VETOES MEASURE THAT WOULD HAVE ALLOWED LEGISLATURE MORE INSIGHT
It was just last week when the new head of the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation said that the gasline project itself wasn’t the problem.
The problem, AGDC President Keith Meyer said, was the relationship between AGDC and the Alaska Legislature, aka The People of Alaska.
He said, quite bluntly, that the relationship was bad and needed to improve.
“AGDC has an observable poor relationship with key legislators and legislative committees. I’ve seen it in the press and I’ve felt it in the (legislative) hearings. This has to change,” Meyer said during a presentation to the AGDC board. “Anytime you have an absence of information that is probably filled with the worst possible scenario and I think that’s what’s happening here. There’s not enough information out there. People want to fill in the gaps with a fear scenario.”
But today that relationship did not get any better.
Governor Bill Walker vetoed Senate Bill 125, which would have added three nonvoting members from the Legislature to the AGDC Board of Directors.
“The governor’s veto sends the wrong message to the industry, the Legislature, and the public,” said Sen. Mia Costello, who sponsored the legislation. “The governor needs to share his vision for the gasline with Alaskans and not cut legislators out of closed-door meetings.”
“AGDC President Keith Meyer has stated publicly that the relationship with the Legislature needs to improve and that there needs to be greater transparency when it comes to building the AK LNG Project,” said Senate President Kevin Meyer in a statement. “Having legislators serve on the AGDC board provides greater transparency, greater insight into the direction of this $65 billion project, and greater accountability as to how money is being spent.
Sen. Meyer went on to say that the largest infrastructure project in North American history is being managed by an agency that needs to make legislators, the actual funding appropriators, comfortable.
Walker justified his veto by stating that legislators can’t hold dual offices. But they do in dozens of state commissions, boards and state corporations, including the Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority, the Alaska Aerospace Corporation, and the board of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.
“The governor had the opportunity to back up his word, and he chose not to,” Costello said. “AGDC said its number one concern is communication with the Legislature. The public deserves to know what the governor’s vision for the pipeline is. This is one more example of how he has chosen not to do that.”
The LNG market has become weak for the Alaska LNG project because of oversupply and the high cost of doing business in Alaska. While the supply of gas is plentiful, the 800-mile-long gasline makes Alaska’s commodity relatively expensive. Many Alaskans are asking if the project pencils out at any time in the next 20 years.
In his veto letter, Walker stated that “building the gasline will take a team effort, and AGDC must earn the confidence and trust of the Legislature and the public to ultimately make the gasline a reality.”
TRANSPARENCY APPEARS TOUGH FOR AGDC
Earlier this month, Keith Meyer received a request by Senate President Kevin Meyer and Senator Cathy Giessel to provide the concept document for the radical shift of direction that the gasline project has taken under the direction of the governor. Meyer responded with a letter balking at releasing information, a letter that shows how troubling it is for his agency to comply with requests from legislative leaders: