AGDC board nominees include former lobbyist

Gov. Bill Walker made three Alaska Gasline Development Corp. board appointments Feb. 19.

Walker selected Rick Halford of Dillingham, Joe Paskvan of Fairbanks and Hugh Short of Anchorage to serve on the AGDC Board of Directors.

At the same time, the governor said he would seek to expand a state-backed pipeline plan developed by AGDC as a backstop in case a large gas pipeline and liquefied natural gas project fails to proceed. AGDC is also involved in the large gas project in a partnership with North Slope producing companies.

Halford spent 24 years in both chambers of the state Legislature and retired as Senate president in 2003. He was co-chair of Walker’s transition team and he is also a former lobbyist for the Alaska Gasline Port Authority, the gas pipeline proponent group Walker’s law firm represented in its effort to bring North Slope gas to a port in Valdez. Halford was paid $100,000 by the port authority in 2005 for work during the legislative session.

Short is well known in Alaska financial circles and is a former chair of the Alaska Industrial Development Authority board and a former mayor of Bethel. He is the chair and CEO of Pt Capital, an Anchorage-based Arctic investment firm.

Paskvan is an attorney and former Democrat state senator, who served from 2009-2012.

AGDC is the state corporation tasked with developing Alaska’s natural gas resources through a North Slope pipeline project.

“I am pleased to welcome these three talented Alaskans to our team. Bringing our natural gas to Alaskans and the world market is one of my top priorities as governor,” Walker said in a formal statement. “I am confident that with these additional members, the AGDC board is on track to make that happen.”

In January, the governor dismissed former state legislator Drue Pearce, Al Bolea, a retired BP manager, and Richard Ranibow, a former ExxonMobil pipeline project manager, from the board.

At the time Walker said he wanted a transparent board and ordered new members from his administration — Department of Labor Commissioner Heidi Drygas, and Acting Commerce Commissioner Fred Parady — not to sign confidentiality agreements. He retained public members Dave Cruz, owner of Cruz Construction Inc., and attorney John Burns.

Walker said he is not concerned that his appointees do not have experience specifically in the oil and gas industry. He said he wanted longtime Alaskans that understand the needs of the state.

“Our expertise is not going to be board driven,” he said. “Our expertise is going to be administration driven — from the administration of AGDC.”

Leaders of the state House of Representatives who were the architects of the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. reacted with caution to Walker’s appointments.

“As with any appointments subject to legislative confirmation, we’ll conduct a thorough examination of these new appointees, their experience, and their qualifications,” House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, said in a statement.

“We went to great lengths in the legislature to ensure that AGDC would be as far removed from politics as possible, having learned from past projects that real success is built not on hopes and dreams, but on technical, commercial, and financial know- how, with decisions driven by economic realities and not by politics.”

Rep. Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage, said, “It is a daunting task to replace the unparalleled expertise the original board members brought to AGDC. I look forward to hearing from the administration the nature of its process used in these appointments, and better understanding the source of each candidate’s qualifications.”

Senate Resources Chair Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, noted in a press release that, by law, the individuals are selected for their experience in disciplines critical to the corporation’s success, including finance, pipeline construction, operations and marketing, and large project construction management.

“I look forward to conducting our usual objective interviewing of the new AGDC Board appointees,” Giessel said in the release. “As with all gubernatorial appointees, my committee and I will focus on the statutes that define the expertise and experience needed for the position. We will evaluate the capacity of the person to conduct the work of the AGDC board.”

Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected].

Journal reporter Tim Bradner contributed to this report.

11/18/2016 - 5:49pm