Appointees to Alaska Gasline Development Corp. board express support for major gas project

EnergyAssociated Press

New appointees to the board of the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. expressed support Monday for a major liquefied natural gas project the state is pursuing.

The House Resources Committee held confirmation hearings for Rick Halford, Joe Paskvan and Hugh Short, with much of the time focused on Halford and Paskvan, who are former legislators. Short is chairman and CEO of a private equity firm focused on Arctic investments.

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Paskvan said "job No. 1" is the project known as Alaska LNG that the state has been pursuing with BP PLC, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil Corp., TransCanada Corp. and AGDC. If that falters, he said he believes Alaskans deserve the best shot at an economically viable alternative, if one exists.

Gov. Bill Walker last month said he was pleased with the progress the Alaska LNG project has made and he intends for the state to continue pursuing it. But he also proposed increasing the size of a smaller stand-alone gas line project, initially aimed at providing gas to Alaskans, and turning it into a project that would be capable of exports in case Alaska LNG faltered. He said whichever project was first to produce a "solid plan" with conditions acceptable to the state would get the state's full support. Or, he said, the two projects might be combined.

Some lawmakers worried the proposal could create uncertainty around Alaska LNG. The proposal gave rise to legislation from state House leaders, including Speaker Mike Chenault, that would limit AGDC's participation in an alternate export or liquefied natural gas project for now.

The bill, which Walker has threatened to veto, passed the House on Monday evening.

"It is critical for the state to maintain the option of having an all-Alaska line in order to guarantee a gas line is finally built," Walker said by email earlier in the day.

Rep. Mike Hawker, a co-sponsor on Chenault's bill, said during the committee hearing that there have been concerns about a lack of clarity over the alternate plan. He asked Halford if he shared those concerns.

Halford said the questions need to be answered quickly and he hopes for a plan to be presented at the next board meeting.

Gov. Bill Walker had removed three of AGDC's five public board members and replaced them with Short, Paskvan and Halford. Walker said he wanted Alaskans on the board and greater regional representation. The appointments are subject to legislative approval.

The law calls for the governor to consider an individual's expertise and experience with gas pipeline projects, finance, large project management and other areas relevant to AGDC's duties. Committee members asked the appointees how their past experiences translated to serving on the board.

Paskvan said he can bring an Alaskan viewpoint, plus experience as an attorney and former Senate Resources Committee co-chair. Halford said he gained extensive experience during his 24 years in the Legislature. Hawker, R-Anchorage, asked Halford if he could divorce politics from decision-making.

Halford said we live in a world of politics and he doesn't know how that can be totally separated, but he said he thinks the project will be driven by economics.

"I don't think politics can ever overwhelm logic or economics, and I don't want to see it do that," he said. "I think we have to come up with something that's economic or it's never going to happen."