Alaska is considering a 737-mile, 24-inch pipeline from North Slope fields as an alternative to a 48-inch pipeline planned by TransCanada and Exxon Mobile. Neither company has been able to secure agreements with suppliers for the $42 billion project, however.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said it had issued a notice that it was starting an environmental review of TransCanada's project. FERC in its notice said it was soliciting comments on the "potential environmental effects, reasonable alternatives and measures to avoid or lessen environmental impacts" of the pipeline.
Larry Persily, Alaska's federal pipeline coordinator, told state news agency KTUU-TV the FERC action was a sign the North Slope project was gaining steam.
"We've never gotten this close before," he said.
Alaskan officials in July said they were divided over whether a new pipeline or liquefied natural gas was the best choice for the energy sector.