GUEST COMMENTARY: SB 21 is a bad deal for Alaska


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In the oil revenue debate we’ve heard and read misleading statements and distorted facts. As long time Alaska residents, business owners, and grandparents, we are very concerned about Alaska’s future economy.

The “Vote No on Proposition One” group paints an “almost too good to be true” picture if Senate Bill 21 prevails in August. The group repeatedly alludes to Alaska’s partnership with the oil companies, assuring us that this new deal, SB 21, will result in more jobs as well as economic growth.

Although this paints a rosy picture, it also raises questions. Does this partnership have Alaska’s best interests in their long range planning? Will this “partnership” with Alaska develop a plan for future sustainable, safe energy for Alaskans? How can Alaska’s government, mandated by its Constitution to develop its resources for the maximum benefit of Alaskans, partner with corporations, mandated to provide profits for their shareholders? Do they share revenue information with Alaska? Can we rely on the oil companies for a good deal?

In the past, foreign corporations exploited Alaska’s rich natural wealth with projects that harvested Alaska’s wealth but left little for Alaska.  The Kennecott Copper Mine is one example. Alaska’s past “boom and bust” economy resulted in resource extraction solely for exploitation and profit with no concern for permanent growth and development. That remains the same today.

The state now faces huge deficits if we continue to sell our oil to multinational corporations at bargain prices. Alaska, under SB 21, receives less revenue than other owner states. The glossy ads, paid by the oil corporations, fail to compare their share of the profit in Iraq or Mexico to their share of the profit from Alaska’s oil. These multinational corporations, along with their CEOs, investors and stockholders, have been the beneficiaries of Alaska’s oil for many decades.

At a recent Chamber of Commerce debate, oil and gas attorney Craig Richards pointed out the decline in pipeline throughput of oil characterizes aging fields. The solution lies in new production, exploring and developing new fields and pools in existing fields. Reports show Alaska has substantially more oil in the ground and will be able to produce for years to come.

Alaska’s Clear and Equitable Share encourages this kind of development. SB 21 rewards increasing the rate of extraction from the old, declining fields. Mr. Richards pointed out much of last year’s increased activity required long range planning. Oil rigs had already been bought and shipped to Alaska under ACES.

“Vote No” says we want to go back to a flawed law. Darn right we do. We want to make a good law better and return to a law (ACES) from which Alaska received $8.5 billion more than it would have under SB21.

As business owners, we want audits of the state’s oil revenues and unbiased research made available to our elected citizen representatives. Our legislators require accurate, up to date accountability to make informed decisions. As an owner-state Alaska needs that information.

Alaskans must take a principled stand no matter our political affiliation. We will not have a democratic, citizen-represented government if we continue to allow multinationals to dominate our government, our laws, our policies, and our elections.

“Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.” — Thomas Jefferson 1788

The repeal of SB21 will put Alaskans on the path to “setting things right.” We can empower our legislators to represent the resource owners, not the oil companies. In the August 19th Primary election, we will use the strongest voice we have. Thirteen million dollars have already been spent to sway your vote. Please make your decision based on fact, not money-fueled ads, glossy fliers, and glitzy infomercials. Vote Yes on Proposition One for Alaska’s long-term best interests.

Hal Gazaway attended grade school in the territory of Alaska and high school in the state of Alaska. After nine years as an Assistant Attorney General and Administrative Law Judge, he went into his own law practice in Anchorage.

Barbara Gazaway had a long career in education, teaching music at all levels elementary through University. She taught in the European DOD schools, Pennsylvania, Utah, California, and Alaska. She now teaches piano and works part time as a legal assistant.

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