Gov. Bill Walker is defending his decision to pay two consultants working on the state’s proposed natural gas pipeline project more than $200,000 a month.

South Carolina-based attorney Rigdon Boykin and Washington, D.C.-based Radoslov Shipkoff were hand-picked by the governor for the project.

During his campaign, Walker was critical of salaries for state employees of the Alaska Gasline Development Corportion. He says the roles aren’t comparable.

“It’s very different role for negotiators coming in negotiating the commercial deal versus people that are on a board. Board members need to be Alaskans,” Walker stressed.

Thursday, Rep. Mike Hawker, one of AKLNG’s critics, responded to the news by saying he understands that the magnitude of the project requires a high level of expertise, which can be costly. He hopes the governor’s picks pay off.

“The choice and the decision to hire Mr. Boykin was made by the governor,” Hawker said. “The governor made the decision as to what his compensation rate would be, and the person who makes those decisions ultimately becomes responsible for it.”

At a meeting with legislators on Wednesday evening, AKLNG project manger Steve Butt said the project could end up costing hundreds of millions of dollars more and be delayed 6-8 months because the governor’s administration wants research done on a bigger pipeline.

On Thursday, the governor said the research is worth the time and cost to ultimately ensure Alaska builds the right size pipeline for the market.

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