Legislature(2001 - 2002)
03/28/2001 03:35 PM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 158-REPORT:STATE PARTICIPATE IN NAT GAS PIPE. CHAIRMAN TORGERSON announced SB 158 to be up for consideration. MR. DARWIN PETERSON, Staff to Senator Torgerson, explained that commercialization of North Slope natural gas has been one of the legislature's top priorities this session. The potential benefits of commercialization include short and long-term employment, additional state and municipal revenues, opportunities for new industries and cheap clean energy for the state. This bill would direct the Commissioner of the Department of Revenue to retain a financial expert to examine whether the state should participate in either ownership or financing of a natural gas pipeline. The expert would examine any benefit or detriment to a project caused by the state's participation. In the past the state has retained financial experts to advise it on the possibility of the state participating in such a project. Those reports need to be updated. The bill would insure that the legislature participates in the preparation of the report by: · 1. requiring that the chairs of the Senate and House Resources Committees periodically meet with the expert to review data and information about the report, and · 2. requiring that the Commissioner provide progress reports to the chairs every 60 days. The bill would require the Commissioner to prepare a confidential report with recommendations addressing the state's options by January 31, 2002 and submit it to the legislature and the governor. SENATOR ELTON asked why they used January 31, 2002, when they are anticipating a report from the producers at the end of this year. CHAIRMAN TORGERSON responded that he came up with that date but said, "Maybe we want it quicker." COMMISSIONER WILSON CONDON, Department of Revenue, said "I will take the responsibilities outlined in this bill, if it becomes law and if funds are appropriated that will allow us to enter into a contract with a suitable party to do the work. I have no recommendations in terms of changes to the assignment as reflected in the bill." CHAIRMAN TORGERSON asked him what he thought of the January 31, 2002 date. COMMISSIONER CONDON replied that was his sister's birthday and it will remind him to send her a card. SENATOR LINCOLN wanted to know, "If that were not your sister's birthday, would that date be good?" COMMISSIONER CONDON replied, "Yes, it would." SENATOR ELTON asked if it could be earlier. COMMISSIONER CONDON replied that he, "didn't want to promise anything any earlier." SENATOR LINCOLN said on page 2, line 29 it says that the "Commissioner of Revenue shall contract with a qualified or suitable firm or person qualified…..to complete this job", but the fiscal note says the Commissioner would contract with and investment banking firm for the expertise. She asked if that was the individual they were referring to. CHAIRMAN TORGERSON replied that it was his intent to give the Commissioner as much latitude as possible and he had talked all along about a banking firm that had a lot of information and expertise in this field. But it could be a person. SENATOR TAYLOR moved amendment #1. CHAIRMAN TORGERSON explained that the amendment inserts another section that says, "The state should participate in a gas pipeline project by establishing a private corporation, which would be composed of Alaska residents who wish to become shareholders, that would own a portion of the project or assist in the construction and operation of the project." He explained that it was brought to him by another member who wanted the opportunity to have shares available so that individual Alaskans might be able to buy them. TAPE 24, SIDE B CHAIRMAN TORGERSON said he didn't think that would have much impact on investment firms or anyone else looking at it. CHIARMAN TORGERSON noted there were no objections to amendment #1 and it was adopted. SENATOR TAYLOR moved to pass CSSB 158(RES) from committee. There were no objections and it was so ordered.