Rabinow to resign unless lawmakers clear up rules

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JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - A former pipeline company executive appointed to the board of a corporation that could play a key role in a major liquefied natural gas project in Alaska said he will resign if the Legislature does not expressly permit out-of-state residents to serve on that board.

In a letter to Gov. Sean Parnell, Richard Rabinow said he understood there was lack of clarity in the law that potentially could affect his service on the board of directors of the Alaska Gasline Development Corp., or AGDC. A copy of the letter, dated Tuesday, was provided by Parnell’s office Friday.

Earlier Friday, minority Senate Democrats wrote Parnell to “demand” he withdraw Rabinow’s name, citing a state law that requires appointees to boards or commissions of state government to be and have been before the last general election registered to vote in the state. Also Friday, the lead sponsors of the bill establishing AGDC, Reps. Mike Chenault and Mike Hawker, wrote Parnell to express their support of Rabinow. They said the legislative record on the bill, HB4, “clearly reflects” the intent that the governor can appoint “from the widest possible field of expertise, without limiting that field to Alaskans.”

The bill itself called for the governor, in appointing public members, to consider their expertise and experience in gas pipeline construction, operation and marketing; finance; large project management; and other relevant experience.

Rabinow is a pipeline industry consultant from Houston, Texas, whose resume includes more than 30 years of work with ExxonMobil, including as president of ExxonMobil Pipeline Co., according to his resume on the AGDC website.

Parnell spokeswoman Sharon Leighow said by email that Parnell did not ask Rabinow to withdraw his name and stands by his appointment. She said Parnell also has spoken with legislative leaders about defining in law whether the AGDC board may be comprised of both Alaskans and non-Alaskans “who have significant pipeline expertise.”

“Given the scale of the Alaska LNG Project is forecast to be the biggest in North American history, we must have individuals with global experience serving on the board,” she wrote.

Leighow said one option that is being considered is an amendment to SB138, which is aimed at advancing the mega-liquefied natural gas project. As proposed, AGDC would hold the state’s interest in liquefaction facilities as part of that project.

This isn’t the first out-of-state appointment to garner attention. Earlier this month, a California man and former oil company analyst appointed by Parnell to the board that reviews the tax value the trans-Alaska pipeline withdrew his name from consideration, saying he didn’t want it to become an issue for Parnell. Parnell maintained that under the Alaska Constitution, he is only required to appoint U.S. citizens to “quasi-judicial” agencies, which is how he described the State Assessment Review Board.

Rabinow, in his letter, said he was writing to resign from his appointment, “effective upon adjournment of the Legislature sine die, in the event the Legislature does not expressly permit out of state residents to serve on the AGDC board.”

There is precedent for allowing non-residents on boards of directors: the boards of both the Alaska Railroad Corp. and the Alaska Aerospace Corp. allow for certain members to be nonresidents.

“When we’re dealing with the oil companies and their legions of expertise, I absolutely want the most experienced and most knowledgeable people possible representing Alaskans and leading AGDC,” Chenault, R-Nikiski, said in a release. He said, as “an Alaskan, I am grateful that someone with his resume is willing to serve on the board of this public corporation advancing Alaskans’ interests.”

Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, sees it differently. He said if AGDC wants to hire Rabinow, fine, but he believes the law is clear on the issue of appointments.

He also expressed reservations given that ExxonMobil is involved in current efforts to pursue the liquefied natural gas project. “And here we’re turning over a board position to the former president of ExxonMobil Pipeline, who is not an Alaska resident, who is not registered to vote in Alaska. I think Alaskans should be alarmed at that,” he said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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