Gov. Bill Walker took a major step toward revising the way the state is dealing with a proposed gas pipeline by removing three members of the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. board and instructing two commissioners not to sign a secrecy pledge proposed by the Parnell administration.
"I am committed to a transparent government in which Alaskans are part of the conversation about our resources," Walker said in a statement released late Tuesday. "I cannot allow my cabinet members to sign confidentiality agreements meant to keep information away from the public."
AGDC is a state-owned corporation governed by a seven-member board that includes five public members and two commissioners.
Labor Commissioner Heidi Drygas and acting Commerce Commissioner Fred Parady do not plan to sign the secrecy pledge.
Walker said he plans to appoint three new members of the board within the next month, and that he has replaced former Alaska legislator Drue Pearce, Texan and former ExxonMobil executive Richard Rabinow and former BP executive Al Bolea of Big Lake.
An AGDC meeting had been set for Thursday in Anchorage, at which the board members were to have been required to sign the secrecy pledge to be able to take part in an executive session. A statement from the governor's office said Walker wanted a "paradigm shift in the way the state will conduct business with Alaska's gas, emphasizing that there will be transparency in the process."
About the three departing members, he said, "I would like to thank each of these individuals for their service to the state of Alaska, and wish them well in their future endeavors."
Walker did not replace AGDC Chairman John Burns, a Fairbanks lawyer and former state attorney general under Gov. Sean Parnell, as well as Dave Cruz, president of the Cruz Companies and a veteran of the Alaska construction industry.
"My goal is to accelerate our efforts to bring Alaska's gas to market, and to do so in a way that ensures Alaskans are involved and informed of the process," Walker said.
The Parnell administration had developed a wide-ranging confidentiality agreement that it had asked legislators and others to sign if they wanted to be kept in the loop about the gas line. With this action, Walker is rejecting that approach. The oil companies had insisted on confidentiality provisions in their dealings with state officials, but it was never clear if the state could put limits on the range of information to be kept from the public.
Walker had spoken against the secrecy pledge during his campaign for governor. He has started to interview Alaska candidates for the AGDC board, the statement from his office said. That would seem to rule out more appointments from Outside, though the Legislature has said that people from Outside could serve on the board.
"My solution is to mandate public disclosure, except when a company can make a showing under legal guidelines as to why very specific information should be kept confidential. Transparency should be the rule, not the exception. There is ample precedent for this approach under Alaska law," Walker wrote in October about keeping information from the public.