The state corporation working as a partner with major oil companies in the $55 billion Alaska LNG project on Thursday chose a former executive of a Houston-based liquefied natural gas company as its president, agreeing to pay him a base annual salary of $550,000.
The decision by the board of the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. also makes the new president, Keith Meyer, eligible for an annual performance bonus up to $200,000, to be determined by the AGDC board.
Meyer will begin work on Wednesday. He replaces Dan Fauske, following a five-month search that began in December after Fauske's resignation.
Fauske had made $366,000 a year with a $160,000 benefits package for health and retirement. Gov. Bill Walker had criticized the salary during his gubernatorial campaign in 2014.
Meyer is also expected to receive at least $160,000 in benefits, an AGDC official said.
Another top earner in the state is Russell Read, the Alaska Permanent Fund's chief investment officer, who began working at the $50 billion fund in May with a starting salary of $400,000 a year.
If the Alaska LNG project is ever completed, it will liquefy natural gas from the North Slope and export it overseas, with an expected start date in 2025.
AGDC board vice-chair Hugh Short, a Walker appointee, headed up the three-member search committee that recommended Meyer from an original list of more than 30 candidates.
Support from the AGDC board for Meyer on Thursday was unanimous, although only five of the seven-member body voted.
Marc Luiken, commissioner of the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, apparently had trouble phoning into the meeting before the vote, but said later Meyer was his top choice.
In other board business, one seat is open following the resignation of Luke Hopkins of Fairbanks in May. He has announced a run for the Alaska Senate seat held by John Coghill, R-North Pole.
Meyer, 58, lives in Magnolia, Texas. He'll move to Alaska with his family.
"That's a requirement," said Dave Cruz, AGDC board chair. "We need him here."
Meyer's three-year contract includes up to $50,000 in relocation assistance. The board can fire him for "cause or convenience."
Meyer was not available at the meeting on Thursday. AGDC officials said he is in Texas attending his daughter's wedding.
Board members praised Meyer's qualifications, which include a 35-year industry career with 15 years focused on LNG projects.
Cruz said a highlight of Meyer's career was his role at Cheniere LNG. As president, Meyer oversaw the development of the Sabine Pass LNG receiving terminal in Louisiana, the largest such LNG facility in North America, AGDC said.
Meyer's pay is "industry standard" for an "executive-level global" expert like Meyer, said Cruz.
The board had given a consulting contract to Meyer in March — for $25,000 a month — for advice on the Alaska LNG project. That contract will end Tuesday.
Meyer said in a prepared AGDC statement he's excited by the challenge of working on one of the largest energy projects in North America.
"I understand how vital the gas pipeline and LNG project are to our Alaskan economy, and I'm committed to getting them built," he said.