Legislators are pushing back against Gov. Bill Walker’s Tuesday announcement that he was firing three board members of the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation, and ordering his members not to sign confidentiality agreements related to the Alaska LNG project and/or the smaller bullet line.
AGDC is charged with preparing the state to build a bullet line that would carry gas from the North Slope to SouthCentral Alaska. It’s a fallback agency of sorts, in case that a big line doesn’t get built. A subsidiary of the corporation is also in charge of the state’s equity interest in the big line, if comes to fruition.
On Wednesday, Alaska Speaker of the House Mike Chenault, and Rep. Mike Hawker, creators of AGDC, sent a strongly worded release about Walker’s announcement, saying that they see this as a dangerous change of course on gas commercialization. Sen. Cathy Giessel, chair of the Senate Resources Committee, also sent out a release, expressing disappointment with Walker’s firings and also the decision not to allow his cabinet members to sign confidentiality agreements related to the AKLNG project and the bullet line. She went so far as to call it “foolhardy.” (See both of the releases in full below.)
Walker fired former Senate President Drue Pearce, former BP executive Al Bolea of Big Lake, and Richard Rabinow, formerly with ExxonMobil. Chenault said that the state was losing 60 years of knowledge with the firings. The state would feel the loss of Rabinow most acutely, he said, because he’s the only one on the board with gasline construction experience. Rabinow, who lives in Texas, was with ExxonMobil for 34 years, including as the president of ExxonMobil Pipeline Company. He is a former chairman of the Association of Oil Pipe Lines and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) Owners Committee. He was appointed to the AGDC board early in 2014 by former Gov. Sean Parnell.
Here are the releases in full:
From Sen. Cathy Giessel:
Today, Senator Cathy Giessel, the continuing Chair of the Senate Resources Committee, issued the following statement relating to Governor Bill Walker relieving three members of the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation (AGDC) Board:
“It is within the Governor’s purview to act as he has done, but for an administration that has vowed to get Alaska’s natural gas to market, this deprives the state of necessary tools for success in a global scale LNG project. The AGDC Board was crafted to bring the very best expertise the state can muster to commercialize our North Slope gas. Removing these individuals under the pretense of transparency gives the effect of implying a defect in these exemplary members, and gives the impression that this Governor is crafting complex policy decisions through press releases,” said Senator Giessel (NE Anchorage, Anchorage Hillside, Turnagain Arm).
Governor Walker also instructed the Commissioners of Labor and Workforce Development and Commerce, Community and Economic Development to not sign a confidentiality agreement for upcoming briefings.
“Anyone involved in municipal government that deals with labor agreements has to in most instances sign a confidentiality pledge. It is foolhardy to think that a project in the billions of dollars, in competition with other sites around the world, does not benefit the people of Alaska by confidential briefings and negotiations to maintain a competitive edge. We even expect our Permanent Fund managers to operate under confidentiality in order to generate the maximum benefit for the people of Alaska. AGDC was created to function as an effective manager in representing our state’s interest in accessing our gas and getting it to market. The burden on the Governor is to show how his actions are not hampering the progress of this long sought goal,” said Senator Giessel.
From Speaker MIke Chenault and Rep. Mike Hawker:
The legislators who sponsored the bill creating the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation today released statements in light of Governor Bill Walker’s action firing three board members and ordering his appointees to not participate in the confidentiality process.
Alaska Speaker of the House Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, and Rep. Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage, believe the three key AGDC board members were critical in advancing a natural gas commercialization project, and brought valuable perspective and acumen to the Board. AGDC was designed to bring gas to Alaskans and more revenue to the state via its Alaska Stand Alone Pipeline (ASAP) project working parallel to the AK LNG project, which it was facilitating for the State.
“I spoke to Gov. Walker after hearing that he had fired AGDC board members Dick Rabinow, Drue Pearce, and Al Bolea,” said Chenault. “The governor certainly has the power to do that; the Legislature granted the governor that power in House Bill 4, which created and directed AGDC. I’m disappointed that Gov. Walker has chosen to eliminate these board members, who have proven their worth and commitment to Alaska in the progress made already.
“It’s going to be hard to replace the 60 years of knowledge that these three board members bring – and in particular, the expertise of Dick Rabinow, who is the only board member to have actual gasline construction experience under his belt.
“My greatest concern is what delay is this action going to cost the AK LNG and ASAP projects? With a substantial turnover in leadership, how much longer will Alaskans wait for natural gas?”
“I am disappointed in the Governor’s action gutting the top quality board that was working diligently for Alaska,” said Hawker. “I’m deeply concerned that this signals a wholesale change of course for Gov. Walker on gas commercialization. An overwhelming majority of legislators approved creation of AGDC, and of its mission, which is clear in law – to pursue a natural gas project that delivers gas to Alaskans first, then to markets beyond.
“In creating AGDC, the Legislature carefully weighed the need for confidentiality in some issues with the need for public accountability. The legislature struck a balance between transparency to Alaskans, and the need to protect commercially sensitive information, third-party private company information, and information that, if known, could adversely impact the price Alaskans receive for its gas.
“I, too, am gravely concerned that this action by Gov. Walker will result in significant delays to the AK LNG and ASAP projects. All the key business agreements crafted by the State under confidentiality agreements will, by law, be brought back to the legislature for a fully transparent, public vetting and approval.”
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