By Matt Buxton

JUNEAU — The head of the municipal Interior Gas Utility who has served since its formation has been tapped by the state to lead its latest effort to bring natural gas to Fairbanks.

In a letter to lawmakers on Monday afternoon, the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority announced Bob Shefchik will serve as the new team leader for the state Interior Energy Project. He will resign from his position on the Interior Gas Utility.

“We believe that Bob’s experience combined with his roots in Fairbanks will be an asset to the team, and will help move the project forward,” AIDEA spokesman Karsten Rodvik said in an email. “As we now look at all the options including Cook Inlet, we look forward to working with Bob as we continue our efforts to achieve the goals of the Interior Energy Project.”

The move comes two weeks after AIDEA announced its plans to buy private gas distributor Fairbanks Natural Gas, its parent company and the infrastructure used to process gas and truck it to Fairbanks for $52.5 million.

The announcement came as a major shift for the project, which has, up until December, focused on a public-private partnership to build a gas processing facility on the North Slope to serve the Interior.

That project fell apart after the private company bowed out amid community opposition to rising costs.

In a phone interview, Shefchik said the new position will allow him to focus on meeting the goal price of $15 per thousand cubic feet delivered to customers.

$15 gas is roughly equivalent to $2 per gallon of heating oil.

“AIDEA has tons of projects all over the state and IEP is but one of them,” he said. “For me, I have a singular focus in making this successful and that’s what I hope to bring to the IEP team so it’s not just a project among the many. … This will be the only thing I’m working on.”

Shefchik was appointed to serve on the Interior Gas Utility board when it was formed in 2012 and has been one of the more public-facing members of the organization along with board member Steve Haagenson, who serves as the utility’s general manager.

As per the utility’s bylaws, Shefchik’s replacement will be selected by the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

The Interior Gas Utility looks to have a busy construction summer ahead of it.

The AIDEA board signed off on a $29.6 million loan for the utility to begin construction on a distribution network in the North Pole area.

In documents relating to the potential purchase of Fairbanks Natural Gas by the state, one of the intended goals of the purchase is a close alignment of Fairbanks Natural Gas and the Interior Gas Utility’s efforts.

Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544. Follow him on Twitter: