Business Briefs

Posted: Thursday, October 02, 2003

Ogan resigns from Evergreen position

ANCHORAGE State Sen. Scott Ogan (R-Palmer), has resigned as a public relations consultant Evergreen Resources Inc., which is planning a controversial natural gas exploration project in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley.

Critics had accused Ogan of having a serious conflict of interest when he accepted the $40,000-a-year job with the Denver-based company after sponsoring a bill creating a shallow gas leasing program.

Ogan spent months denying any conflict of interest in maintaining both his legislative seat and his job with Evergreen, which holds 300,000 acres of state leases in the Mat-Su Valley. On Tuesday, Ogan acknowledged the legitimacy of claims that he had ''an irreconcilable conflict.''

Ogan announced his resignation in a one-page statement faxed to media outlets Tuesday evening just as Evergreen CEO Mark Sexton was meeting with mostly angry residents in Sutton.

Sexton made no mention of Ogan's resignation during the meeting, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

In his statement, Ogan said his oath to serve his constituents ''must always come first.''

He said that Evergreen's recent acquisition of additional gas leases and overwhelming public interest in getting more information ''has compromised my ability to be impartial and represent both.''

''I regret ending my relationship with Evergreen because I love good resource development,'' he said.

''I hope my stepping down will allow people to focus on the issue of shallow gas, rather than the perception of my conflict.''

Ogan was not available for comment Tuesday night, nor were Evergreen officials.

At the meeting in Sutton, nearly continuous catcalls greeted top officials from Evergreen who convened to discuss their plans to explore for coal bed methane across the Valley.

Sexton spoke of Evergreen's economic presence in Colorado's Las Animas County, saying the company provides more than half the tax base and sustains 200 long-term jobs, while aggressively contributing to local charities.

Audience members held up pink paper signs saying, ''Why can't we ask you questions?'' that referred to Evergreen's policy Tuesday night of only accepting written questions read by a moderator.

Many residents fear that their wells will dry up or become polluted and that few state laws protect them.

Evergreen has leases to draw methane, the chief component of natural gas, from coal seams from Houston to Sutton in patches that include populated areas. But the company said more exploration and testing is needed before it determines the prospects are economic to produce.

Feds seek to punish gas market manipulators

COLUMBUS, Ohio Federal regulators are seeking $355 million in penalties from American Electric Power Co., saying natural gas traders manipulated prices in a scheme that made millions of dollars for the utility holding company.

Depending on the day, the price and volume of gas trades were overstated in an attempt to move the market up or understated in an attempt to move it down, said Gregory G. Mocek, enforcement director of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

The agency filed a suit Tuesday against AEP in U.S. District Court in Columbus alleging that AEP reaped $63.5 million in profits from November 2000 through October 2002 because of false trading reports.

The suit comes one year after an internal review by AEP uncovered false reporting to a price-compiling industry publication.

The company fired five people who worked in its natural gas trading operation.

Native corporations make big gains in 2003

ANCHORAGE Two Native regional corporations made impressive leaps in an annual list of top-grossing Alaska-owned companies compiled by Alaska Business Monthly magazine.

Regional Native corporations Chenega and Koniag each reported triple the revenues they had in previous years in the magazine's annual Top 49ers list, which ranks companies based on their total revenue.

Chenega jumped a dozen places to 12th on the list as its revenue nearly tripled to $117 million in 2002, up from $43.4 million.

Koniag reported $70.7 million in revenue in 2002, after reporting revenue of $30.9 million in the previous year, and was ranked 18th on the latest list.

Both companies credit the jump to a growth in government contracting subsidiaries.

''We've been able to win a lot of work and perform well on our existing work,'' said Chenega chief operating officer Jeff Hueners. ''We're getting more recognition in the market.''

A growing number of Alaska Native corporations have been establishing subsidiaries to take advantage of the Small Business Administration's 8(a) program, which reserves about 5 percent of federal government contracts for minority- and women-owned companies.

Native-owned firms get an extra benefit because they are excluded from a $3 million cap on contract size.

Barrow-based Arctic Slope Regional Corp. topped the list for the ninth consecutive year, reporting $974 million in revenue for 2002. That is an 8 percent decline from the $1.06 billion it reported the prior year.

Cook Inlet Region Inc. slid in the rankings to 14th from second as its 2002 revenue came in at $95 million, compared with $854 million.

A spokeswoman said the sharp decline in 2002 revenue is the result of CIRI's 2001 sale of most of its shares of VoiceStream Wireless for about $650 million. A lot of that money was used to make a big dividend payment.

The Associated Press

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