POLITICAL FIGURE HAS BEEN A NO-SHOW
Hollis French, the chairman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, is missing in action — from the role, at least. Both the Jan. 2 and the Feb. 6 meeting of the commission were cancelled.
Gov. Bill Walker appointed French to the Commission in 2016 and made him the chairman. It was a political appointment, because French had originally run for lieutenant governor along with Byron Mallott. Under pressure from Democrats, he dropped out so that Mallott could be Walker’s running mate under a “unity” ticket that was endorsed fully by the Alaska Democratic Party.
French acquiesced to the party’s wishes, and applied for a judgeship. But he had not practiced law in a courtroom for five years, so that went nowhere. Then Walker found a spot for him as the public commission member on the AOGCC.
But the past two meetings of the commission have been cancelled without explanation.
And when AOGCC was to make a presentation to the Alaska Senate Finance Committee on Jan. 24, the duty fell to the other two commissioners, Cathy Foerster and Dan Seamount. French was nowhere to be found at the Juneau hearing.
This week a call to the commissions offices by Must Read Alaska discovered that all three of the commissioners, who run the day-to-day operations at the commission, were busy in a private meeting all week, the location of which was not disclosed by the phone answerer.
The word in Juneau is that he has been dismissed by the governor, “for cause.” Cause is the only way the governor can remove French from the commission.
The AOGCC is the state’s regulatory agency established under the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Act. It oversees oil and gas drilling, development and production, reservoir depletion, and metering operations on all lands subject to the state’s police powers.
Its mission is to protect the public interest in exploration and development of Alaska’s valuable oil, gas, and geothermal resources through the application of conservation practices designed to ensure greater ultimate recovery and the protection of health, safety, fresh ground waters and the rights of all owners to recover their share of the resource.
The quasi-judicial agency’s commissioners earn $140,000 per year.
French is a former state senator who served from 2003 to 2015, representing downtown Anchorage. He ran for governor unsuccessfully in 2009, losing in the primary to Ethan Berkowitz.