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Voices of the Peninsula: Alaskans deserve the best when taking on the best

Posted: April 9, 2014 - 7:06pm

When you get ready to make a significant decision in life, whether it is buying a car or home, choosing a career, or having to work through a legal matter, you want the best on your side. You wouldn’t want me, a state representative and career small businessman, investing your life savings; you’d want Warren Buffett.

I say that as a way to relate why I am sponsoring a bill (House Bill 383) to allow a Texan to serve on the Board of Directors for the Alaska Gasline Development Corp (AGDC.)

The legislature created AGDC to serve as Alaskans’ natural gas pipeline company, developing projects that connect Alaskans with Alaska natural gas, at the lowest possible price. While AGDC originally was to purse the ASAP instate pipeline, legislation this session would direct them to also develop the state’s share of a much bigger project with the producers and TransCanada, the Alaska LNG project.

To accomplish the mission of getting gas to Alaskans, AGDC needs the strongest, most experienced people possible at the helm. In setting up AGDC last session, the legislature required a diverse board with specific expertise – and didn’t want to restrict the governor’s appointments to only Alaskans. We thought we did that, but we don’t always get complex legislation right the first time, and now there is a real question as to whether out-of-state residents can serve on AGDCs Board.

My first attempt to fix this problem was to amend a bill by an Anchorage senator extending the much-respected Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (CDVSA.) The rules of the legislature say that you can only change a bill if it has the same subject. Since the CDVSA bill was about a board, I asked the sponsor — with his agreement at the time — if I could amend his bill to let Richard Rabinow make it through our confirmation hearings April 11.

I thought I had his agreement; I was mistaken. I was as surprised as anyone to read in the newspaper when the sponsor referred to his bill as being “hijacked.” That’s why I withdrew my amendment during a House Rules Committee hearing April 3. No one in the Capitol, not my Majority Caucus members, the full House, Senate, or governor, wants to endanger the ability of the CDVSA to continue to advocate and help Alaskans.

Now that that matter is settled, we’ll try and pass a fix to the AGDC Board statute. Here’s why:

Alaska deserves to have the best and brightest on their side of the table when negotiating with the Big Three for our interests; that’s what AGDC was created to do, and the employees and Board are our advocates. The board members have even taken an oath of office to serve Alaskans.

There is a similar exemption for in-state appointments to the Alaska Aerospace Development Corporation Board, which currently contains a well-qualified out-of-state member, and for the Alaska Railroad Corporation’s Board. Both of those boards and corporations look to bring business and create wealth for Alaskans, much like AGDC.

Richard Rabinow has more than four decades of experience in all aspects of natural resource and pipeline development. He’s worked for some of the world’s most successful and sophisticated companies, and has tremendous expertise in the areas AGDC has been tasked, and may be asked under the governor’s gasline bill, to protect the State’s interests.

Yes, he’s from Texas. If there were a capable Alaskan with a similar background and résumé I would certainly advocate on their behalf for appointment to the Board. He’s also extremely successful and has volunteered to serve on the Board. He doesn’t take a salary; he receives a $400 honorarium on days the Board conducts business and receives reimbursement for travel. We’re getting a tremendous deal having his insight and acumen in our meetings, as voiced in the Rules Committee hearing by AGDC Board Chair John Burns, and AGDC President Dan Fauske.

Our state faces critical issues: declining revenues, declining oil production, getting our gas to market in time to compete with growing world demand and project competition.

A natural gas pipeline and development of our North Slope resources are crucial to our state’s future. While an instate line could help alleviate energy problems, a bigger LNG project may help bolster state revenues until we see the benefits of new oil production fostered by the oil tax reform passed last year. Either way, AGDC will be representing Alaskans’ interests.

To get there, we’ll need the best working with us and for us, which is why I’m hoping we can make this fix to law and keep Mr. Rabinow on the AGDC Board. If people vote for him, ok. If people vote against him, ok. But there needs to be a vote. I respect the voice and concerns of those who don’t want non-residents on state boards, but disagree with them philosophically. If Mr. Rabinow can help us get the best deal, understand the majors’ concerns and points of view, then I want him on that Board helping us, just as you’d want the best in whatever arena helping you make a critical decision.

Mike Chenault has represented Nikiski and the rural Kenai Peninsula in the Alaska House of Representatives since 2000. He’s the first three-term Speaker of the House, and one of the prime authors of the bill creating the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation, along with Anchorage republican Mike Hawker.

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