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Anchorage to host meeting of Energy Council; group's February meeting a big draw for lawmakers

Posted: September 28, 2011 - 12:03am

ANCHORAGE — The Energy Council, a group whose Washington, D.C., gatherings shut down Alaska’s legislative sessions every February because so many lawmakers attend, is bringing its show to Anchorage for three days this week.

The council is holding a meeting at the Hotel Captain Cook. It’s expected to include legislators from energy-producing states coming to talk about oil and gas and to see Alaska.

The council is based in Dallas. It doesn’t have a website but described itself in an emailed message as a legislative organization of 11 energy-producing U.S. states, five Canadian provinces and the South America nation of Venezuela.

Alaska joined the council in 1988, paying $32,000 in annual dues for its legislators to be members.

The late February meeting of the energy council in Washington, D.C., has been a hugely popular event for Alaska lawmakers the past several years. More than half the state Senate and one-third of the House went this year at state expense, essentially shutting down Alaska’s legislative session for nearly a week, as it does every year. Many lawmakers who don’t go to Washington just head home during that period because no work is being done.

The group has other meetings that rotate among member states and provinces. It’s now Alaska’s turn. The agenda and other details of the Alaska meeting are handled mostly by the national organization, Alaska lawmakers said. The panel discussions and other events are typically open to the conference attendees rather than to the general public.

The Alaska meeting opens Thursday at noon with remarks from Mississippi state Sen. Tom Moffatt, chairman of the Energy Council, according to the draft agenda. Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell will give the keynote luncheon address.

Sitka Sen. Bert Stedman will chair a Friday breakfast panel on “Northwest Energy Resources in a Global Market,” with the premier of the Northwest Territories and Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. President Tom Barrett among those participating.

A discussion of “Oil Outlook for North America” will feature a Chevron vice president and Alaska deputy resources commissioner Joe Balash. Among the other panels are “Arctic Energy Future” and “Coal Innovation and Regulation.”

The meeting is scheduled to adjourn at noon Saturday, with a “working dinner” that night before attendees leave town, according to the draft agenda.

Some council members will tour the Prudhoe Bay oil fields on the North Slope or production facilities in Cook Inlet.

Anchorage Rep. Craig Johnson, co-chair of the Alaska meeting, said there are benefits to having legislators from energy-producing states see Alaska and take the message back home about the state’s challenges and opportunities.

“It helps us to have those people actually on the ground,” he said.

The Energy Council has been in existence for 36 years. The executive director of the group, Lori Cameron, was in transit from Texas to Alaska on Monday but previously told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the group was formed in 1975 by officials from Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and New Mexico in response to interest from the U.S. Department of Energy in putting a high-level nuclear waste site in the region.

Public documents show the council, a nonprofit, raised and spent about $900,000 in fiscal year 2010, with the vast majority of the money coming from membership dues and conference fees. A fact sheet from the council lists a full-time staff of four, although Cameron is the only one whose compensation, $185,000, is broken out in the group’s nonprofit IRS filings. The group said its work primarily occurs at its “themed quarterly conferences.”

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