Legislative aide and former journalist Larry Persily has been named federal pipeline coordinator by the Obama administration, a position designed to help bring Alaska's natural gas to North American markets.
Persily, 58, is currently a top aide to Rep Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage, a opponent of Alaska's effort to develop a pipeline under the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act.
That is just one of two pipeline projects now moving forward. A competing pipeline by ConocoPhillips Co. and BP PLC, called Denali, is also moving forward.
Pending Senate confirmation, Persily will replace former coordinator Drue Pearce, appointed by the previous administration. The coordinator position is formally called the " Federal Coordinator for Alaska Natural Gas Transportation Projects."
Alaska is supporting an effort by TransCanada Corp., with partner Exxon Mobil Corp., to develop a pipeline under AGIA.
BP and ConocoPhillips opposed AGIA, and began their own pipeline shortly after its passage.
The coordinator's job is to support a pipeline, but doesn't give preference to any specific developer.
Gov. Sean Parnell, who backs the AGIA pipeline plan created by his predecessor, former Gov. Sarah Palin, declined to address concerns over Persily's former employer.
"Larry has a great knowledge of gasline and energy issues," said Sharon Leighow, spokeswoman for the governor.
"Governor Parnell looks forward to Larry continuing the good work done by Drue Pearce to advance development of a natural gas pipeline," she said.
Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, who joined with Republican Palin to help pass AGIA, said she had no concerns about Persily's previous employment with an AGIA opponent.
"Larry is very smart, and very hard working," she said.
"He is a professional and he's now in a different role," Kerttula continued. "I know that he is going to do the best job he can for Alaska, so I feel comfortable with it."
Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, suggested Persily for the job, noting his decade of experience working on oil and gas issues for three governors.
"Larry is an excellent choice for this important position," Begich said. "Few people can match his depth of knowledge and history on oil and gas issues."
Persily was unavailable Wednesday, but earlier told the Empire there was no conflict and that he's often worked well for people with different views than his.
Among Persily's previous jobs was managing editor of the Juneau Empire, as well as the editorial page editor of the Anchorage Daily News.
Among his non-journalism positions was associate director of the state's office in Washington, D.C., under Palin, and he was deputy commissioner of the Department of Revenue under Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles.
"Persily is known statewide for his bipartisan credentials - he has worked for Democrats and Republicans - and his knowledge on oil and gas matters, particularly the history of the 40-year effort to develop a North Slope natural gas pipeline," according to the Obama administration.
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