Alaska Gov.-elect Sarah Palin announced her first commissioner appointments this morning, naming Marty Rutherford acting commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources.
One of DNR’s lead negotiators with North Slope producers BP, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil on the natural gas fiscal contract, Rutherford and five other DNR officials resigned from the Murkowski administration in late 2005 in protest over the firing of then-DNR Commissioner Tom Irwin. All seven officials were unhappy with the concessions the administration was making in contract negotiations with the producers that control most of the discovered natural gas reserves on the North Slope.
Rutherford, who has served as deputy commissioner of DNR for both Democratic and Republican governors, was also lead negotiator on a preliminary fiscal gas line contract between the state and TransCanada, one of the alternative pipeline proposals Palin has said she will look at.
Rutherford has said the agreement with TransCanada could be completed in as little as three months.
“Assuming everyone is still willing to move forward under those terms, it would take at least three months to paper the contract with TransCanada, but we could start the public outreach immediately because the commercial terms are fully developed,” Rutherford said in August 2006. The agreement, she said, also allows for the North Slope producers to own part of the pipeline.
“It’s a much better deal for the state” than the contract negotiated by the Murkowski administration. “It doesn’t have nearly the amount of concessions,” Rutherford said.
Palin said she expects Rutherford to hit the ground running, beginning next Monday when Palin takes offices. Palin, Lt. Gov.-elect Sean Parnell and Rutherford have meetings planned with North Slope producers and explorers next week, Palin said.
Palin said she is also talking to a couple of the other officials who resigned from DNR when Irwin was fired.
Palin’s transition team leader for DNR is Irwin.
Note: See full stories in the Dec. 3 issue of Petroleum News which will be released online (www.PetroleumNews.com) this coming Friday.