by Matt Buxton

FAIRBANKS — The state of Alaska now officially owns Fairbanks Natural Gas.

The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority closed on the purchase of Pentex, the parent company that owns the natural gas distributor as well as a gas processing facility in Point MacKenzie, last week.

The purchase was proposed by Gov. Bill Walker earlier this year in a bid to lower energy rates for Interior Alaska residents and approved by the AIDEA board of directors in June.

The board approved spending up to $52.5 million to purchase the distributor and its parent company. In addition to the distribution company in Fairbanks and the liquefaction facility in Point MacKenzie, the deal also came with two gas-powered trucks used to transport the fuel to the Interior.

The private company had struggled to expand its services and has been criticized for the profits it made off its limited pool of a little more than 1,000 customers.

According to documents from when the board approved the sale, the FNG can expect to see their bills drop about 13.3 percent this winter. AIDEA spokesman Karsten Rodvik said a rate change is in the works.

“We expect rate changes to be made before the end of the year,” he said.

Rodvik said the management and operations of FNG will not change.

As for the source of gas, the state is still working on finding a company that can meet the needs of the Interior. It recently selected five finalist companies and is undergoing further reviews with the input of the local utilities.

Rodvik said that process hasn’t been affected by the purchase of FNG.

“Our process for securing a long-term source is not affected; FNG has been involved all along and will continue to be involved,” he said.

The state doesn’t plan on holding onto the utility and is in current talks to transfer the ownership to a local owner. Names that have been included in those talks are the municipal Interior Gas Utility, the city of Fairbanks and electric co-op Golden Valley Electric Association.

“We continue to work on our planning for the most efficient buildout, and discussions for a local control entity are underway,” he said. “We expect our ownership of Pentex to be temporary.”

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