Democrats say governor has broken state law twice
JUNEAU – Democrats claim Gov. Sean Parnell has broken the law yet again by appointing an out-of-stater the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation Board.
“As lawmakers, we shouldn’t be lawbreakers,” said Sen. Hollis French, who along with the rest of Senate Democrats sent a letter of protest to Parnell. “We should stick with what we have on the books.”
Parnell’s latest appointee to the AGDC board, Richard Rabinow, lives in Houston, Texas. Rabinow had a 34-year career with ExxonMobil. When he retired in 2002, he was president of ExxonMobil Pipeline Company. Since then, he’s been president and chief executive officer of Longhorn Partners Pipeline, as well as a pipeline industry consultant.
Recently, the governor also appointed Dennis Mandell to the State Assessment Review Board. Mandell is a California man with ties to the oil industry. The SARB oversees taxes levied on oil company property, including the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Mandell resigned after a controversy arose over his residency.
“It’s worth noting that both times the governor has done this, it’s been on oil related matters,” French said. “And he’s hiring what looks to be oil-industry friendly people from outside to come here and tip the scales. And that’s troubling.”
French noted that the governor has not appointed non-residents to other boards and commissions dealing with other matters.
House Majority leaders responded with a letter of their own in support of the governor’s appointment.
At Thursday’s weekly House Majority news conference, the House Speaker defended the governor’s appointment.
“If you’re going up against Conoco, Exxon, BP, you’re going up some of the smartest folks in the world,” said Rep. Mike Chenault, a Republican from Nikiski. “And while I believe there are smart Alaskans, that can take most of these positions and do a very good job of it, I want the best in the world to go up against Exxon.”
Parnell said he’s clearly within his rights to appoint non-residents under the Alaska Constitution, which only requires U.S. Citizenship.
“I have over 850 people serving in office who I’ve appointed to boards and commissions, and this represents a handful of folks,” Parnell said.
The governor said AGDC is taking the lead in the Alaska Liquified Natural Gas project, and outside expertise is needed on the board.
“The question is, do we want somebody who knows something about gas pipe and putting a project together?” Parnell said. “I honestly think it’s a good thing to have someone with that knowledge. I would not want a general practitioner performing brain surgery on me.”
There are some instances, such as the Alaska Aerospace Development Corporation, where board members have come from outside the state. But there’s a specific Alaska statute, which allows this, because Alaska doesn’t have the in-state expertise.
Parnell says he doesn’t want to get in a constitutional fight with Democrats, so he’ll ask lawmakers to pass a law allowing non-resident appointments to AGDC.
“We cannot rely solely on a small population group and expect that the biggest project in North American history be limited to Alaska residents,” Parnell said. “So I’m going to ask that legislators carve out an exception on this mega project like they did with the Alaska Aerospace Corporation.”
Democrats said they welcome the debate.
“This is all about Alaska. Alaska gas. An Alaskan gasline,” French said. “Let’s have Alaskans on board making these decisions. These are big questions that are central to the economy of the state.”
In the meantime, two representatives say they’ll work toward an amendment this session to end the debate.
Mike Chenault and Mike Hawker said they want the governor to have the widest possible field of expertise to choose from when making board appointments to the AGDC.