natural gas in the Fairbanks and North Pole area one step closer to reality. Tom Hewitt was in the Borough Assembly chambers as the vote took place.
Doug Isaacson; Former North Pole Mayor>>"Today isn't going to be the way it always will be. Tomorrow, we're going to need this project."
Merrick Peirce; Alaska Gasline Port Authority Board Member>>"This right now, this plan is a spectacular public policy failure."
Residents and Interior Gas Utility board members shared strong opinions last night as the IGU debated the $60 million dollar purchase of Pentex, the parent company of Fairbanks Natural Gas. The purchase is a major step for the Interior Energy Project. The purchase passed by a 5-2 vote. But some felt the utility was overpaying, getting too little in return at its eventual customers' expense.
Merrick Peirce; Alaska Gasline Port Authority Board Member>>"First goal was to reduce local heating bills by 50 percent, second goal was to reduce the PM 2.5 particulate matter by 90 percent for EPA compliance. None of the project's original 12 goals are being met. Not one."
Those goals? To get natural gas to Fairbanks, in an effort to control heating costs and clean up our air. The project aimed for gas at $15 dollars per thousand cubic feet, the equivalent of heating oil at $2 dollars per gallon. IGU General Manager Jomo Stewart says although that slipped a little, it's still close.
Jomo Stewart; General Manager - Interior Gas Utility>>"It doesn't hit all of the goals. You're right. It's not a $15-per-mcf price point, it's a $17-per-mcf price point. But the fact that you've, you know, instead of cutting the per-hour in half, or the price in half, you've cut it by 44 percent, that's not necessarily bad."
Many who testified Tuesday night said they know it's not a perfect deal, but it's important to keep the ball rolling.
Mayor Jim Matherly; City of Fairbanks>>"We've got pipe in front of my house. I'm going to hook up. Because the price of heating oil is going to go up eventually."
Patrice Lee, who joins the IGU board in January, says she's skeptical of the deal but she'll work to make sure the utility does right by residents.
Patrice Lee; IGU Board Member-Elect>>"I believe the board and myself will be very, very tenacious in expecting answers that meet the needs of our community and the best plan that we can put forward given the situation as we move forward."
North Pole mayor Bryce Ward said his constituents stand to benefit from the arrival of gas. He emphasized that the work done on the project so far is just the beginning.
Mayor Bryce Ward; City of North Pole>>"I know you guys have had five years of diligent work up to this point, but the hard work does begin tomorrow."
From the borough building in Fairbanks, I'm Tom Hewitt.