City officials lament legislation but eye future of developments
City officials took a deep breath to regroup Monday night after HB4 passed in the State Senate Friday night.
Bill Walker, the city’s attorney who is also legal council for the Alaska Gasline Port Authority, said reviewing the city’s press release was like letting go of a dying relative.
“It was like writing an obituary,” he told the Valdez City Council Monday night during its regular meeting.
City officials have halted further work on its controversial media campaign and are looking more deeply at the final version of HB4, which underwent changes as it passed from the House of Representatives to the State Senate.
Valdez officials had hoped to sway public sentiment – and that of their elected leaders – away from HB4, which created a mechanism for a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope to the Anchorage area, but without the benefits of liquid gases such as propane and export revenues.
It touted an MVP gasline, Maximum Volume Pipeline, to haul liquid natural gas in a large diameter pipeline for instate use and export to Asia.
“The bill (HB4) passed,” Gene Kubina, the former legislator the city hired to lobby the legislature on its behalf, said. “Unfortunately, you didn’t send me down there to get it passed.”
City officials hired Kubina late in the game to act as its eyes and ears in the state capital as part of its campaign to defeat or alter HB4.
During Monday night’s council meeting, Kubina and Kim Hutchinson, the city’s regular full-time lobbyist, discussed what each described as a very “dirty” legislative session.
Hutchinson, a 25-year veteran of Juneau politics, said he’d never witnessed a legislative session with “less adherence to decorum” and formal rules not being followed.
“You exposed a lot of the underbelly of that legislation,” Walker said. “I do think we made the bill better.”
One late change included restructuring of the state-owned corporation board, which will be composed of appointees of the governor, including two commissioners.
“There’s some oversight now,” Walker said.
There is also a component that requires the corporation consider a North Slope to Livengood large diameter pipeline.
The city’s campaign irked HB4 backers, most notably Speaker Mike Chenault (R-Nikiski) and Rep. Mike Hawker, (R-Anchorage); but Hutchinson and Kubina said there were Juneau supporters of the city’s campaign.
“We never stooped to the level of the Speaker and Hawker,” Cobb said, though he admits it was tempting. “We’ve maintained the high road.”
Others were less complimentary.
“I’m disgusted with our representatives,” council member Karen Ables said.
The discussion skirted around ugly issues that had plagued the campaign from the start, when City Clerk Sheri Pierce received an email reply from Chenault calling Mayor Cobb’s offer of assistance in the state’s gasline developments “a crock of (edited.)”
However, both lobbyists accused the elected officials representing Valdez, Rep. Eric Feige and Sen. Click Bishop of voting no on HB4 after failing to act against it though both had the power to do so.
“So what are we doing next?” Hozey said rhetorically towards the end of city reports Monday night.
Hozey recommended regrouping before making purposeful moves or making decisions.
The city has cancelled TV ad space it had reserved in case of a special legislative session, which did not materialize, but the space must still be paid for.
The Valdez Convention and Visitors Bureau was suggested as a possible organization that could utilize the TV ad space, because it has video on hand that can be aired right away.
“Have we enough money in the budget to each member of a pair of crocks?” Cobb asked jokingly, referring to the plastic, utilitarian looking foot ware popularized a few year back. “Bright orange ones.”