Walker Purges Gasline Board, Rejects Confidentiality Agreement

Gov. Bill Walker has dismissed half of the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation board of directors.

In a statement issued late Tuesday night, Walker announced that he was removing three members of a seven-person board tasked with representing Alaska’s interests as the state pursues a natural gas megaproject in partnership with the energy industry. Drue Pearce, Al Bolea, and Richard Rabinow were all appointed upon the board’s creation in 2013 by former Gov. Sean Parnell. Pearce heads an oil spill response company in Anchorage, and previously served as the federal coordinator for an Alaska natural gas project and as president of the Alaska State Senate. Bolea is a retired BP executive who once chaired the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company board. Rabinow is a a former president of the ExxonMobil Pipeline Company. Rabinow’s appointment was opposed by a bloc of Democrats because of his status as a Texas resident, and legislation explicitly permitting out-of-state board appointments was passed in 2014 to allow him to serve.

The announcement did not provide a reason for the dismissals, except for to say the changes were part of a “paradigm shift in the way the state will conduct business with Alaska’s gas.” Walker plans to replace the three members within a month. Walker is currently in Washington, DC, for Sen. Dan Sullivan’s swearing-in ceremony, and was unavailable to answer questions about the changes to the board.

In addition to the board dismissals, Walker also announced that the two cabinet members — Labor Commissioner Heidi Drygas and acting Commerce Commissioner Fred Parady — who represent the administration on the board have been directed not to participate in closed-door meetings related to the board’s functions.

Walker spokesperson Grace Jang says the governor hopes to promote transparency on future natural gas projects by rejecting confidentiality agreements.

“This is a very big deal because the governor campaigned on this,” says Jang. “This is actually one of the big reasons that he even ran — to change the way that business is done in terms of Alaska’s natural resources, and making sure Alaskans have a voice and have a seat at the table. This is the first step in that process, and it’s not a secret. I think people saw this coming.”

Jang adds that the announcement was made at 9pm on Tuesday because the board removals were finalized late in the day.

The state is currently in talks with Exxon, BP, ConocoPhillips, and TransCanada to develop an 800-mile pipeline to get North Slope natural gas to market. The project is expected to cost at least $45 billion. In 2014, the Legislature passed a bill that would allow legislators to review specific terms of negotiations so long as they sign non-disclosure agreements. The producers involved say the confidentiality rules are needed to prevent competitors from learning proprietary information about the project.

The remaining members of the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation board of directors are scheduled to meet on Thursday in Anchorage.