Legislature(2005 - 2006)
2006-05-31 House JournalFull Journal pdf
2006-05-31 House Journal Page 4103 HB 2003 HOUSE BILL NO. 2003 by the House Rules Committee by request of the Governor, entitled: "An Act establishing the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline Corporation to finance, own, and manage the state's interest in the Alaska North Slope natural gas pipeline project and relating to that corporation and to subsidiary entities of that corporation; relating to owner entities of the Alaska North Slope natural gas pipeline project, including provisions concerning Alaska North Slope natural gas pipeline project indemnities; establishing the gas pipeline project cash reserves fund in the corporation and establishing the Alaska natural gas pipeline construction loan fund in the Department of Revenue; making conforming amendments; and providing for an effective date." was read the first time and referred to the Judiciary and Finance Committees. The following fiscal note(s) apply: 1. Zero, Dept. of Natural Resources 2. Fiscal, Dept. of Revenue 2006-05-31 House Journal Page 4104 The Governor's transmittal letter dated May 31, 2006, follows: "Dear Speaker Harris: Under the authority of art. III, sec. 18, of the Alaska Constitution, I am transmitting a bill that would establish the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline Corporation (Alaska Pipe) to finance, own, and manage an interest in the Alaska North Slope natural gas pipeline project (project) on behalf of the state. Under the proposed Alaska Stranded Gas Fiscal Contract developed in accordance with the Alaska Stranded Gas Development Act (SGDA) (AS 43.82), the state proposes to acquire a 20 percent equity interest in the project with the remainder financed by affiliates of ExxonMobil Alaska, Incorporated, ConocoPhillips Alaska, Incorporated, and BP Exploration Alaska, Incorporated, the qualified sponsors of the project. The project would include a number of segments, including a large diameter pipeline from the Alaska North Slope to Alberta, Canada (with the possibility of an extension to the Lower 48), a gas treatment plant, and various gas transmission lines. The state and the qualified sponsors or their affiliates would establish limited liability companies (LLCs) or other appropriate entities to own each of the various segments of the project. Alaska Pipe would finance, own, and manage a proportionate membership interest in these owner entities. Section 1 of the bill proposes that the Legislature make various findings that describe the critical importance of this project to the people of this state and to the nation, that explain why it is in the state's interest to participate in the project as an equity owner, and that identify the benefits that would accrue to the state from the successful development of the state's enormous gas resources. These latter benefits include increases in tax and royalty revenue, stimulation of oil and gas exploration on the Alaska North Slope, and creation of jobs and opportunities for greater in-state access to natural gas. It is hoped that these benefits will provide a sound basis for long-term growth of the state's economy. Section 2 of the bill adds a new chapter to AS 41 that establishes Alaska Pipe as a "public corporation and instrumentality of the State of Alaska" within the Department of Revenue (AS 41.42). The 2006-05-31 House Journal Page 4105 corporation is structured to operate as an entity that is exempt from federal income taxation. AS 41.42 states the purposes and powers of the corporation, and otherwise provides terms that govern the administration of Alaska Pipe. Many of these provisions are similar to those of Alaska's other public corporations, including the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation and the Alaska Railroad Corporation. However, other provisions are tailored to the unique role Alaska Pipe is expected to play in facilitating this truly historic project. The board of Alaska Pipe will be comprised of the commissioner of the Department of Revenue and the commissioner of the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, as well as five public members. AS 41.42.020(a). The public members must have experience and recognized competence in either finance, investments, business management, or the oil or gas industries. AS 41.42.020(a). Public members would serve six-year terms and may only be removed for cause. AS 41.42.020(c); AS 41.42.045. This combination of required expertise, extended terms, and restrictions on removal are intended to help assure that Alaska Pipe is well managed and can effectively represent the state's interest in the complex commercial environment in which it will have to operate. AS 41.42.210 provides Alaska Pipe with a broad spectrum of corporate powers that are necessary, or may be necessary, to carry out its mission. The corporation is authorized to finance and acquire an ownership interest in the project in the United States or Canada, to issue bonds, to borrow money, and to negotiate with the United States government to secure federal loan guarantees, if appropriate. The corporation is authorized to pledge its revenue and assets to secure the payment of bonds or other obligations, and to enter into agreements necessary to establish entities, e.g., LLCs, that will own portions of the project. AS 41.42.220 would authorize Alaska Pipe to incorporate subsidiaries to carry out the purposes of AS 41.42. These entities would likely be for-profit corporations organized under the law of Alaska or of another state, or under the applicable laws of Canada. At this time, it is contemplated that at least one Canadian corporation would be established to hold Alaska Pipe's interest in a Canadian limited liability partnership that would build and own the Canadian segment 2006-05-31 House Journal Page 4106 of the mainline. If authorized by Alaska Pipe, these subsidiaries would also be able to borrow money for the project or for their operations to the same extent as any other private corporation. The state's total equity contribution to the different project LLCs is estimated to be $1.0 billion at this time. The state currently plans to finance this amount with a combination of appropriations directly or indirectly to Alaska Pipe, and the issuance of revenue bonds by Alaska Pipe. Article 3 of AS 41.42 contains revenue bonding authority that is fairly typical of other state public corporations, e.g., the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation and the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority. Alaska Pipe would have the authority to issue what the market refers to as "moral obligation" revenue bonds. AS 41.42.320. Such bonds are supported by the establishment of a capital reserves account, which provides an added measure of security for the debt service on the bonds. The Alaska Pipe board would annually notify the Legislature of the status of the capital reserve account. AS 41.42.320(d). If a deficiency is reported, the Legislature may appropriate money to restore the capital reserve account but it is not compelled to do so. This "moral obligation" approach can only be invoked if the corporation finds that it will enhance the marketability of the bonds. AS 41.42.340 specifies that any bonds issued by the corporation are not the indebtedness of the state, but are solely payable from the revenue and assets of the corporation. The state does pledge to the owners of the bonds that the state will not limit or alter the rights and powers of the corporation and that it will not impair the rights and remedies of bondholders until the bonds are fully paid. AS 41.42.350. Article 4 of AS 41.42 establishes a cash reserves fund, which initially will be made up of any appropriations made to Alaska Pipe by the Legislature. The money in the fund can be used to meet capital call requirements and otherwise guarantee or secure debt incurred by the corporation. AS 42.42.400. The article also clarifies which laws of general application to state agencies apply to this new public corporation. For example, Alaska Pipe is exempted from the State Procurement Code under AS 41.42.430, its operating budget but not its capital budget is subject to the Executive Budget Act under AS 41.42.410, and it is largely exempt from laws relating to public works, 2006-05-31 House Journal Page 4107 fiscal procedures, and management of public funds under AS 41.42.440. Article 5 of AS 41.42 relates to financial statements, reporting requirements, and the applicability of the Public Records Act to the corporation. The corporation is required to provide quarterly and annual financial statements to the governor and the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee. AS 41.42.500. The corporation can be audited by the committee. In addition to the financial information, the corporation is to prepare an annual report on the operations of the corporation. AS 41.42.510. Although the corporation is subject to the Public Records Act, AS 41.42.520 provides broad exemptions from disclosure relating to proprietary and other commercial information. These broader exemptions from public disclosure are modeled upon similar provisions in the Alaska Stranded Gas Development Act (AS 43.82). The open meetings laws of the state do not apply to the corporation. AS 41.42.530. However, the corporation is required to conduct at least one meeting a year in public. AS 41.42.030. Section 6 of the bill would establish the Alaska natural gas pipeline construction loan fund in the Department of Revenue. This fund would consist of money appropriated to it by the Legislature. The Legislature may choose to finance all or part of Alaska Pipe's equity obligations by loans from this fund. The construction loan program would be administered by the commissioner of the Department of Revenue, who is given broad discretion to fashion appropriate terms and conditions of the loans. Specifically, depending upon the final ownership structure in Canada, our Canadian advisors have indicated that there may be tax advantages in Canada if any loans to Alaska Pipe's Canadian subsidiaries are made directly by the state and not through Alaska Pipe. Sections 12 and 13 of the bill establish a narrow exception to the rule barring indemnification agreements covering a party's own negligence or misconduct in construction contracts and precludes any potential application of the common law doctrine barring enforcement of indemnification agreements that might serve to increase the risk of negligence by a party that owes a duty to the public. This exception 2006-05-31 House Journal Page 4108 would allow an entity that constructs, owns, or operates the project, or any portion of the project, to indemnify an operator and the members of a limited liability company, including Alaska Pipe, for losses caused by those parties' own negligence or misconduct. Similar indemnities are made available to affiliated entities that either lend employees to the operator to work on the project or that provide technical consulting services to the operator to facilitate the project. The primary reason for such an approach is to hold down the costs charged by the operator to the owner entity and consequently the members. Section 7 of the bill clarifies that officers and employees of the corporation are in the exempt service. Sections 8 and 9 of the bill specify that the board members and staff of the corporation are public officials for purposes of the financial disclosure laws. Section 10 of the bill provides that board members of Alaska Pipe will be subject to the Alaska Ethics Act, except that board members of Alaska Pipe's subsidiaries are not subject to the Act unless they are also members of the board of Alaska Pipe. I urge your support of this important legislation. Sincerely yours, /s/ Frank H. Murkowski Governor"