GASLINE AGENCY IS NOW THE SAME AS GOVERNOR’S OFFICE
Governor Bill Walker has established a shadow government: the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation.
AGDC, created to carry the State of Alaska’s interest in a full-scale gasline from the North Slope to tidewater and markets beyond, is no longer the trusted agency it was set up to be.
The website description for AGDC describes it as, “an independent, public corporation of the State of Alaska, with a legal existence separate and distinct from the state.”
In charge of the largest capital project in North American history, AGDC is now murky in its goals and mysterious in its operations. One thing we know: The governor is running the show.
The melding of the two entities happened in stages, starting nearly as soon as Walker was sworn in back in 2014.
First, Walker fired almost everyone on the board, including Chairman John Burns, and replaced them with cronies associated with Walker’s old Alaska Gasline Port Authority, the failed Valdez project.
He said AGDC would be a “lay” board of Alaskans, but they’re Alaskans with a specific portfolio that links back to Walker and his top hot-dog lawyer, Craig Richards.
Walker then got rid of AGDC president Dan Fauske, an Alaskan with a long history of successes in the state, who was trusted by the public through his work at the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, another public corporation. The governor brought in a brash Texan, Keith Meyer, who made the mistake of insulting a few legislators right out of the gate. It was a rocky start for Meyer last month.
The governor drove off one commissioner after another at the Department of Natural Resources, and put a malleable Andy Mack in that slot. Mack will do as he is told, since he is clearly out of his league as commissioner.
With Mack in place, Walker then took the first step to default the Prudhoe Bay oil fields, as he tries to force confidential marketing information out of the gasline partners, Exxon, BP and ConocoPhillips.
When the governor’s attorney general, Craig Richards, left state employment suddenly in June, he was replaced by a person with no experience in oil and gas.
Richards will evidently contract with the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. to do some kind of work for some kind of price. No one knows and no one is telling at this point. The governor’s communication director, Grace Jang, says the deal isn’t final. The good money says he’ll be suing over the leases in Prudhoe in what will be the litigation of a lifetime.
BRIGHT LINE ERASED
There was always a separation between AGDC and the Governor’s Office and other state agencies. AGDC has a separate board and the ability to bond. The structure wasn’t created to be run by a Walker or a Begich; it was built when Sean Parnell was governor, and Parnell was a stickler for rules.
The key mistake may have been that the board “serves as the will” of the governor. That worked out when the governor respected the bright-line role of board members and kept it at arm’s length, as Parnell did.
But now, there is no distinguishing between the Governor’s Office — with Jim Whittaker, chief of staff, and Marcia Davis, deputy chief of staff — and AGDC.
It’s one and the same, except that AGDC is not subject to public records requests.
There’s the rub. The public has no idea what’s going on over at the agency that spends millions of dollars of public money, and has no apparent accountability.
AGDC’s board will have its next meeting on July 14. In addition to an expected executive session, they may discuss that they are opening an office in Houston, Texas, and they’ve hired a marketing coordinator to market “their” gas to Asia.
And all this full-speed-ahead activity can proceed until the next fiscal year, which starts July 1, 2017.
By then, the only recourse for the people of Alaska is for the Alaska Legislature to pull the funding plug. This is being suggested by observers who say that until the Governor proves he has a viable option, every dime except bare maintenance needs to be locked down.
That solution is only possible if Republicans who are true fiscal conservatives hold their majorities in both the House and Senate. Walker is planning to change the calculus on that as well, so that along with malleable commissioners in charge of Alaska’s economy and law, he has a cooperative Legislature.
All eyes are on November.
SUMMER FILM SERIES
The Walkerville Plan is outlined in videos that have surfaced from 2012.
Here, his law partner Craig Richards says what he thinks is best for Alaska — state control of the gas line:
“The one [option] I am suggesting might be in Alaska’s best interests and that we should start seriously talking about is state control, that is we take control away from the producers, and [for the] state to step into that development role.”
The video sets the stage for how and why the Walker Administration took the first step last month to default the Prudhoe Bay fields: Take control. Is he baiting the producers into filing a lawsuit against the state for unfair treatment? Quite possibly, so he can counter-sue them for failure to market their gas.
During the same 2012 conference, Walker described his “my-goodness-owner-state-control.”
“As a comparison with Qatar, which owns all the infrastructure…You need gas and you need a market. The infrastructure in between is what you put together when you have those two pieces…It will never make sense to the leaseholders…It’s time for Alaska to step up and take control of this process.
The governor’s million-dollar consultant, Radoslav Shipkoff, also is on YouTube, arguing Alaska needed to start “right now” to take advantage of the window of opportunity.
We’ll update this report as news develops.