Three candidates seeking election to an open seat on the Interior Gas Utility board all agree it’s taken far too long to bring natural gas into the Fairbanks area. All three say if elected they’d push to accelerate the IGU’s efforts to bring gas here and build a system to deliver gas to its customers.
The Interior Gas Utility was established five years ago by the Fairbanks North Star Borough to offer area residents a lower-cost alternative to heating oil, and a cleaner-burning fuel than either oil or firewood.
IGU board candidate Patrice Lee is a longtime air-quality advocate, and she said her experience with the issue would help her move the IGU to more quickly secure delivery of natural gas to Fairbanks and from there, to the area’s homes and businesses.
“The opportunity to get affordable clean energy to Fairbanks is a natural extension of our need to clean up the air,” Lee said.
Board candidate Scott Eickholt agrees that’s important, but secondary to the main mission of getting gas here and distributing it.
“A lot of folks are focused on getting clean air,” Eickholt said. “But in order to get there, we’ve got to get the job done first.”
Jeffrey Rentzel is also seeking election to a three-year term on the board, and he cites affordability as his priority.
“We need to get this going so we can get an alternate and affordable fuel to heat our homes and businesses and it will help us clean up our air,” Rentzel said.
The 60-year-old Rentzel retired a few years ago after working 28 years for the state Department of Health and Social Services. He now works as a juvenile justice office at the Fairbanks Youth Facility. He said that experience with bureaucracy would help him get the IGU moving more quickly.
“To make faster progress is basically what I’m looking at,” Rentzel said. “Going slow, talking things to death is not what I do. I want to get in, get it done and move on.”
Eickholt, who’s 45, emphasizes his experience with construction and contracting gained through nine years of work with Local 942 of the Laborers Union, where he now serves as business manager. Before that, he worked for NORCON, a big Anchorage-based oil- and gas-industry contractor.
“I’ve got about eight years working directly with management and contracts in this kind of industry,” Eickholt said. “So, it gives me the background to add a lot of value to the board itself.”
Lee cites her diligence in researching issues and organizing and mobilizing the community among her top qualifications for the board. The 62-year-old retired schoolteacher points to her work with Clean Air Fairbanks and Friends of Fox Springs as examples. And she said she’ll advocate for consumers and businesses if elected to IGU board Seat D.
“Residents must have stable, affordable, clean energy,” Lee said, “and our businesses will be more competitive with affordable clean energy.”
Lee said she’d employ her researcher acumen into the IGU’s proposed purchase of Texas-based Pentex Alaska Natural Gas Company. The IGU is considering buying Pentex, the parent company of Fairbanks Natural Gas, mainly for Pentex’s natural-gas liquefaction facility in the Mat-Su to process the fuel and its trucking operation to transport it to Fairbanks. The utility wants FNG for its local natural-gas distribution system.
Both Eickholt and Rentzel say they strongly support the Pentex purchase.