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Interior Gas Utility Sets Public Meetings to Explain Proposed Purchase of Pentex Assets

Tim Ellis/KUAC

The Interior Gas Utility has scheduled a couple of public meetings for later this month to inform Fairbanks North Star Borough residents about the status of the IGU board’s proposal to buy Pentex Alaska Natural Gas Company as part of the local utility’s efforts to build a natural-gas distribution system for Fairbanks and North Pole.

IGU general manager Jomo Stewart has scheduled two meetings before and after Thanksgiving to allay public uncertainty and concern over the IGU’s proposed purchase of Pentex. The first meeting will be held Nov. 21  at Fairbanks City Hall, the second Nov 28 at the North Pole Branch Library; both from 6 to 8 p.m.

“This is a community project,” he said. “ This is a community utility. And so the feelings of the public are important.”

As important, Stewart says, is the opportunity to improve the two-way exchange of information from the IGU to the public and vice versa. He says more public participation would provide “more eyes, more thoughtful minds looking at these things. You can find things that you’ve never even considered. You can check your blind spots.”

The meetings were scheduled partly in response to comments by several members of the public in last week’s IGU board meeting about the purchase of Pentex from the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, or AIDEA. The residents asked questions about the status of negotiations with AIDEA and terms of the sale. And they expressed concern over what they said was a lack of information from the IGU.

Stewart says IGU’s board members would like to address those concerns: “Certainly they want the public to be informed. And they would like to have community input.”

Stewart said Tuesday the time is drawing near for the board to reconcile differences with AIDEA over some aspects of the sale and finance agreement for the Pentex purchase. AIDEA has proposed to sell Pentex and its assets to the IGU for $58 million. Those assets include the Texas-based company’s local firm, Fairbanks Natural Gas, as well as its Titan LNG liquefaction facility at Point MacKenzie and a fleet of tanker trucks to haul the gas to Fairbanks. Stewart says AIDEA wants the IGU board to make a decision on the Pentex purchase by the end of the month.

“My board doesn’t feel like it needs to be bound by some external entity’s timeline,” he said. “However, there is solid reason for moving forward expeditiously on these decisions so we can move forward on the project.”

Chief among those solid reasons, he says, is the state of Alaska’s offer to help the IGU finance the purchase – and the likelihood that that money won’t be on the table much longer, if the IGU can’t come to an agreement with AIDEA soon.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.