Walker removes 3 AGDC members in effort for transparency
Gov. Bill Walker has removed three board members from the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation.
Walker’s office announced the changes in a late-night press release on Tuesday. The administration calls it a “major paradigm shift” in the state’s business dealings over natural gas.
The Alaska Gasline Development Corporation is an independent state corporation tasked with developing Alaska’s natural gas through pipeline and infrastructure projects.
The three board members, who were appointed by former Gov. Sean Parnell, are well-known to the oil and gas industry.
- Drue Pearce, a former state lawmaker and Senate President. Also appointed by former President George W. Bush to serve as the Alaska Federal Pipeline Coordinator, to help expedite construction of a gas line across Canada to the Lower 48.
- Al Bolea, the former CEO of Dubai Petroleum and a retired BP executive. Bolea urrently teaches leadership seminars at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
- Richard Rabinow, a retired ExxonMobil executive, who lives in Houston, Texas. Rabinow ran Exxon’s pipeline company.
When Parnell appointed Rabinow last year, Democrats protested because Rabinow is not an Alaska resident. They argued the appointment violated the Alaska Constitution. Republican majority leaders changed the law so the AGDC board could include out-of-state members. They agreed with Parnell that AGDC needed outside expertise.
Anchorage Democrat Sen. Bill Wielechowski was one of the Democrats who opposed Rabinow’s appointment to the AGDC board. Wielechowski says that Walker is living up to his campaign promise to appoint Alaskans.
“He’s the governor. He’s worked on the gasline almost his entire life,” said Wielechowski of Walker. “He has the right to have the people on the project that are philosophically aligned with him. If his whole team is pushing in one direction and you’ve got people rowing in another, that puts us out of alignment.”
AGDC’s role has expanded to include working with three major oil companies to develop the Alaska Liquified Natural Gas Project, which would bring North Slope gas to Cook Inlet, where it would be turned into LNG for export overseas.
Walker’s announcement comes just two days before the AGDC Board of Directors is scheduled to meet in Anchorage. AGDC is governed by seven board members, which include five public members and two state government department heads. Currently, the labor and commerce commissioners serve on the board. Public members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature.
House Speaker Mike Chenault says the governor’s actions create uncertainty and could be a setback for the Alaska LNG project.
“People in a number of board rooms this morning are asking what this means,” said Chenault on Wednesday about the oil and gas industry’s potential reaction. “I wonder about the impact on everything going forward.”
Wielechowski, however, doesn’t believe the governor’s actions put the LNG project in jeopardy, adding that it’s simply part of a new administration’s realignment process.
“I would expect to see more of this in other areas,” Wielechowski said.
In Tuesday night’s announcement, the governor also objected to confidentiality agreements members are expected to sign before going into executive session.
“I cannot allow my cabinet members to sign confidentiality agreements meant to keep information away from the public,” said Walker in the release, adding that he was taking this step as part of his commitment to “transparent government.”
Others familiar with the oil and gas industry, however, say such confidentiality agreements are necessary to encourage investment. Chenault also questions the governor’s opposition.
“If we think we are gonna deal with major oil companies, where a portion of those conversations can’t be confidential, to at least keep proprietary information confidential, I don’t see how we get these folks into a room to cut a deal,” Chenault said.
Walker says he would appoint three qualified Alaskans to the board within 30 days to fill the new vacancies. Two will remain on the board – its chairman, former Alaska attorney general John Burns of Fairbanks, and Dave Cruz of Palmer, who is owner of an oil field services company.
During the last legislative session, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 138, which made AGDC one of the main vehicles for a state partnership with ExxonMobil, BP and ConocoPhillips to develop an LNG project, expected to cost more than $45 billion. Lawmakers who championed the legislation say it’s the furthest the state has gone in its efforts to develop North Slope gas.
In the statement, Walker said his goal was to accelerate efforts to bring Alaska’s gas to market, but to do so in a way that keeps the public informed.
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