Compass: Alaska deserves the best in gas line negotiations - no matter where they live

When you get ready to make a significant decision in life, you want the best on your side. You wouldn't want me, a state representative and career small businessman, investing your life savings; you'd want Warren Buffett.

That's why I am sponsoring House Bill 383 to allow a Texan to serve on the board of directors for the Alaska Gasline Development Corp (AGDC.)

The Legislature created AGDC as Alaskans' natural gas pipeline company, developing projects that connect Alaskans with Alaska natural gas at the lowest possible price. While AGDC originally was to pursue the ASAP instate pipeline, legislation this session would direct them to also develop the state's share of the much bigger Alaska LNG project, with the producers and TransCanada.

To accomplish the mission of getting gas to Alaskans, AGDC needs the strongest, most experienced people possible at the helm. In setting up AGDC last session, the legislature required a diverse board with specific expertise - and didn't want to restrict the governor's appointments to only Alaskans. We don't always get complex legislation right the first time, and now there is a real question as to whether out-of-state residents can serve on AGDCs Board.

My first attempt to fix this problem was to amend a bill by an Anchorage senator extending the much-respected Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (CDVSA.) Legislative rules say that you can only change a bill if it has the same subject. Since the CDVSA bill was about a board, I asked the sponsor - with his agreement at the time - if I could amend his bill to let Richard Rabinow make it through our confirmation hearings April 11.

I thought I had his agreement; I was mistaken. I was as surprised as anyone when the sponsor referred to his bill as being "hijacked." That's why I withdrew my amendment on April 3. No one in the Capitol wants to endanger the ability of the CDVSA to continue to advocate and help Alaskans.

Now that that matter is settled, we'll try to fix the AGDC board statute. Here's why:

Alaskans deserve to have the best and brightest on their side when negotiating with the Big Three for our interests; that's what AGDC was created to do. The employees and board are our advocates -- they have even taken an oath to serve Alaskans.

Exemptions to the Alaskan rule already exist for the Alaska Aerospace Development Corporation Board, which currently includes a well-qualified out-of-state member, and for the Alaska Railroad Corporation's board. Both look to bring business and create wealth for Alaskans, much like AGDC.

Richard Rabinow has more than four decades of experience in natural resource and pipeline development. He's worked for some of the world's most successful and sophisticated companies, and has tremendous expertise in the areas AGDC must master to protect the state's interests.

Yes, he's from Texas. If there were a capable Alaskan with a similar background and résumé I would certainly advocate for that person. Rabinow doesn't take a salary; he receives a $400 honorarium on days the board conducts business and we cover his travel. We're getting a tremendous deal having his insight and acumen in our meetings, as voiced by AGDC Board Chair John Burns and AGDC President Dan Fauske.

A natural gas pipeline and development of our North Slope resources are crucial to our future. While an instate line could help alleviate energy problems, a bigger LNG project may help bolster state revenues until we see the benefits of new oil production fostered by the oil tax reform passed last year. Either way, AGDC will be representing Alaskans' interests.

We'll need the best working with us and for us, which is why I hope we can fix the law and keep Mr. Rabinow on the AGDC board. I respect the concerns of those who don't want non-residents on state boards, but disagree with them philosophically. If Mr. Rabinow can help us get the best deal, understand the majors' concerns and points of view, then I want him on that board helping us.

Mike Chenault has represented Nikiski and the rural Kenai Peninsula in the Alaska House of Representatives since 2000. He's the first three-term Speaker of the House, and one of the prime authors of the bill creating the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation, along with Anchorage Republican Rep. Mike Hawker.