(June 15, 2005) -- LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill's latest choice for LB's Board of Harbor Commissioners, C.J. "Mike" Walter, held stock he valued at between $100,001-$1,000,000 in ConocoPhillips between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2004.
The information was obtained by LBReport.com from a public record disclosure form, filed by Walter in connection with his current position as a member of LB's Board of Water Commissioners. The subject arises in connection with the May 2005 announcement by ConocoPhillips that one of its subsidiaries is now partnering with Mitsubishi subsidiary Sound Energy Solutions to develop a proposed Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal on property within the Port of Long Beach.
A decision on whether or not to lease Port property for the LNG facility would come before the Board of Harbor Commissioners. It's uncertain from the filed document if Walter still holds the ConocoPhillips stock or whether he intends to divest himself of it.
The issue wasn't explored at a June 14 meeting of the Council's Personnel and Civil Service Committee, which approved the Mayor's selection of Walter, and all of Mayor O'Neill's choices, in roughly ninety seconds (Yes: Baker, Colonna; Absent; Richardson) without asking any questions of appointees. Some appointees attended the June 14 Committee meeting; Walters did not (if he was present, we didn't spot him.)
The Committee vote moves the Mayor's choices to the full City Council...which has the last word and is expected to take up the appointees on June 21.
While unusual, the Council has previously rejected a previous O'Neill choice for the powerful Harbor post, declining to reappoint then-incumbent Harbor Commissioner George Murchison to another term. Mayor O'Neill then selected retired LB City Attorney John Calhoun, in part (some Councilmembers suggested) to better balance the Commission geographically...since its decisions are heavily felt in west and central LB. Calhoun resides in Bixby Knolls; Dr. Walter resides in the Third Council district.
In the course of preparing this article, LBReport.com sought comment from City Attorney Bob Shannon...who indicated this morning (June 15) he wasn't aware of the situation until we brought it to his attention. City Attorney Shannon said he would be looking into the matter and speaking with Dr. Walter about it. Addressing legal issues depends on the nature of the ownership and the nature of the application filed by the ConocoPhillips subsidiary, City Attorney Shannon indicated. [As we noted above, it's also unclear if Walter still owns the stock.]
Walter's 2004 listed holdings also included stock in BP PLC ($10,001-$100,000). BP is a Port tenant.
Mayor O'Neill concealed the names of her appointees until transmitting them in a letter dated June 13 (the day before the hearing) to Committee chair Dan Baker. On June 13, the Mayor was not in LB, but in Chicago attending a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
On May 17, Mitsubishi's wholly-owned subsidiary Sound Energy Solutions (SES), which is seeking Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval to build and operate the 80+ million gallon plant in the Port roughly two miles from downtown LB, announced it had entered into a Joint Development Agreement with a ConocoPhillips (COP) subsidiary to jointly develop the facility.
Mitsubishi said in a May 17 release that SES and COP "have established an equally-owned joint venture company, SES Terminal LLC, to further develop a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) import terminal in the Port of LB. The partners in the new firm said they expect a final investment decision to commence construction of the terminal in the first half of 2006 after obtaining all necessary approvals and permits from relevant federal, state and local authorities. The terminal is expected to be completed and become operational in 2009."
"We are very excited about this joint company," said Thomas E. Giles, the SES executive now identified in the release as President and CEO of newly established SES Terminal LLC.
A May 17 ConocoPhillips release said in part, "This terminal is part of a larger effort by ConocoPhillips to meet growing demand for natural gas around the world. The company is developing or has proposed U.S. regasification facilities in Freeport, Texas, offshore Alabama and Louisiana. ConocoPhillips has an active liquefaction facility in Kenai, Alaska, as well as others at various stages of development around the world, including Australia, Nigeria, Qatar, Russia and Venezuela."
In 2004, LBReport.com reported on an MOU between SES and Conoco, apparently prompted by an ability to strip-off and send so-called "hot gases" (such as ethane and propane which can accompany some types of LNG and must be removed under CA environmental laws) via a not-yet existing pipeline from the proposed PoLB LNG site (southern end of Pier T, southeastern part of Port) to the ConocoPhillips refinery in Carson.
Mayoral appointee Walter is a former board chair of the LB Area Chamber of Commerce (1999-2000) and Dean Emeritus of CSULB's College of Business Administration. He was appointed by Mayor O'Neill to the LB Board of Water Commissioners in 2003.
Walter endorsed the 2004 Chamber-backed run for Assembly by Steve Kuykendall who opposed AB 2042 by then-Assemblyman, now State Senator Alan Lowenthal (D., LB-SP-PV) which sought to limit Port-related toxic air emissions to current levels. The legislation was backed by the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the LB City Council...but opposed by the Port of LB and the Chamber....and was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger.
State Senator Lowenthal has reintroduced his "no net increase" legislation as part of a new package of Port-related clean air bills...and the City Council voted in April to endorse Lowenthal's legislation again.
On April 12, 2005 Councilmembers Baker, Lowenthal, Reyes Uranga and Gabelich agendized an item to support three bills by Senator Lowenthal, including SB 764, basically a reincarnation of AB 2042.
The Port's opposition to Lowenthal's AB 2042 last year so angered some Councilmembers that they began exploring ways -- using their Charter authority to approve the Port's annual budget -- to make Port legislative advocacy consistent with Council declared policies. LB's incumbent Harbor Commissioners responded by indicating that if Councilmembers sought to modify the Port budget, the Harbor Commission would have no choice but to reexamine its previously declared multi-million dollar budget surplus slated for transfer to LB's cash-strapped Tidelands fund. (Councilmembers bristled but backed down.)
A vacancy on LB's Board of Harbor Commissioners results from a decision by Harbor Commission president (and retired LB City Attorney) John Calhoun not to seek another six year term.
Walter's bio on the LB Water Dept. web site indicates he is a Phi Beta Delta International Scholar and also taught graduate level course at the University of Michigan and UCLA. It says Dr. Walter was also Senior VP for Levi Strauss & Co. in San Francisco, where he was responsible for the company's operations in 22 countries and served as chairman of the American Apparel Manufacturers Association.
Walter earned his Ph.D. at the University of Iowa, where he also completed undergraduate work. He is an Honorary Alumnus of Saint Mary's College.
Dr. Walter and his wife recently donated $2.1 million to CSULB to support Athletics and the Edge of Excellence Endowment for Teaching and Learning. CSULB responded by naming its Pyramid the "Mike and Arline Walter Pyramid."
Dr. Walter did not respond to messages left on June 14 by LBReport.com with the Water Dept.'s board secretary and on his CSULB office answering machine.