Alaska Gasline Development Corporation president resigns after Gov. Walker fires board chair
Dan Fauske, the president of the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation (AGDC), has resigned.
The agency holds decision-making power on the state’s project for a natural gas pipeline, on which it partners with three oil giants: BP, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil.
At a special board meeting Saturday morning, the board introduced an amendment to its agenda to accept the resignation of Fauske, who was not present at the meeting. Fauske submitted his resignation Friday night, the same day Gov. Bill Walker announced he had fired the chair of the AGDC board, John Burns.
Burns has been replaced by Luke Hopkins, former mayor of the Fairbanks North Star Borough. Hopkins was present at Saturday’s meeting and voted to accept Dan Fauske’s resignation, along with all other members of the board.
Fauske said the governor is changing his mind on direction, but that the decision to resign was mutual.
“I know that he gets frustrated with how long some stuff takes and feeling pressure with a $3 billion deficit,” Fauske said. “So a lot of things mount up trying to expedite things, but I think the project needs to keep going. It’s a good project, and I hope that’s the direction it continues to go.”
At a press conference Saturday, Walker says he didn’t specifically ask for Fauske’s resignation.
“It’s no secret that I felt we need a person in that position who has done many, many projects of this magnitude,” said the governor. “I let [the AGDC board] know that I think we need a person there with different qualifications.”
The governor says he is ultimately in charge, but that more changes in leadership on the project are expected.
“The organizational chart that we inherited about a year ago is largely the one that you’re looking at,” said Walker about an organizational chart his office released to the legislature on Oct. 26, which named Fauske as a key decision-maker on the project. “We’re going to change that.”
Fauske says, after working with five different state governors throughout the course of his career, elections are always in the back of his mind.
“When you serve at the pleasure of, when you’re appointed, you’re never far from that world,” said Fauske. “The reality of, Hey we want to make a change — We want to do something differently.”
When asked what he’ll do next, Fauske replied: “Walmart greeter is something I’d really look forward to. I don’t even know if they have those anymore, but I joke about that.”
On a more serious note, he says he wants to stay active either through volunteer work, consulting or advising.
“I’m a proud Alaskan,” he said. “I love this place and if I think I’ve got something to offer, I will always do that.”
The shuffle in personnel on the project came the day before AGDC was to take up a confirmation vote on moving forward with funding the next stage of AKLNG. With two new appointees, the AGDC board voted to table the resolution until Nov. 3, a day before the state and its three oil company partners will have to vote “yes” to keep the project moving.
The governor said he’s spoken to Resource Committee chairs in the Legislature about his plan on the project, but Resources Committee chair Sen. Cathie Giessel said she was surprised by the stalled vote.
“It concerns me that the resolution today verifying there would be a ‘yes’ vote from the state on Dec. 4 was removed,” said Geissel, noting that the bill approved by the Legislature last month provided funding for the project to go forward, and is contingent on a “yes” vote.
Walker says that vote is part of the state’s leverage to get other agreements from producers. He adds he didn’t want that confirmation to come from the AGDC board Saturday.
“It would be premature to make that decision without having received the benefit that we’ve asked for,” said Walker.
When asked why he waited until after the special session to make changes to leadership, the governor said AGDC became a different company after the buyout.
“We’re now in the pipeline business,” said Walker. “We’re very proud and fortunate to be that, but we also need to make sure we have representation at the table that is at level playing field with each of those companies. The organizational chart will change as a result of the Legislature authorizing the buyout of TransCanada, of course.”
House Speaker Mike Chenault says he doesn’t understand why the governor believes so much has changed since the Legislature approved funding for the buyout. He says Walker wanted to sever ties with TransCanada.
“He tries to make it seem like a big deal, like it’s a big shift between what AGDC was doing, and now after the buyout of TransCanada,” said Chenault. “They have more responsibilities, but the project is the same.”
Walker says he is working to create alignment within the project. With the recent addition of former Fairbanks Borough mayor Luke Hopkins, seven members of the governor’s administration have previous involvement with the Alaska Gasline Port Authority,an organization the governor helped found in 1999 to build a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope to Valdez.
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