JUNEAU — A legislative committee on Friday approved a new yearlong contract with their two oil and gas consultants, agreeing to pay their company $20,000 a month.
The Legislative Budget and Audit Committee, chaired by Rep. Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage, approved the contract renewal with Enalytica, the consulting firm of Nikos Tsafos and Janak Mayer, who frequently testify before lawmakers on oil and gas issues and the proposed natural gas pipeline project.
The new contract provides for 10 days of monthly work from the consultants, with extra days billed at $3,000. It's capped at $400,000. The terms mirror those in the consultants' previous contract.
"I firmly believe we owe it to the state of Alaska to have adequate, qualified resources available," Hawker told his colleagues at a Friday morning hearing.
The vote on the contract was 9 to 1, with Sen. Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, voting against it because a copy of the contract wasn't available.
The lone Democratic minority member on the committee, Rep. Sam Kito III of Juneau, asked if Hawker's office had made attempts to negotiate lower fees, but he ultimately voted for the contract. Both the legislative and executive branch have paid high fees for oil and gas consultants, with Gov. Bill Walker paying a negotiator on the pipeline project $120,000 monthly last year.
Hawker said that as the pipeline project draws closer to development, lawmakers may need additional consultants to help them sort through a "pile of paper" that he expects to be "literally feet thick."
"Whenever it gets here, we need to be prepared," he said, acknowledging the new consultants were "going to be pricey."
Rena Delbridge, a staff member for Hawker presenting to the committee, said she'd preliminarily identified two candidates, but she wouldn't identify them to a reporter afterward.