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My Turn: Alaskans want the best, and HB383 will ensure it

Posted: April 11, 2014 - 12:11am

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 by developing projects that connect Alaskans with Alaska natural gas at the lowest possible price. While AGDC originally was to purse an instate pipeline, legislation this session would direct them to also develop the state’s share of a much bigger project with major oil producers and TransCanada.

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 without restricting the governor’s appointments to only Alaskans. We thought we did that, but we don’t always get complex legislation right the first time. 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 on 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. Under the governor’s gasline bill, it would be his job 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. Rabinow is 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 developers’ 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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Brad Fluetsch
Brad Fluetsch 04/11/14 - 08:13 am
Then why isn't Warren on the APFC Board?

Dear Speaker,

Considering the Alaska Permanent Fund is of far greater significance to most Alaskans and it greatly exceeds the value of the pipeline, why isn't Warren Buffet running the Permanent Fund?

Alaskans want the best, the BEST Alaskan resident.

Outside interests push outside interests... or they are not objective/been purchased for their analysis. Just look at AEA's effort hiring Black and Veetch for the Southeast Integrated Resource Plan that rejects building an electrical grid and recommends going back to the wood stove. That analysis cost Alaskan's a million dollars and was immediately rejected by Alaska's Congressional Delegation, Representatives and Senators from Southeast and most thinking people.

I am not sure you want hold up either the Railroad or Aerospace board given their impending financial disasters.

Karl Ashenbrenner
Karl Ashenbrenner 04/11/14 - 09:13 am
We as

Alaskans want an ALASKAN to serve on our boards. Not some bought and paid for shill from Outside no matter what his expertise. Since Chenault and his ilk insist on pushing this through, there is one easy fix. Any board member hired from Outside must move to Alaska and establish residency or lose their seat. Simple fix, if they are really invested in our state then they would have no problem with that provision and so would our legislators.

Tom Leston
Tom Leston 04/11/14 - 09:45 am
Mike - Yes, Warren Buffett is

Mike - Yes, Warren Buffett is rich, but I doubt he would vote for your bill.

I thought this was worth posting:
"Buffett backed Obama for president, and intimated that John McCain's views on social justice were so far from his own that McCain would need a "lobotomy" for Buffett to change his endorsement"

“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.” - Dwight David Eisenhower

Art Petersen
Art Petersen 04/12/14 - 07:56 am
Rep. Chenault says

that it would be Mr. Rabinow's "job" to represent the interests of Alaska but that he would not take a salary because he would be a volunteer. It's NOT cynical to wonder why a top oil man who lives in Texas would take a job for no salary to represent Alaska's interests and to wonder where his interests really lie. If Mr. Rabinow would like to volunteer to serve an Alaska board, fine. Pay the air fare, pay the $400 a day, authorize him to sit at the table with the board and hammer out a deal with the big three and participate as rules allow. But let's not authorize an oil man who lives in Texas to sign on the contractual bottom line for Alaskans. Alaska has over five decades of experience in the oil business, and there are Alaskans who know the history, know the good and the bad about business and contracts and building pipelines. Alaska does not need to farm out its authority to look out for Alaska to oil men from Texas. Like gold, great expertise is where you find it, and it should be brought to the table if possible, but as for persons to serve on Alaska boards and to look out for Alaska, plenty of Alaskans are well-qualified to serve. In short, the authority and responsibility for Alaska contracts should be conferred on Alaskans, not Texans.

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